As a mom, it can feel overwhelming keeping up with all of the developmental milestones and ever-changing growth charts of your toddler. It can also be scary if you worry your toddler may be behind. Speech delay is a common concern for young toddler moms and also completely normal.
When you notice that their speech is delayed or need extra help in articulating words correctly, you may look toward speech therapy and wonder if it’s both necessary and worth it. In this blog post, we will discuss whether speech therapy is a good idea for your family, as well as some early intervention options and at home therapy available to parents.
What Is Speech Therapy For Toddlers?
Speech therapy for toddlers, is a communicative training designed to help and encourage toddlers to speak and communicate more clearly. Depending on your toddler’s age and current level of skill, speech therapy pathologists work with the parents and toddler to help communicate more often through either, verbal speaking, sign-language, picture or object selection and more.
To learn more in depth about what speech delay is, signs and things to look for, refer to Is My Toddler Speech Delayed: What Is Toddler Speech Delay? Signs, Causes and Interventions
Does My Toddler Need Speech Therapy?
Initially, parents can refer to a developmental milestone chart or pediatrician to learn if their toddler falls in line with, or behind the average toddler language development for their age. Though, many parents may look to peer support or comparison with other toddlers nearing the same age to recognize red flags. This does not qualify as an actual developmental assessment , and a professional evaluation should always be used to determine if there are any significant delays or impairments.
Why We Shouldn’t Compare To Determine If Our Toddler Needs Speech Therapy
While toddler comparison can be harmless and sometimes beneficial even. The issue with toddler development comparison is that there is no true “normal” for development. Human emotions, reactions and mental capabilities vary from person to person, because toddlers develop at their own pace. Even within the same household , varying ages can cause a gap in communication skills depending on various milestones.
Additionally, when comparing our toddlers to others, there are just too many variables. For instance, we can either look to another toddler and say ” wow that child is speaking much more than my baby”, which can cause us to label our own child is behind, when it may not be the case. While on the other end, we may also look to another and say, ”well this child isn’t speaking much either…so my baby is just fine”, which could also me inaccurate.
Without knowing the toddler’s exact circumstances, external factors or family history of why another child may be faster or slower to start speaking, it is impossible to make any accurate assumptions. Thus, comparison can cause unnecessary worry and concern for parents, or cause us to ignore the signs of a possible delay.
NO ONE knows our children, better than we do. Therefore, if we have any doubts, worries or fears in regards to our toddler’s speech or other developmental skills, it’s worth doing more research or scheduling an assessment.
What If I Choose Not To Schedule An Assessment?
Not wanting to get doctors or strangers involved is COMPLETELY understandable. I believe the best person for the job is you, as the parent, to teach your child. If you are willing and able to commit the time, effort, take a few speech pathology courses and do some research, you can definitely become knowledgeable enough to train your toddler in speech therapy.
Remember, no one knows our toddlers better than us. As the parent, you are in the best position to recognize changes in speech or communication skills and adjust accordingly. The most important thing is that you as a parent are able to give your toddler enough time and attention to help them reach their full potential.
Connection Is KEY In Toddler Speech Therapy!
Parents have an advantage in teaching their toddler’s to communicate. This is due to the already established, connection and closeness. Not to mention, more opportunity and consistency.
Speech therapy pathologists, normally use their initial therapy session to asses the toddler’s abilities and get to know them better. This includes; learning what their interest are, their favorite toys, daily routines and more. Doing so helps them to create a solid, beneficial plan for your toddler.
Without taking time to connect with and get to know the toddler, a speech therapist could really have a hard time getting through to them. Which, is why parents are the best advocates for teaching their toddler. They already know everything about their child.
What If I Don’t Have The Time, Resources or Skill?
To effectively train our toddler in speech therapy, we will have to make a few sacrifices, free up a bit more time, invest in a training course and possibly even lose sleep. It is an investment, but is also worth it. In return you will grow closer to your toddler, better communicate and understand them, as well as witness everyday growth and skill.
Speech therapy does cost, even if it is covered under insurance. it’s worth investing that money into educating yourself. You’d be surprised at what TOGETHER, you and your toddler can learn and accomplish.
There are many speech therapy resources available to parents and speech pathologists, including books, podcasts, courses, vlogs, websites and more. Some are free, while others range in price from very inexpensive and affordable to more costly long term certifications. Many also offer financing options and most are less expensive that in person speech therapy sessions.
