Should I be Concerned? Following your Instincts with your Child's Communication
Parenting is the hardest and most important job in the world, yet it's the ONLY occupation where you start on day 1 with no training or qualifications. Madness! Parents have constant guilty thoughts of 'I should have...' and 'I really need to...' and 'it's my fault they...' but trust me, you're doing a GREAT job! If you're reading this post, you may be wondering whether you should be worried about your child's speech, language or communication skills. Maybe you've been told by others 'he'll talk when he's ready' or 'she'll grow out of it' or 'you're just being paranoid' - but you're still wondering, is it better to get it checked out? It's a tricky area as children do develop their communication skills at their own pace, but there are definitely points to consider when wondering whether to pick up the phone or send that enquiry email.
1. They're significantly behind their peers
We all know that one child who seemed to have popped out of the womb chatting away - but try not to let that panic you. Is your child very delayed compared to others their age? For little ones we use the rule of thumb that by 2 years they should be saying at least 50 words (e.g. ball/more/hot). So if they have 30 words - probably nothing to worry about, but if they're yet to declare their first words to the world, we would advise having a chat to us. A 3 year old should be much chattier and able to use short sentences to communicate their ideas. If your 3 year old is not yet combining words to make simple sentences, talk to us to find out why.
2. Others can't understand what they say
As a parent you are innately in tune with your child and their wants and needs, before they even say anything! When they start talking, your child may start to substitute more difficult sounds for easier sounds. Your brain will instantly decode these patterns so you may not be able to hear that they are struggling to make particular sounds. If you understand every word your child says but your friends, parents and others who regularly see your child are adamant that they can't understand, and need you to constantly 'translate' for them, it might be that your child is making sound changes that you can't hear yourself. Speech sound therapy is more effective when the child is younger, so talk to us before it becomes a hard-wired habit.
3. Their teachers are concerned
Teachers are pretty good judges when it comes to typical child development and are often the first ones to flag up an issue if they feel there is a reason to be concerned. If you have niggling worries about your child's communication, ask their teacher, carer, childminder or nursery nurse whether they have noticed anything. The teacher may have been monitoring the situation already, or they may be able to put your mind at ease. However it's worth remembering that communication difficulties can easily go undetected even by teachers, and
a teacher who spends a lot of time with a child may be tuned in to their particular communication style and therefore be unaware that unfamiliar listeners are finding the child difficult to understand.
4. They're aware of their difficulties
Children are magical, hardy and resilient little beings. They're used to falling off bikes,
not understanding the jokes, and needing grown-ups to open packets for them. Most of the time, they accept these as the facts of life and part of the process of growing up. So they also have their own way of letting us know that they can't do something that they should be able to do. A 3 year old who happily chatters away with a mild stammer is generally no cause for concern, but a child who says "I can't get the words out" or "I keep getting stuck" would benefit from some therapy. Children who are constantly asked to repeat themselves or hear adults saying "I can't understand you" "what are you trying to say?" are likely to get frustrated, upset or just not want to talk. A child who is developing behind their peers might not yet have the words to communicate an important message and instead shows their frustration by throwing tantrums. These behaviours are clear signals that you should contact a speech and language therapist ASAP!
5. NHS services are 'keeping an eye' on the situation
We're all aware that sadly our NHS is grossly understaffed and under-funded. This means that, even with the best of intentions, it's not possible for NHS speech and language therapists to offer a service to every child who would benefit from one. The NHS has strict criteria that a child has to meet in order to receive a service, and unfortunately this means that many borderline cases are turned away, told to return in 6 months, or to come back if certain signs persist. So if you feel your child should have qualified for an NHS service, go with your instinct and contact us for an assessment.
If in doubt, check it out!
Talking Lab specialise in long-term successful outcomes for children, families and educational settings. We don't ask you to sign a contract or to commit to a number of sessions. We offer a consultative process that keeps you informed of exactly why your child is experiencing a difficulty, and what you can do at home to encourage their developing communication. We know that small changes make a BIG difference, and we're here to support you every step of the way. Check out our testimonials to see what other parents say about their experience with Talking Lab and contact us for a free, no-obligation quote.