A Speech-language pathologist, also called an SLP, is a highly-trained healthcare professional who evaluates and treats children who have difficulty with speech, language, and/or communication. Speech-Language Pathologist must have at least a master’s degree in the field of speech-language pathology and a license to practice. It’s best to look for a speech therapist that is a member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). This means the therapist has passed a national exam for certification. You may see these initials after their name, M.S (Masters of Science), CCC (Certificate of Clinical Competence), SLP (Speech Language Pathologist).
Receptive language refers to the ability to comprehend language, follow directions, respond to questions, and understand concepts. We understand (receptive language) much more words than we actually use (expressive language)in our vocabulary.
Expressive language refers to expressing one’s wants and needs through facial expressions, gestures, the use of words, and sentences. Expressive language skills include: labeling objects in the environment, describing actions and events, putting words together in sentences, using grammar correctly (e.g. “I had a drink” not “Me drinked”), retelling a story, and answering questions.
Children do not develop based on a firm developmental milestone path. Some babies may being walking as young as 9 months, while others don’t take their first steps until 15 months. Both are within the range of typical development. A developmental delay occurs when a child is continually behind on more than one skill based on the developmental milestones guide.
Remember that children develop at different rates. However, if you think your child is developmentally delayed, consult with a professional. Delays in communication and language development are often the first sign of developmental problems in young children. Treating communication and language difficulties early on can prevent potential problems with behavior, learning, reading and social interaction.
Videos from parents explaining how they noticed their toddler was delayed:
According to Bishop (2006) there is no single crucial deficit that leads to compromised development but instead multiple factors underlie a delay and the cause is not always known.
Sometimes parents worry that they might have contributed to their child’s delay. That’s usually not the case. Even though it may be heartbreaking to hear your child is delayed, in the end, it’s better to focus on next steps and ways to help.
At 12 months, a child is just starting to truly communicate expressively. They be babbling a lot and starting imitate words they hear. At this time their vocabulary is still limited, however they may have a few words (i.e. mama, dada, ball)
Between the ages of 18 months and 2 years old you will begin to see your child rapidly retain vocabulary and start to use various new words.
Around the time a child turns 2, they should have about 50 or more words in their vocabulary and putting 2 words together, such as “mama go” or “more juice”.
By 3 years old, their vocabulary can expand to over 300 words. Children should be starting to communicate more clearly and talking in simple sentences. You should be able to understand 75% of what a child says.
The number of words stated for each age is an average. While the stages of development are the same, it is important to remember that the age a child may develop a skill can vary. To see the stages of development, refer to our developmental milestone guide.
Recent research on brain development reminds us that “earlier IS better” when teaching young children. By age 3, most of the major brain structures are mature, and it becomes more difficult to make significant changes in a child’s growth and development.
In the first five years of life, when brain development is most rapid, children are more open to learning and more receptive to enriching experiences than they will ever be.
Some parents are advised that their child will likely “grow out of it”, and they simply wait for their child to catch up. But a “wait and see” approach can be very detrimental during this critical learning phase. Since children with a delay can’t participate fully during activities and conversations, they may fall even further behind if they are not provided with the help they need.
Early intervention is critically important for children to develop the skills necessary for future success in their academic and personal lives.
When we evaluate a child, this is almost always one of the first questions parents ask us. Different professionals may provide different answers, but at the end of the day, no one can provide an answer to this question. Whatever a professional says is just their best guess/opinion.
A common misconception is that speech therapists only work on “speech”. Speech-language therapy encompasses much more than just working on articulation sounds. A speech therapist studies, diagnoses and treats communication disorders, including difficulties with speaking, listening, understanding language, reading, writing, social skills, stuttering and using voice.
Many professionals have various opinions on the pacifier. It’s important to be aware of the positive and negative effects of the pacifier, however parents also have to do what they feel most comfortable with.
For parents, typically the most difficult part of a pacifier is deciding when to take it away. Studies have shown that the prolonged use of a pacifier can cause an increase in ear infections, malformations of teeth or oral structures, and/or speech-language delays.
Babies are born with a need to suck and it plays an important role in nutrition. The sucking motion is also very self-soothing for many babies and that is where the pacifier comes in. Many speech-language pathologists recommend stopping pacifier use by 12-18 months of age, because this is when speech and language development really begins to “take off”. A pacifier may impede your child from babbling more and from being understood when trying to use words to communicate.
There is much confusion regarding the use of gestures. A gesture is a form of non-verbal communication in which visible bodily actions are used to communicate, either in place of, or in conjunction with, speech. One of the very first way babies communicate is through gestures. Gestures include pointing, waving “hi” or “bye,” putting arms up to be picked up, etc.
Language development does only refer to the development of verbal language - in fact, there are milestones leading up to the emergence of verbal language (Check out our developmental milestones guide). There is even evidence to suggest that the more symbolic gestures a young child uses, the larger their vocabulary will be by the age of 24 months (Acredolo & Goodwyn, 1988; Goodwyn et al, 2000). The research indicates that, as Goodwyn et al. (2000) write, “the symbolic gesturing experience seems to ‘jump start’ verbal development.”
Whether or not we model gestures that are part of a system of symbols, such as American Sign Language, the gesture provides a concrete way for that young child to express him or herself before (or during) the emergence of verbal language.