Be aware of signs of speech problems

Published 7:00 am Thursday, March 29, 2018

A child’s communication skills develop rapidly during the initial years of life.

Although every child’s development is unique, there are certain milestones a child is expected to reach as they learn a language.

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When a child is unable to reach certain milestones, parents should consider seeking assistance from a certified speech and language therapist. These professionals work with children to develop those skills.

Stephanie Theriot, a speech and language pathologist at Tots to Teens Communication Therapy in Picayune, said it is important for parents to recognize the signs of delayed language development in children. 

Those clues can include a child’s inability to pronounce words by age one, failure to comprehend directions between age one and two and a delayed response to instructions or the inability to differentiate between saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ by age one, Theriot said.

During routine visits to their child’s pediatrician, parents should discuss any concerning observations with the doctor, who will then refer the parent to the necessary resources.

Doctors refer children who exhibit delayed language development to therapists such as Theriot. The therapist then evaluates children based on their strengths and weaknesses by assigning a standardized test and observing behavioral patterns.

Theriot said she engages children in several activities that not only help them take their mind off their speech issues but subconsciously helps them improve. The activities include engaging the child with toys, allowing the child to imitate certain mannerisms of their teachers and adults, advise the child how to use words when asking for or referring to any object, she said.

In addition to speech therapy, children who participate in extra curricular activities like dancing and sports are provided additional opportunities for social interaction and communication. 

Theriot said peer pressure can drive a parent to set unrealistic expectations for their child, leading to a feeling of incompetence. She said these parents fail to realize that the learning rate differs for each child.

“Society wants the kids to be doing things when they are not ready,” Theriot said.