As parents, we are constantly wondering if our children are “on track”. Maybe you have seen another child at a playdate group who can already do x, y, or z, and you’re left wondering when your little one will also do those things. Perhaps you have noticed a cousin, a sibling, or even a friend’s child is talking well before your own. When should we be concerned that our children aren’t just late bloomers, but may have a language delay?
Erin L Kennedy, MS CCC-SLP, a Speech-Language Pathologist with EIRMC’s Pediatric Therapy Center, gave us some helpful advice to either start making progress, or calm our worries. These tips are for children from birth to three years old. If you are concerned about an older child’s milestones with speech, read this article.
Parents should be looking for ranges of normal behavior and then asking themselves if their child is taking longer to acquire a skill than what is considered normal. These ranges can vary several months but are great indicators of whether or not your child is on track.
Signs of Language Delays
The following are signs that your child is not meeting developmental language ranges. If your child is behind, they might have a delay and would benefit from working with a specialist.
- Birth – 3 months: not smiling or playing/interacting with others
- 4 – 7 months: not babbling
- 7 – 12 months: not using gestures, such as waving or pointing, or raising arms to be held. Making only a few sounds
- 7 months – 2 years: unable to follow one-step directions, not understanding pointing, not understanding what others say, not responding to their name
- 18 months – 2 years: Not putting two words together
- 2 years: saying fewer than 50 words, not learning new words each month
- 2 – 3 years: having trouble playing and talking with other children
- 2.5 – 3 years: difficulty with early reading and writing skills. For example, your child may not like drawing or looking at books
For Concerned Families
When meeting with a specialist at EIRMC, an SLP will complete a screening to determine if your child meets qualifying criteria. If your child has significant delays, an assessment that lasts about an hour will be administered. Both the screening and assessment are meant to determine what treatments or interventions your child may need to be successful.
Based on the information they gain, the specialist may determine that your child will need monitoring for a few months at a time. Monitoring is meant to see if your child gains skills using suggestions from the SLP.
If your child’s needs are more significant, the SLP will recommend weekly sessions where both the specialist and the parents are involved. Therapy and monitoring are both family-centered. Children who learn skills alongside their parents see the best results. This means that you will attend sessions and practice skills at home with your child. The SLP will even write goals to fit your family’s needs, making your involvement even more important.
How You Can Help at Home
While some children need direct help from a specialist in order to make progress, you can make an impact on your child’s speech and language development in the following ways:
- Read, talk, and play with your child every day
- Talk to your child in the language you are most comfortable using. Teach your child to speak another language if you speak one
- Narrate your life – talk about what you and your child are doing throughout the day as you are doing it
Teach your baby imitation actions, such as waving, blowing kisses, peek-a-boo, clapping
- Laugh when baby laughs
- Imitate facial expressions and noises your baby makes
- Listen and wait to respond to what your child says
- Let your child have time to think before expecting an answer for them – do not always answer on their behalf
- As children get older, use longer sentences and different words to increase their vocabulary
- Allow children to play with other children. This develops social skills and allows peer modeling for your child
- Limit screen time and focus on real-world interactions, such as talking or reading together
If you are concerned, ask your child’s primary physician for a referral to EIRMC’s Pediatric Therapy Center. Having your child evaluated is important, especially when these skills are foundational. “Waiting to see” is not generally recommended. EIRMC has incredible speech-language pathologists who can help identify your child’s needs and determine if your child needs referral to other specialists to rule out hearing or vision issues.
Getting intervention early will help your child significantly. You can contact EIRMC’s Pediatric Therapy office at (208) 529-7982.
Parenting will always come with questions about whether or not we are on the right track. We are so lucky to have specialists and professionals to calm our fears and to answer our questions.