Well…simply put, if you are asking that question, the answer is probably, “Yes.” If nothing else, you may need a speech therapist (also called a speech pathologist) to evaluate your child and tell you that they are developing within normal ranges so don’t worry! If there is an issue of concern, the sooner you start intervention, the better for your child.
Most states in the U.S. provide free or low cost developmental evaluations with
a basic speech screening for children birth to three through an Early Intervention
program. You can usually get information about these programs from your
pediatrician’s office or by searching for “early intervention services” in your
area on the internet.
Speaking of pediatricians….do not rely on your pediatrician to tell you if your
child’s speech or swallowing is “normal.” That is not their area of specialty
and often, though they mean well, they are wrong. You wouldn’t expect a speech therapist to tell you
if a strange head lump was a problem or not, would you? Pediatric medicine is
too broad a field to expect expertise in all areas of child development.
If your child is between the ages of three and five, your local school district
will usually do a free speech screening and then recommend whether or not a
full evaluation is required. Often children who are found to have a speech
delay qualify for the school district’s preschool program to help give them a
“head start” on learning and communication skills.
Also, your local or state universities often have speech departments that can
evaluate your child and sometimes provide therapy if needed (often at a reduced
rate based on a sliding scale) to help with communication skills. Sometimes
they partner with the education and/or psychology departments to provide
preschool classes to help with educational, communication and social
Or, you may seek an evaluation with a private speech therapist (this can be a
single individual with a private business or a therapist from a larger therapy
company). Your health insurance may or may not pay for this. You will have to
call them to find out. Be sure to carefully document and save the dates and
names of anyone you speak with as well as a summary of the conversation. It
usually helps to have a prescription from your pediatrician for a
speech-language evaluation. Always look for someone who is currently certified
by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). ASHA is the national governing body for
speech-language pathologists. (www.asha.org) Also, check to be sure they are licensed by your
state (if your state offers licenses).
parents (or primary caregivers) know a child better than anyone. If you are
concerned, investigate thoroughly. Ask questions, do research, and seek second
opinions. Sometimes parents fear the answers they might find, but there is no
better way to conquer the dark unknown of concern than to shine the bright
light of investigation and knowledge on them. A speech pathologist will help
you do this; and the sooner you get started, the better for your child!