I recommend starting with what’s affordable for you and only invest in higher priced courses if necessary. Kayla with Walkie Talkie Speech Therapy and Laura Mize of Teach Me To Talk, are two of four speech therapy resource courses I’ve personally used and found both affordable, and extremely beneficial.
It’s understandable that sometimes self-teaching isn’t an option or you’ve tried it and it doesn’t seem to be making any progress. In this case it is highly recommended to consult with a certified speech therapy pathologist.
What Qualifies My Toddler For Speech Delay?
Speech delay is assessed when a child isn’t developing speech and language at the ”typically” expected rate, based on the average child their age. This may be a delay in their verbal communicative speech, or their receptive language , which is how well a child understands and comprehends words, phrases and language.
Children are assessed through observation, evaluations and testing by a certified pathologist. This is done to determine if the toddler has a medical issue that needs attention or if they’re simply experiencing an age related speech delay.
If it turns out your toddler does have a speech delay, don’t worry. With the proper guidance and attention, most children can catch up or even exceed their expected developmental milestones. The earlier you recognize any potential delays, the better chance your toddler has to reach their full potential.
In some cases, speech delay can be caused by a number of medical conditions such as; hearing loss, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Down Syndrome, cleft palate or other physical impairments. These causes may require more frequent evaluation by an expert.
Generally, you can find broth speech development charts by age online and in children’s books. These can help you to better understand the growth and progress of your toddler at a glance. These can be used as a simple observation tool, but shouldn’t be used in place of an official evaluation by a certified speech pathologist.
Is Speech Therapy Worth It
Speech therapy is absolutely worth it for those who have a toddler with speech delay. It can help to develop a child’s cognitive skills, improve communication, and increase their confidence as they grow.
I personally found speech therapy to be be beneficial for my 18 month old toddler, when I noticed he’d been saying the same 5 words over a period of 8 months with no progress and began to speak with his moth closed, humming syllables instead of speaking out.
Our family isn’t very talkative, we are a family of three and my husband works most of the day, while I tend to the home and little one. I was very quiet and not very outspoken and it left very little opportunity for our toddler to communicate. He was responsive and understanding, but had no desire to voice his words, wants or needs. Eventually it resulted in more frustration on both parts when he wasn’t able to communicate his needs to us or with his friends that were near his age, but a little older in months.
We started to worry when he showed no sign in having a vocabulary of 50 words by age two (24 months), which was considered typical speech development. We had faith he’d catch up eventually, but we also knew it would benefit him, more than hurt him, to begin speech therapy.
I invested 4 weeks into speech therapy courses and learning as much as I could to help my toddler, and once we began improvement was immediate. In just weeks his speech took off and by the age of 24 months he had a vocabulary of over 50 words, displaying more confidence and even more, I understood him so much more through communication and bonding over lessons.
I started off hesitant, but I am so glad we chose speech therapy. It made a world of difference for our family. Every toddler is different, so again comparison is never the best way to go. What works for one family may not work for another. Though speech therapy has proven to be worth it beyond my experience.
Speech therapy has been proven to be successful in helping those with a speech delay to have a more enriched and easier life, as it helps build confidence when speaking aloud and communicating with others. In cases of medical conditions, it has been known to improve the physiological functioning of the child. Whatever your case may be, don’t hesitate to seek help from a professional if you feel like your toddler is not progressing at an expected rate. Early intervention may be the key to success!
Speech delay can be a scary and confusing time for parents but stay hopeful. With the help of a certified speech pathologist and early intervention, your toddler is sure to have better chances at reaching their full potential! Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you feel like there’s something off or you see any signs of a speech delay. While it may be a lot of work, the rewards and joy that come with your toddler’s success and progress make it all worth it!
Remember that every child is different, so don’t pressure yourself to compare or compete. Every family’s situation is unique, so what works for one might not always work for another. Take the time to understand your child’s needs and be patient, consistent and understanding with them. Last but not least, keep motivating, encouraging and praising your toddler – it really makes a difference!
With guidance, patience, and support from family members and professionals, many children can catch up or even exceed their expected developmental milestones. Speech delay is not a lifetime sentence, it just takes some extra time and effort to get there!
Good luck on your journey!