When people find out I’m a speech therapist, one of the first things they ask about is the ages of my patients. Most people are surprised to learn that speech therapists work with people of all ages, including babies and the elderly. People specifically ask about working with babies and toddlers, incorrectly assuming they are too young for therapy. What many of them don’t understand is why early intervention is important for any child with a delay, not just for those who have a diagnosis.
Children with a diagnosis, such as Down syndrome, autism, or cerebral palsy, need therapy in order to help with their language skills, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and/or sensory processing skills, but what about the children who are showing delays in these areas but do not have a diagnosis? Is early therapy appropriate for these children?
The answer is yes.
Some children have what’s called Developmental Delay. All children achieve developmental milestones at different times and slight lags aren’t always something to worry about. However, a child with Developmental Delay is significantly delayed in cognitive, physical, communication, social/emotional, and/or adaptive development, and early intervention may be just as beneficial for these children as those with a more specific diagnosis.
Why early intervention?
Early intervention has been shown to decrease or close the gap in a child’s development. It has been proven to have long term affects such as an increase in academic skills, increase in language skills, and a decrease in negative behaviors. What could happen if you do not seek early intervention services? Some children may be able to catch up to their peers when it comes to their development, and not every child who shows a delay of some kind requires early intervention. However, if a child would not be able to catch up without intervention, the gap between his/her peers will continue to get bigger and it will take more time and therapy to close it.
If you suspect that your child has a delay in one or more of these areas, talk to your child’s pediatrician about an evaluation for speech therapy, physical therapy, or occupational therapy (depending on your area of concern). Bring along a list of the skills that your child is not doing and the age range for when they should be achieved (the American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website is a good resource for this information). If the pediatrician is not yet concerned, continue to monitor your child’s development. If you continue to notice delays, then request a script for a speech language evaluation (physical therapy or occupational therapy) and contact a clinic to set it up.
Have questions or want further clarification about the evaluation process for children wth developmental delay? Contact us for a free consultation.
Jessie Nelson Willis, M.Ed., CCC-SLP