Episode 11. My Opinion about How to Identify whether Your Child needs Speech and Language Therapy

In today’s My Opinion About…Series, I will review 4 signs that your child may need speech and language therapy or at the very least, to be evaluated by a speech therapist. 

Now, if you consider that the scope of speech therapists is pretty wide, your child may require speech and language therapy if they’re having; 

– Speech difficulties

– Language difficulties

– Reading difficulties

– Fluency disorders

– Auditory processing difficulties

– Swallowing; or 

– Voice disorders

How to identify whether your child needs speech therapy

And these difficulties may appear at any time during their development- from birth, they could be developmental or acquired. 

Research advocates for early intervention, which is remediating any difficulties as soon as they appear and preferably when the child is 3 years and below. 

I would like to emphasise that again, preferrably when the child is 3 years and below. 

Or at the earliest discovery of an issue. 

The following 4 signs can be sure red flags that your child may need speech and language therapy or an evaluation by a speech therapist

1. Birth Trauma

Birth trauma is a general term describing any injury to a newborn that is as a result of the birth process. 

This may include eventualities of a prolonged, obstructed labour, premature birth, foetal distress in-utero or as a result of the birthing process. 

A child’s apgar score at 5 minutes is the first indication of the physical condition of your baby. 

The apgar score stands for appearance, pulse, grimace, activity and respiration. 

It is a score out of a possible 10, in which 5 things are measured with each being scored on a scale of 0 to 2 therefore giving a possible score of 10. 

The apgar score is given at 1 minute of life, then again at 5 minutes. 

A score of 7 and below at the 5th minute is usually considered low, but a low score at 1 minute and a score of 7 and above at minute 5 should be fine if the doctors are not concerned. 

The second sign that your child may need to see a speech therapist is…

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Birth trauma is a sign that your child may need speech therapy

2. Delayed Motorical and Speech Milestones

May have medically diagnosed conditions or no apparent ones 

So what are the motorical milestones we’re referring to;

Anything to do with the big muscles- holding the neck, sitting, walking 

If these are not met at the expected times, then they may be red flags to other delays including communication. 

– So, if your baby has not held their neck by 6 weeks

– Hasn’t sat independently 

– Not babbling by 9 months

 -No first words by 15 months

– Less than 20 words by 18 months

– Less than 100 words by 2 years

– Not combining words by 3 years

 – Difficult to understand by 4 years 

If your child is difficult to engage, they need to undergo speech and language

3. Difficult to Engage

Difficulty to engage means;

– They don’t respond when they  are called

– They don’t seem to crave social interaction, they prefer their own company

Chances are that such a child has social communication difficulties and they need to see a speech therapist

4. Parental concern

If you as a parent feels concerned, if you have a gut feeling that not everything is right, there is no harm in seeking out an evaluation by a speech therapist.

The worst that would come out of seeking an evaluation is the financial cost which is a small cost compared to the time that you can’t recover by deciding to wait it out thus losing the advantage of early intervention. 

Taking a wait and see approach only delays the inevitable.

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Hi, I'm your teacher

Lorna Muthamia-Ochido

I run a family-centred speech-language therapy clinic, the largest in East and Central Africa. I’ve helped 15,000+ children optimise their communication outcomes (in other words, I make children smarter ☺).

Get your child talking in no time.

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