I had a conversation with my 3-year-old today about his favorite food. I know that seems like a mundane statement to many of you, but to us, it is a huge deal. You see, our oldest was diagnosed when he was 2 with an expressive language delay. According to The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, an expressive language delay is “a delay in language onset with no other diagnosed disabilities or developmental delays.” Basically, he was a late talker. Many, many people (including our pediatrician) told me that he would catch up. They told me stories of their own kids who just took longer to talk. Maybe those people were right, but if you know me then you know I am not patient and I don’t like to “wait and see.” I knew I was in over my head and we needed a professional. This is how speech-language pathologists (SLPs), or more commonly known as speech therapists, entered our lives for the first time.
My working knowledge of SLPs came from my days as a teacher. They were the people who came and pulled students from my class to go to speech therapy. That was the extent of my experience with them. I had no idea what they actually did. I found out they do a lot more than help people pronounce words correctly. SLPs can help when kids (or adults) have trouble understanding language, have any kind of feeding or swallowing issues, or help if there are any voice problems. They also help non-verbal kids and adults find other means of communication that they are comfortable with.
The research about early intervention for any speech or language issue is clear – it’s a good thing. There is no negative effect of placing a child experiencing delays in a therapy program. Anne Zachry, Ph.D., assistant professor of occupational therapy at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center was quoted in a Parents.com article as saying, “Research reveals that early intervention services can considerably mitigate the effects of developmental delays. Physical, occupational, and speech therapy services may be necessary in order to promote motor skills, speech, and language development.”
ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) is a great place to start if your child is under the age of 3 and you or your pediatrician feel like they are experiencing delays with any speech/language or motor issues. Your local school district is a great resource for kids ages 3 and up. There are also many private therapy centers around town.
Speech therapists, I tip my hat to you. Thank you for helping our kids communicate. Thank you for your patience with our babies and for making therapy fun. Thank you for listening to all of my concerns and not rolling your eyes at me.
By the way, it’s chicken. My son’s favorite food is chicken.