Throughout Better Speech and Hearing Month, CORA Physical Therapy is looking at the various ways in which patients can utilize speech-language pathology and occupational therapy to improve verbal and nonverbal communication for members of your family.
“It’s just a phase. They’ll grow out of it.”
All too often, decisions in pediatric health care are delayed because parents and providers agree to see if a patient can age out of a problem that could be very treatable. While that approach works for some conditions, others, like communication disorders, can have a lifetime effect without early intervention.
Did you know that in the first five years of life, the average human has more than 1 million back-and-forth communications with their parents? These interactions are critical to shaping not only speech and language skills, but setting up the child’s ability to learn, socialize, and be a contributing member of society.
With so much at stake, early intervention with speech-language pathology and occupational therapy can help correct minor problems before they snowball, or help identify deeper physical and neurological concerns.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, here are signs of a speech or language disorder for children under the age of 3:
- Does not smile or interact with others (any age);
- Does not babble (4 – 7 months);
- Makes only a few sounds or gestures, like pointing (7 – 12 months);
- Does not understand what others say (7 – 24 months);
- Says only a few words (12 – 18 months);
- Says words that are not easily understood by others (18 – 24 months);
- Does not put words together to make sentences (18 – 36 months);
- Produces speech that is unclear, even to familiar people (24 – 36 months).
If your child, or a child you know, is having difficulty with any of these developmental milestones, here are some ways that CORA Physical Therapy can set them on a path to success.
Social and Cognitive Development
Early childhood is the ultimate test of trial and error. As babies progress into toddlers and beyond, verbal and nonverbal communication helps to set boundaries, convey meaning and create understanding.
An infant’s sense of self starts to develop through verbal communication by 9 months, and most infants become self-conscious around 18 months of age. The average 3-year-old can verbally define themselves in basic but concrete terms, such as name, age and interests.
When a child is unable to communicate traditionally, this can lead to frustration and unwanted forms of communication, like biting or hitting, or other attention-seeking behavior. Later in life, that can spiral into self-esteem problems, mental health disorders, and patterns of negative or antisocial behavior.
Early intervention for kids with delayed speech development, starting around age 2, can help encourage positive social and cognitive development and help prevent mental health problems down the road.
According to a 1997 study on kindergarten students, more than 7% suffer from a specific language impairment, which is defined as the inability to form or understand language.
A 15-year follow-up to that study showed that 52% of those students later suffered from other learning disabilities and exhibited poor academic performance throughout. This is not surprising, considering the strong connection between language skills and academic performance.
Early intervention of speech pathology is similar to course-correcting while riding a bicycle: it’s not uncommon to wobble when you first begin pedaling, and it’s easy to get back on track. However, if you don’t adjust, the new trajectory can take you wildly off course and create a domino effect of problems.
According to Indeed, strong communication skills are now ranked as the most important quality that an employer looks for in a job candidate, ahead of experience, training or even work ethic.
A study from 2000 indicates that untreated communication disorders cost the U.S. economy between $154 billion to $186 billion per year. On the individual level, that impact is even more severe, eliminating opportunities for people to follow their passions and full career potential.
Knowing how much is at stake, the benefits are high for early intervention on communication disorders, while the costs are low. Insurance covers most care options, and there are in-person, telehealth and home care options.
Ready to Serve You
If you have concerns about your child’s speech-language development, CORA’s speech-language pathologists are ready to help! Clinicians not only address concerns related to the speech and language skills, but can also address concerns about feeding and swallowing, voice, fluency/stuttering, and social communication skills.
Ask your child’s health care provider for a referral for a speech-language evaluation. We will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of your child’s skills to gauge their development and strategize next steps.
At CORA, our goal is to provide the highest possible quality of care within the coverage that you have available. Having trouble deciding which options are best for you? Please contact our team at [email protected] with any questions.