Trying to reassure someone may have said, “Don’t worry, my son didn’t speak until he was three”, or maybe “Her older sister is talking for her”.
Whatever it might have been most parents I see report some sort of “wait and see” advice. And obviously if they end up seeing me, or any other speech language pathologist, the advice to wait and see was wrong.
This advice is so prevalent because it is right much of the time. However, it is not always right and unfortunately for those children who do not “grow out of it” precious time has been lost. While there are no adverse affects to helping a child who may grow out of it, there are significant risks in waiting for the child who will not.
Why Waiting Is So Risky
Communication is at the core of who we are as individuals. It is crucial to our ability to learn and to function in our everyday lives. Every interaction we have with others is defined by our ability to effectively communicate.
Imagine how difficult life would be if you had trouble understanding others, or if they had trouble understanding you. How would you feel? You wouldn’t feel good about it would you?
This is why the frequency of behavioral problems, drug abuse and suicide in those who have communication disorders is so high. Life is harder for them. They don’t feel good about themselves and many act out in destructive ways. In other words the importance of getting help for your child goes beyond helping your child speak clearly.
This is why the advice to wait and see is so dangerous. The price of inaction can be incredibly high.
Some Personal Examples
In my own family I have 2 nephews about the same age as my daughter (2 ½ ). Both had and still have speech and language difficulties.
One of them is local and I had him in therapy right at two years old because he was not talking or imitating at all. He began to talk after some intervention and is doing excellent now. In fact we often want him to be quiet!
He still has some articulation errors to work out but I am keeping an eye on him and will recommend therapy when the time is appropriate. On the other hand my other nephew lives quite a distance away and is not getting therapy. He is 2 ½ and non-verbal. You can imagine how frustrating this is to me because if he was here he would be getting therapy several times a week.
I know that the odds are on his side and that most likely he will begin to talk with no residual problems. However if he is one of the late talkers who ends up not growing out of it, precious time is ticking away. He is now showing signs of frustration and is acting out. This is stressful for his family and for him. And it’s killing me!
When It Is Easiest To Learn Language
Current research shows that due to how the brain develops it is easier for children to learn language before the age of five. And just like speech and language disorders, early detection and treatment is crucial to overcoming social and academic problems as well. So the sooner the better!
While it’s true that sometimes “wait and see” may be the right advice the only one who should be giving this advice is a Speech Language Pathologist.
Sometimes when I do screenings I will recommend waiting a few months if I feel the child is moving in the right direction. However I will always recommend a follow up to make sure they are continuing to progress. Usually it’s in 3 months. This is enough time to see change if it’s happening but also not a lot of time if progress is not being made.
Follow Your Instincts
So parent’s, again I will tell you to follow your instincts and seek guidance when you are concerned. You will either get much needed help for your child or you might get peace of mind.
For those of you parent’s who pushed ahead and got the help your child needed, encourage your friends and family to do the same. Sometimes all they need is that one little push to move in the right direction. Their child’s future could depend on it.