Children with speech delay: 5 reasons to see a speech pathologist when kids are young

Are you worried about your little one’s speech and language development? Don’t wait to get help! Some parents are advised that their child may “grow out of it”, but as speech pathologist Brenna Donovan explains, this approach could be detrimental in this critical period in your child’s development.

The early childhood years lay the foundation for your child’s future development.  Our experiences as a young child literally shape the way our brain develops.  As a parent or carer, it’s important that you ensure that your child has a solid foundation for development and learning as early as possible.  If your child has a speech or language delay, early intervention is paramount.  Here are 5 reasons it’s important to seek speech therapy help early:

1. Critical Developmental Period

Development of your child’s brain between birth and 36 months is considered a critical time that will shape the way your child interacts with their world. This time sets the groundwork for how your child will learn. During this time in your child’s life, they are more receptive to learning than they will ever be again. This is the time when they form deep connections with caregivers.

2. Decrease the need for longer, more intensive therapy later on

Early intervention has proven to be more effective at making faster changes when it comes to language-learning. Seeing a speech pathologist early on can mean less intensive therapy. Waiting increases the chance that your child will need more therapy to make similar changes.

3. Parent education

Studies have shown that children learn language through back and forth interactions with carers in their lives. When your child sends a message to a carer, the carer’s response serves as feedback to your child. If your child isn’t communicating as much as other children his age, he may not receive as much of this essential feedback. Ensuring that parents know how to make the best out of these interactions as early as possible is essential for a child who may have a speech or language delay.

4. Motor patterns solidify early on

The way your child learns to use their mouth to make sounds is learned early in childhood. Each time your child says a sound or a word, they are creating a motor pattern (a memory of how something is done). If your child is saying the sound the “wrong” way, they are creating the “wrong” motor pattern. You can compare your child to an athlete learning a new skill. If the athlete continues to practise the new skill the wrong way, it will become harder and harder for them to do it the right way. A child who continues to practise their sounds the “wrong” way will experience increased difficulty saying the sounds correctly later on. Motor patterns of young children are much more flexible than adults. It is easier for young children to change how they do things, an excellent reason that ensuring your child is saying sounds correctly early on is so important.

5. Academic Performance

A child who has speech or language delays when entering kindergarten are at a higher risk for academic difficulties, especially with reading and writing. Between 5-8% of children have language delays that continue throughout their school years and into adulthood. This can lead to difficulties not only with academic struggles, but more limited employment opportunities and difficulty with social relationships.

Worried about your child?

Kids First’s paediatric speech pathologists have helped hundreds of toddlers to resolve speech and language problems.

If you are concerned for your child and live in Sydney’s northern beaches, call us today on (02) 9938 5419 to make an appointment with a member of our experienced speech therapy team.

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