When do I consider speech intervention for my child?

Speech Therapy
When do I consider speech intervention for my child?

Children are a heritage and blessing into our homes. They are born with an innate ability to learn language and communicate.  However, some have difficulty in understanding spoken language and to be able to speak fluently. While it is important, to allow them space and time to catch up with their typically developing peers, one must not miss out on the critical age of a child.

By the time they reach five years of age, their brain development is close to that of an adult and the neural connections are already made. Therefore, if your child is not able to communicate for his age level, it is important to seek professional help from a Speech Pathologist/ Speech Therapist, instead of waiting and watching while we are missing out on their critical years.

You need professional help if your child does not complete these skills by the appropriate age listed here below.

0 - 12 Months: Is able to take turns in vocalizing

Above 1 year - 2 years: Uses 50 – 200 words in his vocabulary and is able communicate in two-word phrases

2 – 3 years: Uses about 500 intelligible words and can ask simple ‘wh’ questions

3 – 4 years: Is able to use approximately 1500 words in his vocabulary and can tell the functions of objects and have long conversations

4 – 5 years: Can form complex sentences and narrate a story with appropriate grammatical structures such as irregular plurals and tenses.

In order for children to be able to achieve the above-mentioned skills by age, they must have acquired the pre-requisite skills for language acquisition which are sitting tolerance, joint attention, be able to look at the speaker, imitate gestures, and follow instructions.

  • Sitting tolerance: It is the ability to sit independently and engage in simple meaningful tasks such as painting, playing with a toy truck or dolls. It helps improve paying attention to a task, manipulate objects, core strength and regulation.
  • Eye contact: Response to name call, visually tracking an object in the environment, locating the speaker, sustaining eye contact during play or when the caregiver speaks to the infant are critical skills that are essential for language learning. There is a lot of buzz about it on social media, if children need to maintain eye contact or not. The fact of the matter is, if you are interesting to the child, s/he will probably look at you.
  • Compliance: The ability to imitate and follow instructions is a vital part of a child’s learning. An inability to imitate gestures, sounds, and words in addition to not following instructions consistently, have to be taken seriously and intervened at the earliest.
  • Joint attention and focus: An ability to focus on the same activity such as - being able to pay attention or look at the caregiver singing or looking at an object together along with the caregiver in a calm or regulated state is called joint attention. As an infant they must be able to look into the speaker’s mouth/ face keenly, in order to imitate their lip and mouth movements, a skill that emerges as early as six months of age or earlier in typically developing age matched infants.

Some children may be excellent with the above listed pre-requisites and have elaborate vocabulary; yet have difficulty being understood! They may have challenges in speaking with clarity. If that’s the case, the child may be having either of the following speech deficits.

  • Stammering: Difficulty is making words or sentences flow smoothly
  • Articulation errors: Difficulty in producing or pronouncing sounds and words correctly

It is extremely important that speech and language delays and disorders in children are identified and treated early, as they are core to effective communication. When left untreated children may face the following difficulties, but are not limited to:

  • Disinterest in classroom activities
  • Reading difficulties
  • Inability to follow rules of a game
  • Reduced attention while engaging in a conversation with communication partners
  • Poor social skills
  • Inability to make and sustain friends

Who can help?

A speech language pathologist/ Speech Therapist is a qualified professional in the field of speech, language and communication who can help identify children with communication disorders and plan a treatment protocol to bridge any gap between the child’s chronological or biological age versus the present functioning levels.

When is the right time to seek professional help?

Children as early as three months of age or even at birth can be identified at risk by a qualified speech language pathologist; however, often they are brought for intervention over three years of age waiting for the child to progress on her own and trying home remedies. Wait and watch will only delay any progress that can be made with intervention. Therefore, it is crucial that the child is given immediate speech and language therapy along with parent coaching by a qualified speech-language pathologist for best results.


Chitra Thadathil

Speech Language Pathologist






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