For the past several months, you've been growing increasingly concerned about your toddler's speech and language development. As he approaches his second birthday, his babbling is very limited and he has no real words. Well-meaning friends and family members brush off your concerns. They assure you that all children develop differently. They insist that your son will catch up in his own time. They might even share a story about a distant relative who didn't talk until he was three and went on to become a neurosurgeon.
While it is true that some children are simply "late talkers" who will catch up on their own, many others will require some form of intervention to make progress. Unfortunately, it's often difficult to distinguish between a late bloomer and a toddler who potentially has a communication disorder.
The most critical period for speech and language development is during the first three years of life.
The skills learned during this time influence how the brain develops, thus making it an ideal time for early intervention. On the other hand, taking a "wait and see" approach can have an adverse effect during this crucial developmental stage.
When a child has delayed or atypical development of communication skills, there are five key reasons to intervene early, according to Patricia Chambers, CCC-SLP, PhD at Ability Path. These reasons include:
- Prevention of a disorder
- Elimination of a disorder
- Modification of a disorder
- Teaching strategies that help a child compensate for a disorder
- Modification of the environment to aid the child
Without treatment, a communication disorder can have many negative effects, including low self-esteem, difficulty with interpersonal relationships, frustration in school, and it can even adversely impact a person's ability to live an independent life.
If you have concerns about your child's speech and language development, the most important thing you can do is to speak up. Talk to your child's pediatrician about your concerns. Ask for a referral to a speech-language pathologist who can evaluate your child and determine if she could benefit from speech therapy.
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