A parent called me over the phone and said, my child is 3 years of age and is not talking, Hope I am not too early in seeking help!!....... I always tell them that Speech Therapists see children as young as 6 months old, A strange fact for a lot of parents but this is absolutely true!
Speech Therapists have a lot of ways to teach Communication and feeding to babies as young as 6 months to one year old, especially if they have Seizures, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy or Hearing loss or just a developmental delay. It can be accomplished using a lot of play-based therapy relying on sound techniques, therapist experience and the child’s developmental profile. If a professional tells you that your child is too young to interact, then I assume he/ she does not know what they should be doing with such young babies!!!
Parents unknowingly attribute speech delays to gender difference (Oh! Its because he is a boy!) or Family Trees (I know why late…It’s because my sister/dad/cousin etc. spoke late). But the truth is that irrespective of the gender or family, your child should be communicating by one year of age using gestures or words!. And if that is not the case, then you must seek the help of a Speech Therapist?! Don’t consider it a taboo.....
In some cases parents might opine that my child is fidgety, does not sit, will he/she be able to utilize the therapy learning effectively? The answer is very simple...”YES”. The reason being speech therapists are trained to work with such children and they can improvise on the child's learning style and create opportunities for interaction.
As a Speech Therapist, I am the most understanding, tolerant and lovable communication partner your child can have apart from YOU :-) ..... Parent’s anxiety is understandable if it’s about giving your tot an injection/medicines/surgery. But Speech Therapy is absolutely non invasive. It is built on the fundamentals of Playing and having FUN in routine activities (considering the child’s communication goals) but in a organized, evidence based manner (Check out more info on an article i published on Evidence Based Practices)
Parents/Care givers should always take an opinion from a qualified and experienced Speech Therapist and NOT follow the advise of your family members and other professionals around who believe in the WAIT and WATCH approach. Wait and Watch approach is a big LOSS of priceless learning opportunities that could have started at year 1 instead of 3 years of age!
If you do not seek help at the right time, Every "milestone" delay adds up initially in months, later into years. A child seeking help at 1.6 years might be only 6 months delayed but a child starting therapy at 3 years with similar issues will be 2 years delayed in his milestones. Starting a speech therapy program in the early years will lead to a positive growth trajectory in your child’s development and be more cost effective in the long run!
Why Should I Start Early.....?
A lot of sensory and behavior issues can be intervened more effectively at a younger age (0 to 3 years). Research is available online about Neural Plasticity and how our brain and its learning is more effective at a younger age. This leads to better outcomes in communication, social and emotional health of the child. You have more time to prepare or make your child ready for future goals like academic, self–help and social skills. Starting early therapy also brings in positive change in family dynamics and empowers the family to support the child. Positive relationships and responsive routines in the daily environment can foster overall communication growth of the child.
So, if your child is around 1 year of age and has had a developmental delay due to known issues like Seizures, Hearing loss, Down’s Syndrome etc. or you see that your child is not using words to communicate for reasons unknown, do not hesitate to call up your friendly neighborhood Speech Therapist and take a professional opinion - It matters!. Click on this link to know about early signs of a developmental communication delay.
Get off to an Early Start and Help your child achieve his/her Fullest Potential!