The Right Age to Begin Speech Therapy for your Child

Every parent likes to track their growing child’s progress. Even small delays in speaking and communicating can cause them worry. There are times when your child may simply pick up pace a little later. However, if there are significant delays, your child may benefit from sessions with a speech therapist. The sooner you start them on a speech and language therapy program, the more they will benefit. Let’s take a closer look at how speech therapy can help your child.

Understanding speech and language delays

Speech refers to the verbal expression and articulation of language. However, language refers to understanding and being understood through communication, be it verbal or non-verbal. So a child with a speech delay may not be able to articulate words at all, or may articulate in a way that is hard to understand. On the other hand, a child with a language delay may know how to articulate words, but may not do so adequately or correctly when communicating. A child may have a speech delay, or a speech and language delay combined. Some reasons for speech / language delays include oral impairments, poor control over mouth and face muscles, hearing problems, illnesses that affect the part of the brain controlling speech, and so on.

Understanding speech therapy

Speech therapy refers to the assessment and treatment of communication disorders related to speech and language. It may take place in a classroom setting or through one-on-one sessions, depending on your child’s needs. Some of the exercises that a speech therapist might use include using picture books to develop language, spoken interaction through play, and modeling correct sounds and syllables to improve articulation.

Signs that your child may need speech therapy

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. 

  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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.

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. Enrolling your child in speech and language therapy will help them acquire fluency in language, articulate sounds better, and communicate effectively, while also boosting their confidence.

Dr Na'eem Sadiq is a respected stem cell specialist at Plexus, and a prominent neurologist in Bangalore. He studied neurology and clinical neurophysiology in London, and worked with some of the most prestigious medical institutions in England, and the Middle East. He completed his MBBS at Bellary Government Medical College, and a postgraduate degree in psychiatry from NIMHANS in Bangalore.

Dr Na'eem has perfected his knowledge and expertise in Continuing medical education (CME), and training in tissue culture, Stem Cell Therapy, and neurology. Dr Na'eem Sadiq possesses an undying passion to improve people’s lives. This led to the creation of Plexus, a neuro and Stem Cell Research centre in Bangalore in neurosurgery, and neurorehabilitation.