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When Does A Child Need A Speech And Language Evaluation?

child in booth for professional hearing and speech evaluation

Hearing your child say their first words is a key milestone in their development. Most children’s first words are usually mama or dada and it’s something that can bring parents a lot of joy to hear. But as we know, each child is different and develops at a different rate. Some children might start speaking later, some may find it difficult to recognize what you’re saying and others might find it difficult to pronounce words. 

As a parent, it’s easy to be concerned about your child’s development, but at what stage do you need to worry about their speech and language? 

If you’re worried your child’s speech and language isn’t developing as it should, don’t delay in getting them evaluated to make sure they get the help they need.

Learn more about the signs that your child needs a speech and language evaluation and what steps you can take.

Signs of a Speech or Language Disorder

Your child’s speech will usually start developing between 10 and 14 months of age, saying some basic words like mama. They will use a lot of different sounds at this point too. They will also be using gestures, and understand some of what you say, such as no. But if your child hasn’t reached this point or you’re beginning to feel concerned, some of the signs to look out for include:

12-15 months:

  • Doesn’t make many sounds
  • Isn’t using gestures like pointing or waving
  • Hasn’t said their first word

18 months to 2 years:

  • Isn’t using words to communicate, preferring gestures or making other sounds such as grunting. 
  • Only using single words
  • May not say full words

2 years and above:

  • Isn’t using two-three-word combinations to make sentences.
  • Vocabulary fewer than 50 words.
  • Speech is unintelligible and difficult to comprehend.
  • Less talkative than others of a similar age.

Some children will develop their speech earlier or later than others, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for multiple signs your child is developing an issue with their speech or language. As your child gets older, if you notice they struggle to follow simple directions at school or home or that they have problems pronouncing certain words, then you should seek an evaluation and consult with your child’s school to help find out what’s going in.

What to Do If You’re Concerned About Your Child’s Speech and Language

If you’ve noticed signs that your child’s speech and language isn’t where it should be, then you can arrange for a speech and language evaluation.

A speech and language evaluation can help identify issues your child may be facing with their speech and language. A Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) will discuss your child’s development and the symptoms that they have, before carrying out some tests to assess whether they are experiencing difficulties with speech and language. Tests can include speaking and comprehension tests, reading and writing tests and assessments through play and social interactions. Their hearing and cognitive skills may also be tested.

Following the evaluation, your SLP will inform you of their findings and make recommendations as to different therapies that can be used to help improve your child’s speech and language kills. For older children, an SLP will be able to show them ways of coping with difficulties to help them through school.

Things You Can Do to Help Your Child

As part of your work with the SLP, they will also advise you on what you as parents can do to help your child improve their speech and language. Some of the things you can do include:

  • Spend time reading to your child, talking to them and playing to them
  • Respond to what they’re saying
  • Be descriptive about the things you do during the day
  • Give them time to speak, don’t interrupt them or finish their sentences
  • Use a variety of words, and increase sentence length over time
  • Mix up the words you use with your child
  • Help them spend time with other children so that they can learn from others of a similar age

Your SLP may also work with your child’s teachers to help put strategies in place to help them improve their speech and language.

While it can be unsettling to have your child experience issues with their speech and language, the good news is that there is help available. By getting a speech and language evaluation, you can identify problems at an early stage and help your child get the help they need with their development. Find out more about The Speech & Hearing Center or call us today 423-622-6900 to speak to our team about our services.