There are ways parents can identify speech problems in their children, and specific steps that can be taken to address them. NY1's Jill Urban filed the following report.
Four year old Sabrina has been getting speech therapy for over two years. Around age two, her family sensed something wasn’t right.
"She was not speaking. She was only doing a little bit of babbling. She had no words," says her grandmother, Susan Antonellis.
So they took her for an evaluation with at the Speech and Hearing Center at St. John’s University, where she was diagnosed with speech delays. Director Dr. Donna Geffner says many parents don’t know to seek help because they are not sure if it’s a problem or just normal speech development.
"Children develop language in a very universal way. And all children all meet very similar developmental stages. For some children there may be some delay, but we always compare children to what their same age peers should be doing and what those millstones are," says Geffner.
Sometimes delays can be a result of oral motor issues, cognitive delay, or hearing issues.
Sometimes it runs in families or a child was premature and therefore behind the curve—there is a whole range of possibilities.
Whatever it is, she says there are signs to look for.
"The child is not developing words, the child is pointing instead of using words, the child may seem to not understand. A child may have trouble paying attention or maybe the child likes to play alone and not with other children," says Geffner.
If your child is already speaking, she says, common errors include the production of the letter r, s, l or difficulty blending the sounds in words.
Again, it’s all related to peers of the same age.
If a you sense one of these red flags in your child, she recommends getting an evaluation with a speech pathologist and a hearing test. If diagnosed, play-based therapy can help train the child mentally or physically to form sounds and words correctly.
Now for some kids speech therapy not only helps their speech, but it can also boosts their confidence, and can significantly enhance their social skills.
"Her confidence level has improved. She would never go up to children before or initiate any kind of play with them. Now she goes over and says ,”Hello, what’s your name?” Antonellis says.
Dr. Geffner says if you are unsure, its best to get an evaluation.
If therapy is needed, the sooner the better, because the gap only widens as they get older.