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When to Start Speech Therapy For Your Little One

When to Start Speech Therapy For Your Little One

As parents, we need to keep in mind that our little one’s journey to communication development is unique and different from their peers. However, even the smallest delays in speech and communication can worry us. There are times when your child may simply pick up pace a little later. However, if there are significant delays, we need to acknowledge that we may need additional support in the form of speech therapy. In this blog, we will help you understand the right age to start speech therapy for your little one, as well as recognise the signs to watch for, and guide you to the best speech therapy centre in India.

Understanding speech and language development

Language development is a complex process that begins at infancy. It continues to evolve throughout childhood and beyond.

While speech refers to the verbal expression and articulation of language, language refers to understanding and being understood through communication, be it verbal or non-verbal. So, communication delays can be divided into two categories: speech delay and language delay.

Speech delay

Speech delay is characterized by a noticeable lag in the speech acquisition and communication abilities. It can appear in many forms, such as difficulties in pronouncing certain sounds, forming words, limited vocabulary, and inability to understand/use language in everyday communication.

A child with speech delay may not be able to articulate words at all, or may articulate in a way that is hard to understand.

Language delay

Language delay is characterized by a significant lag in acquiring language skills corresponding to a particular age. It can manifest in many forms, such as difficulty in following directions, inability to engage in meaningful conversations, inability to complete sentences, and limited vocabulary.

A child with language delay may know how to articulate words, but may not do so adequately or correctly when communicating.  There are three types of language delay. They are:

  • Receptive language delay – Having trouble understanding or processing words
  • Expressive language delay – Having  trouble with expressing meaning or communicating messages to others
  • Mixed receptive-expressive language delay –  A combination of receptive and expressive language delay

You can read more about speech and language delays here.

Key milestones in speech and language development

A delay in speech or language doesn’t necessarily mean that there is something wrong. Your child may simply be a late developer and catch up to their peers without needing any intervention. At the same time, certain signs merit a closer look and may indicate a need for speech therapy for children. Here are some milestones to look out for. Below are the important speech and language milestones parents need to keep in mind.

Infancy (0-12 months)

  • 6 months – Babies should ideally start babbling between four and seven months of age. It’s worth taking note if your child is unusually silent, or doesn’t make eye contact with you.
  • 12 months – Most children should be able to nod and shake their heads, gesture towards things, and wave their hands. These are all signs that your child has grasped the basics of communication and knows how to attract your attention. If your child doesn\’t do these, or doesn\’t react when you address them or gesture at them, you may want to consult someone.

Toddlerhood (1-3 years)

  • 12-24 months – At this age, children should be able to understand simple verbal requests, like ‘sit down’. An inability to understand what you want of them could indicate a language delay.
  • 24 months – By this age, most children will string together two or three words to indicate what they want, such as \”drink milk\” or \”play ball\”. If your child is not vocalizing, or is not speaking independently unless spoken to, or has a raspy or nasal tone of voice, visit a specialist.
  • Above 36 months – Children aged three and above will usually speak a lot of words, most of which are intelligible. If you are finding it hard to understand most of what they are saying, speech therapy for children may be necessary

Preschool (Nursery + Kindergarten) (3-5 years)

  • 48 months and above – Between the ages of two and four, it becomes most obvious if your child needs assistance. Even if they can speak, they may not be able to understand simple instructions like “go over there” if they have a language delay. Low levels of interaction, frequently using the wrong words, or not answering questions correctly are also signs to watch out for.

Warning signs to watch for

While missed milestones at earlier ages are not necessarily a cause for alarm, it is important to take action and sign your child up for speech therapy if the problems continue at 24 months of age and beyond. It is important for parents to be observant and proactive when it comes to seeking intervention, especially if you notice of the following signs:

  • Limited vocabulary
  • Difficulty pronouncing sounds
  • Lack of social interaction
  • Inconsistent speech development
  • Behavioural issues, such as tantrums and frustration
  • Difficulty following instructions

The ideal age to start speech therapy

The ideal age to start speech and language therapy depends on your child’s individual needs and the severity of their speech and language delay. Here are some general guidelines that will help you make an informed decision:

Early intervention

This is often the key to success in speech therapy. Starting speech therapy as soon as speech and language delays are identified, sometimes even as early as 2 or 3 years of age, can prevent further delays and facilitate quicker progress.

Between toddlerhood and kindergarten – 2 to 5 years

Generally regarded as a critical window for speech and language development, during this stage, children are more receptive to therapy and will be able to make significant improvements if given proper guidance and therapy.

Tailored approach

As mentioned above, the right age to start speech therapy may be determined by the child’s specific requirements. Along with recommendations of speech therapists, teachers, paediatricians involved in the child’s care, a tailored approach may benefit the child.

Consultation with experts

If you are unsure about the right age to start speech therapy for your little one, we recommend you consult your developmental paeditrician who will be able to guide you to a speech therapist. The latter will assess your child’s speech and language development and help you understand the right time for intervention.

What does speech therapy for toddlers and young children have?

This is where we want to assure you parents. At Plexus, we follow play-based therapy that your little one will be able to thoroughly enjoy. We don’t want to overwhelm your child. Instead, we will engage them in meaningful and constructive play that will help them improve their speech and communication skills.

Here’s what Plexus’ speech therapy for toddlers and young children looks like:

Play-based activities

Our team of highly skilled and experienced speech therapists will use play-based activities, toys, and games to encourage speech and language development.

Early intervention

Through focused therapy plans we aim to address existing delays and prevent further difficulties.

Individualised plans

We will devise individualised plans tailored to suit your little’s specific needs and goals. These plans may target important areas, such as vocabulary development, articulation, and social communication.

Parental involvement

As parents, you are your child’s greatest learning resource. So, we ask you to be involved in their therapy sessions, and help us design learning strategies that will help their communication development at home.

Progress and feedback

We will closely monitor your little one’s progress and make adjustments to our therapy plan to ensure continued improvement.

The primary goal of Plexus’ speech and language therapy program is to help your little one develop strong communication skills. We empower them to overcome any speech and language challenges they may face. However, this can only be achieved by taking action early and providing a supportive environment at home that will help your child thrive in their communication development journey.


When to start speech therapy for toddler?

Typically, speech therapy for children is determined by their specific needs and the severity of their speech and/or language delay. However, the ideal age for speech therapy for children, especially toddlers is between the ages of 2 and 5 years.

What does a speech therapist do?

A speech therapist will devise management strategies that focus mainly on articulation, social communication, and vocabulary building to help children improve their speech and communication skills.

What age is best for speech therapy?

Speech therapy for children should begin as soon as the signs of speech and/or language delay are identified. The ideal age for speech therapy for children, especially toddlers is between the ages of 2 and 5 years.

Does speech therapy really work for kids?

It absolutely does! As long as you work with a qualified speech therapist, be involved in your child’s progress, and begin speech therapy as early as possible, it can really benefit your child.

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