"Why is speech-language treatment needed? My baby doesn't
"Everyone in our family was a late talker. My child will talk
when the time is right."
"Why worry now? Speech and language services will be available
when school starts."
"Treatment? Looks like they are just playing games to us."
You may have had similar thoughts or comments. Usually, there is
concern about a child's speech and language skills if there is no
speech by the age of one year, if speech is not clear, or if speech
or language is different from that of other children of the same
WHAT IS EARLY IDENTIFICATION?
It is estimated that at least 2% of all children born each year
will have a disabling condition. Many of these children will have
speech and/or language delays and disorders that may have a significant
effect on personal, social, academic, or vocational life. Although
some children will develop normal speech and language skills without
treatment by the time they enter school, it is important to identify
those who will not. Many people falsely believe that speech-language
treatment cannot and should not begin until a child begins to talk.
Yet, research has shown that children know a great deal about their
language even before the first word is said. For example, children
can distinguish between their native language and a foreign language,
use different nonverbal utterances to express different needs, and
imitate different patterns of speech through babbling.
Early identification includes the evaluation and treatment provided
to families and their children under three years old who have, or
are at risk for having, a disability or delay in speech, language,
or hearing. A child can quickly fall behind if speech and language
learning is delayed. Early identification increases the chances
for improving communication skills.
WHO SHOULD BE EVALUATED?
Children identified as at-risk or high-risk, such as those from
neonatal intensive care units, should be tested early and at regular
intervals. Other risk factors include diagnosed medical conditions,
such as chronic ear infections; biological factors, such as fetal
alcohol syndrome; genetic defects, such as Down Syndrome; neurological
defects, such as cerebral palsy; or developmental disorders, such
as delayed language. Children with no obvious high risk factors
should be evaluated if their speech and language is not similar
to that of other children of the same age.
HOW IS THE EVALUATION DONE?
Evaluation may be formal or informal and include any combination
of standardized tests; direct observation of play and interaction
with caregivers; reports by parents, teachers, or physicians; and
collection and detailed analysis of spontaneous speech samples.
Several sessions as well as ongoing evaluation may be required to
obtain enough information to make an accurate diagnosis. The early
intervention team may consist of the speech-language pathologist,
audiologist, psychologist, neurologist, electrophysiologist, otolaryngologist,
pediatrician, nurse, and social worker. Because speech-language
delays and disorders may be due to a variety of causes, each professional
makes valuable contributions to the evaluation
WHAT IS SPEECH LANGUAGE TREATMENT?
From the results of the evaluation, certain services may be recommended.
Prevention includes those children who have been identified as at-risk
for a communication delay or disorder because of low birth weight.
Services may be provided before a specific diagnosis has been made.
Remediation increases function in identified areas and may serve
to prevent other related problems. For example, remediation of a
language disorder can help offset learning disabilities.
Language activities are experienced in a natural setting. These
activities are presented at the child's developmental level. Responses
are consistently stimulated. Output is rewarded. Play may be used
to teach communication, language models or rules of conversation,
such as taking turns.
If you are concerned about a possible speech-language delay or
disability, consult a speech-language pathologist. A list of certified
speech-language pathologists in your area may be obtained by calling
the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's toll-free at
Compliments of American Speech-Language-Hearing Association