Children accomplish a lot within the first 12 months of their lives.
Within the first 6-months, they can recognize faces, expressions, and tones of voices.
By their first birthday, they can understand gestures, respond to their own name, recognize a few objects by name (ball, truck, and dog) and follow simple directions (such as, ‘look here’).
They should also say their first word between the ages of 10 and 14-months.
Remember, not all children adhere to the traditional pace of speech and language development. Even neurotypical children may experience delays in speech and language development in the earlier months. They tend to catch up with their peers within the first few years. However, neuro-diverse children may not be able to catch up without some professional help.
It is indeed difficult for parents to determine if their child is a late-talker or if they have a speech delay.
What are Some Common Mistakes Parents of Children with Speech Delay Make?
In the first few months following childbirth, keeping a close eye on a child’s responses, babblings, and vocalizations may help a new parent determine if their child needs the attention of a speech-language pathologist.
Several factors may contribute to speech delay in children. However, none of those include one's style of parenting. So, if your child has a speech delay, it's not your fault.
Nonetheless, what you do after finding out that your child has a speech delay will determine your child's course of life to a great extent.
Here are the top seven mistakes parents of children with speech delay make that you should always avoid –
Waiting Too Long
It may be confusing and even emotionally tumultuous to find out that your child has a speech delay. However, waiting for them because you hope they will catch up may be a big mistake.
Research shows that early interventions are helpful for the speech and language development of children experiencing delays.
If your child is between 1 and 2-years old, and they haven't said their first word yet, it is time for a trip to the pediatrician. A medical health professional will recommend a pediatric speech therapist suitable for the unique needs of your child.
Living in Denial
Whenever faced with a harsh truth, we tend to slip into denial. Denial may be a necessary coping mechanism for you, but it may harm your child’s development.
Allow yourself to feel the sadness and anger if those are the emotions that keep bubbling up. It is all a part of processing the bitter truth that your child has a speech delay and they need professional evaluation.
Booking speech therapy appointments for your child may not match the perfect image you had of your child growing up, and it’s hard! But it's necessary.
Taking the Wrong Advice
When you express concerns about your child's speech, your parents or grandparents, a kindly neighbor or coworker may tell you, "Oh, that's perfectly normal. My so-and-so didn't say a word until his 3rd birthday, and now he has a doctorate."
Well, such instances may have been true for one person, but you simply cannot afford to take that chance, can you?
Chancing upon misinformation on blogs, discussion forums, and Facebook groups is all too common! You need to talk to your pediatrician and a pediatric speech therapist if you suspect that your child has a speech delay.
What's the worst that can happen? After some thorough testing and evaluation, the speech-language pathologist (SLP) may state that your child is developing normally or recommend interventions suitable for a child falling short of speech-language milestones for his age! Either way, it is better to get your worries addressed by a professional than rely on unverified information from unqualified individuals.
Going To the Wrong People
Now, this is a dicey one! You may have gone to 2 or 3 pediatricians who have shot down your worries by calling you overly anxious. However, you are still not sure that your child's speech is developing at a typical pace.
Well, try to get an appointment with a qualified and experienced pediatric speech therapist or speech-language pathologist (SLP) in your area. Take your child in for a thorough evaluation and assessment.
A general physician may not be the medical health professional of choice when it comes to speech-language disorders. Nonetheless, we recommend going to a pediatrician at the first step to rule out any hearing problems or physiological defects that may be keeping your child from speaking.
Trying To “Fix” It on Your Own
Speech therapy for a toddler is not something you should DIY. If you want to continue speech therapy at home for speech delays, you should chalk out a home therapy plan with your speech therapist first.
A licensed speech therapist will tell you which exercises you can continue at home with your child. They will also tell you about mispractices that you must never engage in while communicating with your child.
Yes. Regular speech exercises with your child can help them reach the stages of speech development faster, but it needs to be closely monitored and guided by a speech-language pathologist.
Not Practicing At Home
Once you have visited a speech therapist, they will recommend exercises and activities to help your child's speech and language development.
For example - they may give you some "homework" that requires you to spend 20 minutes with your child every day. Therapy doesn't happen within a one-hour window at the clinician's office only. It has to continue at home for the best results.
The therapist may ask you to use positive reinforcements such as praises whenever your child answers a question or follows a simple direction. You may have to give a tally of how many times such instances occurred at home in one week.
It will help you keep track of your child's progress and determine the changes that their therapy protocol requires.
Not Learning About Speech Delays
Learning more about speech delay may open up new avenues for your child. You may find out more about advanced speech therapy protocols or programs appropriate for their age. Over time, you will learn about new research on speech and language disorders. You will be able to tell the facts apart from myths of speech delay.
Knowing more about the disorder will give you the necessary resources to find the right services. Most importantly, the next time you receive wrong information or misdiagnosis, you should be able to call it out without self-doubt.
What Should You Do Now?
If you have made some of these mistakes, don’t worry! You can avoid making the same mistakes from now on.
If your child is learning to speak, talk to them slowly. Take turns in talking, and do not drown them in directions or questions while spending time with them.
Always pronounce words correctly even when your child is just beginning to babble. Your speech will serve as the model for them to emulate.
Remember, do not criticize your child if they are making mistakes while speaking. You can request them to repeat or correct the pronunciation once in a while.