When to Start Speech Therapy for a Toddler

Alphabet Practice Speech Therapy

Parenting is a difficult task because things rarely go as planned. Every child is different, and so it can be hard to know when a child is not developing on a usual schedule, and when it is time to ask for help. Knowing what signs indicate a child might need speech therapy, what help speech therapists can provide, and what the process looks like can be helpful to parents of toddlers.

Signs a Toddler Would Benefit from Speech Therapy

Around 18 months to two years, some signs of speech development issues can arise. Being aware of these signs can help parents know when it is time to find speech therapy for a toddler.

Speech Development Delays

By 18 months, most toddlers can say around 20 words other than mama and dada and 50 words by 24 months. If by 24 months a toddler only knows a couple of words and is not putting two words together, it can indicate a language delay.

Children who make very few sounds, or children who still struggle with imitating sounds by 18 months may also have speech or language problems, and a visit to the pediatrician may be in order. One way to recognize this problem is when an 18-month-old prefers gestures over vocalizations or negative behaviors such as tantrums, screaming, crying to get needs met to communicate 

Development Stalling or Reversing

Most children develop their language skills at a relatively steady rate. Language skills not progressing from month to month can be a warning sign. Similarly, if a parent sees their child’s vocabulary decrease or their child stops talking after the age of two, it can mean it is time to pursue toddler speech therapy.

Pronunciation Difficulties

Some children learn words well but have speech delays that make it difficult for them to pronounce those words. Some early signs of a speech delay are difficulty pronouncing vowels and consonants.

It can be difficult to understand young children, which can make pronunciation problems hard to spot. A good guide to use is that unknown listeners such as relatives that the child sees only at Christmas should understand about half of a child’s speech by the age of two and three-quarters by the age of three. Children displaying the above symptoms can often benefit from speech therapy. 

Issues Addressed by Speech Therapists

Speech therapy for toddlers can address several speech and language disorders, including the following:

  • Articulation disorders, including pronunciation problems and lisps.
  • Fluency disorders, such as a stutter, when children tend to get “stuck” on their words.
  • Language disorders, such as difficulty understanding people or struggling to put words together.
  • Picky eating 

What to Expect from a Speech Therapist

When first meeting with a speech therapist, they will want to get a grasp on the issues that need to be addressed. The child will go through specific testing and be asked to say certain sounds and words. This way the therapist can identify what the specific needs are.

Once the issues are identified, the speech therapist will have exercises/activities that address those issues and practice the child’s weak areas and play off their strengths. Mirrors and many hands-on techniques may be used to help the child imitate correct mouth and tongue movements. In the case of language disorders, grammar and vocabulary practice may be part of the sessions.

The methods and frequency of speech therapy can vary. Some children only need weekly visits for a short period of time to correct small issues. Other children need ongoing help as they develop and may see a speech therapist more frequently, or over the course of several years. Speech therapists tailor the therapy to the child to ensure the child gets the help they need.

While professional help is important, parents can continue working with their children at home by communicating frequently and reading with the child early and often. Reading and communication can help children work through speech issues, and can also help adults spot some of the symptoms that show a child might need speech therapy. Parents who think their child may need speech therapy should visit https://goodwintherapy.com/ for more information about local speech therapists.

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