Speech therapy for kids supports children from 16 months to 18 years of age. Paediatric speech pathologists (or kids speech therapists) have the unique role of assessing, diagnosing and providing therapy for communication and swallowing disorders. With regards to communication, a child speech pathologist offers support for clarity of speech, language development (understanding and using words and sentences), fluency (stuttering), reading and writing development (literacy), social communication (interacting with peers) and vocal pathology.
When should my child see a kids speech therapist?
A common question that our speech pathologist clinic often receives from parents is, “How do we know that it is time to see a pediatric speech pathologist? Is my child having difficulty with their communication, or is this just part of them growing up?” While each clinical area (speech clarity, reading development, fluency of speech etc.) does have its own set of red flags, some warning signs are common to most communication challenges. If you see any of these signs, it may be time to book an assessment with a speech pathologist who specialises in speech therapy for children.
1. Your child’s communication difficulty is impacting upon their ability to make and play with friends.
Difficulties with speech clarity, language development and fluency of speech can lead to impacts on socialising with peers. A child whose speech clarity is falling behind average age expectations may not be understood by peers, while a child with language challenges may find it difficult to understand their friends’ conversation or to share stories. Unfortunately, peers may grow impatient if a child is stuttering and finding that their words are ‘stuck’. Communication has such a substantial impact on socialising both before school and during, it’s important that support is provided for social difficulties as they present.
2. You are the only person who can understand your child.
This particular sign tends to be associated with speech clarity development. In some instances, a child’s speech clarity difficulty may mean that you are the only person that can understand them. Generally speaking, we expect 2-year-old children to be understood by unfamiliar people 50% of the time, 3-year- olds 75% of the time, and by the time a child is 4- years-of-age we expect them to be understood by unfamiliar people 90% of the time. If you find that you are regularly interpreting your child’s speech for others, it may be time to book an assessment.
3. Your child is showing frustration about their communication.
If your little one is showing frustration about their communication, it may be time to seek professional help. While frustration can be observed in a child’s early years, (…toddler fun anyone?) frustration that is occurring specifically about communication may be a warning sign. Perhaps your child is frustrated that you do not understand their spoken words, they feel overwhelmed when they cannot follow your instructions, or cannot understand why their words are “bumpy” (stuttering). Speech therapy for toddlers can work wonders to relieve frustration that your little person may be experiencing.
4. Your child has started avoiding talking, or has told you that “talking is hard.”
Following on from frustration, children who are having real communication difficulties may even directly tell you that, “[talking] is hard” or may avoid using certain words in their speech. In severe instances, children may become withdrawn when interacting with new people or in new places. Any signs of avoidance are a strong indication that speech pathology support may be needed.
5. You just have that gut feeling that a second opinion may be best.
Trust your gut feelings, mamas!! Clinical research strongly indicates that maternal “gut instincts” are generally right. Maybe you have spoken with your GP or early years educator, and they have assured you that your little one is right on track, but you still have “that feeling”. As we often say, parents are the expert on their little one. A referral from your GP is not required to book an assessment with a kids speech therapist. If you do have any concerns, or would like a second opinion, we strongly suggest that you speak with your local speech pathologist as they are the expert in all communication disorders.
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