Toddler Speech: When to See a Therapist

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Hi! Cafe Kierna guest blogging for Cafe Cynthia for a little while today.

speech therapist, toddler

Kieran is the one on my lap.

Believe me, he talks a lot!

Three is such a funny age for kids. It's like the tween year of toddlerhood. Two was still pretty much a baby and four is just about a big kid. At three is when kids really start to express more complicated ideas and desires--but sometimes, it still comes out all wrong.

When my 3.4-year-old son, Kieran, was about 20 months I got him a speech therapist (the program was actually free). It's not that he wasn't talking at all, but communicating in more than one or two word sentences was tough for him. When he would get frustrated with something he was trying to say, he would throw really bad tantrums and hit his head on the floor--and it started to get scary. "Use your words, Kieran!" became a mantra in our house.

At the time, my family thought maybe I was overreacting. But I wasn't. According to Kidshealth.org, "Therapy should begin as soon as possible. Children enrolled in therapy early in their development (younger than 3 years) tend to have better outcomes than those who begin therapy later." Older kids can definitely make progress too, but it's sometimes at a slower rate because they often have learned patterns that need to be changed.

Today Kieran's a new kid. He hasn't worked with the therapist since last September--and we've seen a tremendous improvement in his communication skills. He expresses himself with much more confidence and his sentences are better--although sometimes he does still fall back on command shortcuts saying, "Mommy, will you do that?" instead of saying, for example, "Mommy, will you open the box for me?" All words he knows how to say.

Any word with a double consonant beginning is another linguistic challenge for him. School is "cool." Snake is "nake." Dress is "ress." Kieran cuts his words short in a rush to get the whole sentence out: "He did tha becau my teach gun get angry." ("Becau" is "because" and often means "and.") I admit, there are times when I enable this simply because I know what he's saying, (He did that [the all-purpose that] and my teacher is going to get angry.), and I respond accordingly. But I realize that a stranger would be like, huh?

Turhtfully, I just feel confused not knowing if any of the things I've noticed about my child's speech is a reason for concern. Sometimes think I'm over-analyzing every word that comes out of his mouth. I hope not. It's just that I desperately want my almost preschooler to be ready next September to tell the world what's on his mind.

For a place to start looking for help with speech for your child, check out the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Has your toddler ever had speech therapy? Do you think he or she might need it?


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