Speech, language and feeding skills develop throughout childhood. A baby’s earliest oral-motor skills are needed for efficient feeding and first sounds. Their social and communication skills also begin very early as they make eye contact, cry for assistance and respond to voices. As a child develops and grows, so should their oral-motor, cognitive and communication skills. If you have any questions about your child’s speech and language development you should contact a licensed Speech / Language Pathologist.
Speech therapy facilitates and improves language, oral-motor and cognitive skills, including the following:
- Oral-motor / speech skills
- Expressive / receptive language
- Augmentative communication systems
- Participation in complex two-way communication
- Processing and using pictures / signs, vocalizations, words, phrases and sentences
- Engagement in symbolic play to support abstract language skills
Speech therapy can help children who:
- Have difficulty with pre-language skills, including making eye contact or facial expressions, gesturing, babbling or imitating sounds.
- Exhibit weakness or lack of coordination in facial and oral muscles necessary for speech and feeding by drooling, being unable to manipulate food while eating, or having unclear verbal language.
- Exhibit an aversion to specific textures or flavors of food or drink and may become frustrated when new foods are introduced.
- Have difficulty chewing, sucking from a straw or bottle, or frequently have food falling out of the mouth.
- Have difficulty producing understandable sounds, letters, or words needed to communicate with others.
- Exhibit problems with receptive language such as understanding and following directions or expressive language such as putting words together or naming objects and family members.
- Have difficulty using appropriate behavior and language within social situations or understanding indirect requests and facial expression from others.
- Have difficulty with thinking skills such as remembering homework assignments, organization and problem solving.
- Have difficulty with speech including articulation (clarity of speech) and stuttering.
A Speech Therapy evaluation may be appropriate if any of the following are noted:
- A parent is concerned about speech or language development
- A child is not talking at all by age 18 months
- There are medical or developmental concerns that may affect speech
- A child is embarrassed by his or her speech at any age
One of the situations described below has occurred at the indicated age:
- A child is hearing impaired and/or does not respond to quiet sounds or voices
- A child has a cleft palate or excessive nasal quality in his or her voice
- A child does not begin combining words by age 2
- A child exhibits limited vocabulary development
- A child is not responding to conversational speech
- A child is not fluent or thought to stutter
- There is an absence of sentence structure in a child’s speech
- A child’s family has difficulty understanding their speech
- A child’s speech contains many omissions of initial and final consonants
- A child’s speech is limited to echoing others statements, songs, rhymes, etc.
- Word endings are consistently dropped or used inconsistently
- A child’s communication skills are inadequate for interaction in the school environment
- Sentence structure is noticeably faulty
- A child is noticeably not fluent or parents express a concern about fluency
- A child has hoarse, harsh or unusual voice quality
- A child mispronounces any sounds
- A speech or language problem is present and speech therapy is unavailable or inadequate in the school system
- The child has a learning disability
A feeding or oral motor evaluation may be appropriate if any of the below milestones have not been reached at the indicated age:
4 to 6 Months
- Babies are introduced to soft solid foods such as cereals and pureed fruits and vegetables
- Cup drinking may also be introduced at 6 months
6 to 9 Months
- Soft cookies may be introduced as well as ground or lumpy solids
10 to 12 Months
- Mashed or soft table foods are introduced
- Most liquids are taken from a cup
- Babies have a controlled bite and are able to bite through cookies at 12 months
13 to 15 Months
- Continued improvement is shown with biting skills
- Use of a straw or regular cup
16 to 18 Months
- More challenging foods are given that require chewing, such as meats and vegetables
19 to 24 Months
- More control is gained of cup drinking and biting of the cup is lessened. Children should be learning to drink in longer sequences with little or no spillage
- Children are able to manage any type of food they like as they have learned all the skills they need to eat every type of food