“They’re still young - let’s just wait and see.” Coming from a pediatrician, this phrase holds a lot of power over parents worried about their child’s speech and language skills. The parents may have expressed a concern that their two-year-old hasn't started talking yet, is only saying a few words, or is very hard to understand. When the pediatrician brushes it off as not a big deal, the natural response from parents is to trust someone they consider an expert.
However, pediatricians are not experts in speech and language development. In taking the “wait and see” approach, the pediatrician is assuming that natural maturation will take care of any speech and language difficulties. This assumption holds true sometimes – a small percentage of children start talking more as they get older or pick up the correct pronunciation of sounds without any help. However, it is very challenging to determine which children will develop these skills naturally and which children need intervention.
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are experts in speech and language development and have a different take on when to be concerned. An SLP’s message is “Don’t wait – evaluate!” Intervention for a child as soon as a concern arises is essential. Children’s experiences early in life have lasting effects on their development. A child’s brain develops more quickly during the first 1,000 days (conception to their 2nd birthday) than any other time in life. Over 90% of a child’s brain develops before age 5, leading to a critical window where intervention can be the most effective. Children who get services from an SLP early have a better chance of making quicker progress than if intervention services don’t start until they are older.
There are various signs that a young child could benefit from an evaluation. Some signs include:
- 4-7 months: Lack of babbling or very little babbling
- 7-12 months: Making only a few sounds and/or not using gestures like waving or pointing
- 7 -18 months: Not understanding simple language
- 12-18 months: saying only a few words
- 2 years: Not saying at least 50 words, not putting words together, not understanding directions
- 2-3 years: Trouble playing and talking with other children.
- Unclear speech:
- 2 years: Should be at least 50 – 70% intelligible to unfamiliar listeners
- 3 years: Sould be at least 75% intelligible to unfamiliar listeners
A speech-language evaluation provides parents with the peace of mind that their child’s communication skills are where they should be or gets their child connected with the speech and language therapy they need, making it a win-win situation. So remember, Don’t Wait – Evaluate!