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Does My Child Need Speech Therapy?

Excellent question! There are lots of reasons that might cause you, a parent, to think to yourself “Hmm, is this typical? Do I need to get an SLP involved here?” I’m going to explore some of these concerns more in depth, but before I do, let me say this:

If you are concerned about your child’s speech and/or language development, you should ABSOLUTELY seek the advice of a speech language pathologist. Nothing will put your mind at ease like talking to a professional and hearing their thoughts and recommendations. Some SLPs (including me!) offer some kind of consult services before you commit to an evaluation or to weekly services. If you would like to discuss your concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule a phone consultation. You can contact us here.

Let’s talk about some concerns LOTS of parents have and what you can do about them!

1. My child isn’t talking yet. Does my child need speech therapy?

There is a lot of information and research about when children typically say their first word (spoiler: it’s around their first birthday). BUT! This is purely a “guideline” as in, your child might say their first word at 9 months, or they might say their first word at 15 months. And both of those are FINE!

As an SLP, I’m really more focused on the natural development of language. Is your child following the typical progression of developing pre-verbal skills? If so, great! You might just need a few strategies to move things along. If your child is not showing many pre-verbal skills by 12 months of age, I would consider seeking an evaluation from a licensed SLP.

Side note: “Jess – what are pre-verbal skills??” So glad you asked! I did an Instagram post about pre-verbal/pre-linguistic skills and I have a blog post coming soon!

2. My child doesn’t follow my directions. Does my child need speech therapy?

There are a few possibilities here. For the sake of argument, let’s say we’ve already ruled out that your child can understand you, but just doesn’t want to do what you’re asking them to do. There are 2 possibilities that come to mind:

There might be a receptive language delay. Receptive language refers to the language we understand and comprehend – following directions falls under this category. If your child has a receptive language delay, they may have issues with:

  • answering questions

  • identifying objects and pictures

  • difficulty understanding a story

  • difficulty paying attention and listening to language

The directions you’re giving your child might be too complex for their developmental stage of learning. Here are some general guidelines

3. My child is saying some of their sounds incorrectly. Does my child need speech therapy?

Again, there is a lot of information and research about when children develop certain sounds.

My general thought is that if your child is able to sit for around 30 minutes while playing (with some breaks!) and can follow some directions, they might be ready for articulation therapy. The longer we wait to address a child’s speech sound errors, the harder it may be to change that motor pattern of producing the sound in that way.

4. No one can understand my child except for immediate family. Does my child need speech therapy?

In terms of intelligibility, I follow these general “rules."

We expect children to be about 25% intelligible at age one, 50% intelligible by age two, 75% intelligible by age three, and 100% intelligible by age four.

Again, these are just guidelines! If other people in your family, teachers or peers at school, or people in the community are having trouble understanding your child by age 3, I would definitely look into speech therapy!

5. My child isn't meeting speech and language milestones. Does my child need speech therapy?

Milestones are important to follow and keep track of, but they are not the end all be all of language development, ESPECIALLY if they are attached to specific ages. Like I mentioned above, I’m more concerned about whether or not your child is following the natural progression of speech and language development and I’m generally LESS concerned about what age your child is when they meet that milestone.

SO. That being said, milestones can be a good guideline to show the order in which many skills are developed. Just ignore the ages if you look up “developmental norms” on Google. Which I do not recommend. If you want good (reliable) resources, check out the information on the ASHA website or Zero to Three.

If you are concerned about your child missing some language milestones or being behind on meeting some milestones, reach out to an SLP to discuss your concerns and set up an evaluation.


Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I believe that if you are concerned about your child’s development, that is reason enough to consult an SLP and schedule an evaluation.

If you would like to schedule a consultation or evaluation with CommuniKids Speech and Language Services, you can contact us here!

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