Does my child have a speech and language delay? Concerns about their development?
With all of the information and misinformation that is floating around, it can be hard to know what’s normal when it comes to your child’s development. If you notice that your child isn’t communicating as well as their brother/sister at the same age, or seem to communicate with mostly gesture when their friends at day care are speaking in 2 word phrases; then pay attention to that and talk to your paediatrician, your child’s teacher, or contact your local speech therapist.
We’ve all heard people try and reassure parents by saying things like “don’t worry, they’ll grow out of it!” or “they might catch up, just wait and see”. While well-meaning, these comments aren’t overly helpful. So please, don’t “wait and see”. Even if a child is a late bloomer and appears to catch up to their peers, they can still have lingering language weakness through adolescence. And if they are a late talker, their language delay can have an impact on their social skills, behaviour regulation, and processing emotions. (Capone Singleton, 2018)
Therefore, the best thing you can do if you have concerns about your child’s speech/language development is to book an assessment with a speech and language therapist.
What should I look out for?
The following chart is a resource from Speech Pathology Australia and details the minimum skills that a child should have by particular ages. Keep in mind that these skills are the absolute minimum range of normal, therefore if they don’t have these skills by these ages, ensure you contact a speech and language therapist to arrange an assessment.
(Speech Pathology australia, 2019)
What can I expect from an assessment?
The first thing a speech therapist will want to do, is rule out any underlying cause of a potential language delay – do they have any hearing difficulties, recurring ear infections etc. Therefore having a hearing test prior could be helpful to make sure that a delay isn’t caused by a hearing impairment.
Your therapist will ask you a range of questions about your child’s development, including any complications during birth, whether they met other milestones on time, any family history etc. They will also want to know about your child’s day-to-day language use, and may ask you to estimate how many words they have in their vocabulary. It can be difficult for parents to figure this out on the spot, so having a record of what words your child uses will be helpful for you to have and bring with you to give the therapist a better idea of their vocabulary. Write down the words as they pronounce them (put the word they mean in brackets if it isn’t clear) as this will also give your therapist a better idea of what sounds your child uses.
The assessment itself will consist of a number of play activities, following directions, picture pointing etc.
After an assessment, the therapist can reassure you, help you monitor their development, and/or provide recommendations and treatment.
You will then have the option of receiving a full report detailing assessments, results, impressions, and recommendations, or a brief summary with impressions and recommendations.
The important thing to remember is that there are a number of professionals you can talk to if you have any concerns. So paying attention to your child’s development and contacting a Speech Therapist if you have concerns can help give them the best chance of success for when they start school.
Capone Singleton, N. (2018). Late Talkers: Why the Wait-and-See Approach Is Outdated. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 13-29.
Speech Pathology australia. (2019). Communication Milestones. Retrieved from Speech Pathology Australia:
Speech Language Therapist