When to Worry if Your Child's Not Talking

Speech therapy for your child

Are you having trouble understanding your toddler? Maybe you’ve even wondered if you should start thinking about speech therapy. After all, your child’s speech will affect their entire life, right? Poor language skills can cause difficulties in school, encourage bulling, and even affect your child’s ability to get a job someday. Being able to speak well is important for the duration of their life.

How can a speech therapist help your child?

A speech-language pathologist, or speech therapist, is certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), clinically trained, and holds at least a master’s degree. According to ASHA, a speech language pathologist is trained to help with the following issues:

  • Speech disorders (pronunciation or articulation)
  • Language disorders (understanding and using written and oral language in words and sentences)
  • Social communication disorders (understanding the social components of verbal and non-verbal communication)
  • Cognitive-communication disorders (paying attention, planning, and problem-solving)
  • Swallowing disorders (dysphagia)

Anytime you have concerns about your child’s speech or language development, it’s a good idea to take them to see a speech-language pathologist. Still not sure if you should be concerned? Here’s some information on the warning signs of a speech delay or problem.

Warning signs of a speech delay

From the earliest cooing sounds to fully formed sentences, each child’s language skills will develop at different rates. Even siblings develop speech differently. However, as your child grows and develops, their speech should constantly get better.

By the age of 2, your child should start putting two words together such as “my ball” or “more cookie.” Unfamiliar listeners should be able to understand approximately half of what your child says and at the age of three, most people should be able to understand them. If your child struggles with any of the following, it may be time to make an appointment to see a speech language pathologist.

A problem that could affect speech or language (hearing loss, auditory processing disorder, developmental delays, or autism spectrum disorders).

  • Difficulty following directions
  • Using fewer words than other children their age
  • A stutter
  • Difficulties reading or writing
  • If you or others have difficulties understanding your child
  • Teasing from others or frustration because of how your child talks
  • Interactions or play that seem unusual
  • Others think your child is younger than they are because of their speech

Causes of a speech delay

There are several things that can cause speech delays, such as hearing loss, physical problems in the roof of the mouth, learning disabilities, or certain diagnosable conditions like autism spectrum disorder or cerebral palsy. It’s also possible that a speech delays can occur in isolation without any other medical diagnosis. In speech therapy, it’s often said that we treat symptoms. That is, a formal diagnosis or specific cause isn’t required in order to treat speech related problems.

What to expect in speech therapy

When your child starts speech therapy, they’ll be evaluated by a speech language pathologist. Each treatment will be designed around an individualized treatment plan for your child. Your child’s therapist may use language activities like playing, talking, books, and modeling of sounds. They may also use articulation therapy, which involves helping your child learn how to pronounce specific sounds, or feeding and swallowing therapy as needed.

Early intervention is key

Making the decision to seek out a speech-language pathologist is the first step to getting treatment for your child. And remember that the earlier you can get your child working with a speech therapist, the faster they’ll see results.

Not sure where to find speech therapy services in your area? Talk to your doctor to find the nearest speech language pathologist near you.