When to seek Speech Therapy for Your Child

Many parents ask the question,

“How do I know if my child needs speech therapy?” While a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) has many areas of expertise, (fluency/stuttering, social language, overall language development including grammar, vocabulary, understanding concepts, following directions, etc.), the concept of articulation, or sound production, may warrant the most questions for parents of school-aged children.

Many parents notice sound errors in their child’s speech and wonder, “What’s normal for children of similar age?” “Will these errors resolve on their own?” and “How do I address this issue without bringing too much attention to it?”

Speech therapy for articulation can start with children as early as 3 years old (for sounds like /k/, /g/, etc.) and ages 4 and up and for most other sounds. An articulation chart below shows the varying age at which children typically acquire mastery of different sounds.

With articulation therapy, early intervention leads to an increase in positive outcomes, meaning less time and money spent on therapy.  Studies show that the age of the child significantly impacts the outcome and duration of therapy.  With each year that passes, the length of time needed to remediate sound errors with therapy significantly increases, especially after a child reaches 8 years of age.

Many parents wonder whether some articulation errors may resolve on their own. Certain types of articulation errors can resolve by age 4, but typically do not resolve spontaneously if the sound is still in error by age 5-6.  In addition, when there is more than one sound in error, or if there are unusual substitutions for sounds (which can be determined by an SLP), it is far less likely that the sound errors will resolve without therapy.

When determining how you can help your child without drawing too much attention to the errors, a speech pathologist can help parents identify strategies to practice articulation at home that can be fun and which also remove pressure from both parents and child.  One way to begin practicing sounds with your child is to model correct and incorrect productions while speaking and to invite them to play a game identifying which are correct and which are not. This takes the pressure off of them and allows them to observe the difference between the two sounds in a non-demanding, playful way.

The frequency and duration of therapy needed varies significantly based on the age of the child, the number of sounds being addressed, and whether or not there are other diagnoses present.  A general range of duration would be 8 weeks to one year.  If you have concerns about your child’s speech, most speech pathologists offer an initial screening for articulation to determine if therapy is needed and to answer questions specific to your child. Articulation therapy can be fun for your child and can take the pressure off of you as a parent.  At Therapeutic Approach to Growth, we address speech issues from a Relationship Development Intervention (RDI®) perspective, choosing to focus not only on remediation of speech deficits, but on strengthening and developing the therapist/child relationship and increasing the child’s sense of competence. Please call us today at (858)-689-2027 for more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our speech therapists.

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Karrie Johnson, M.S. CCC-SLP

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