Does my child need speech therapy?
Updated: November 10, 2023 · 5 Minute Read
Melanie Hsu, Ph.D.
- Speech therapy supports your child’s language development and teaches them important communication skills.
- Your child can benefit from speech therapy if they have trouble making certain sounds, can’t put two words together, or find it difficult to understand others.
- If your child struggles with verbal speech or communication, speech therapy can help your child learn to use other modes of communication, also called Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).
- Speech therapy is almost always recommended for autistic children since many people with autism have difficulty with social communication.
- Recent studies show that children who work with a speech therapist through telehealth (online) experience just as many benefits as in-person therapy.
- If your child is under the age of three, contact your state’s free early intervention program to see if you qualify for their services.
It's common in speech therapy for the therapists to have children touch their throat or hold their hand by their mouth so they can feel the sound they are making.
Does my child need speech therapy?
Even if a child is very verbal and says a lot of words, they might need to work on communication skills like:
- responding to questions
- starting or ending conversation
- changing conversation topics
- using gestures like pointing
- understanding other people's body language
Speech therapy is a big focus in early intervention for autistic children and is usually the starting place for recently diagnosed kids. There is a critical period in the brain for language development and so, it's really important to teach language and communication skills as early as possible, especially if there are any delays in that area. Your child will learn effective ways to communicate which will help them grow into more independent and confident individuals.
It might be obvious when a child struggles with speaking —they are very quiet, say only a few words, or don't speak at all. Other signs are not as obvious:
What is speech therapy?
Speech therapy, also called speech-language therapy, helps children improve their speech, language, and communication skills.
A speech therapist, also called a speech-language pathologist (SLP), will assess your child’s strengths and weaknesses and then work with you to develop a treatment plan. An SLP can help your child improve their understanding of language (receptive language), as well as their ability to communicate their thoughts and messages to others (expressive language).
The speech therapist will also help support your child in developing verbal language skills, and if necessary, guide your family through the process of alternative communication methods, also called Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). The therapist will provide you with training and coaching so that you can support your child’s speech and language development at home.
A speech therapy session is usually 30-45 minutes long. Therapy can last a few months to a few years, depending on the individual’s needs.
If you have concerns regarding your child’s speech and language development, you should discuss these concerns with your primary care physician and request a referral for a speech and language evaluation. It is better to get your child evaluated rather than use the “wait and see” approach. Early intervention is critical and waiting can cause your child to miss out on the services they need. You can contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network providers or find the best speech therapists and in-network autism experts at Beaming Health.
If your child is under the age of three years old, you can call your state’s free early intervention program to see if you qualify for their services (no doctor referral is required for early intervention services). Many public schools also offer free speech therapy for special needs children based on certain terms.
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- Wales D, Skinner L, Hayman M. The Efficacy of Telehealth-Delivered Speech and Language Intervention for Primary School-Age Children: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Telerehabilitation. 2017;9(1):55-70. doi:10.5195/ijt.2017.6219
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Evidence-based practice (EBP). 2021. https://www.asha.org/research/ebp/
- Greenwell T, Walsh B. Evidence-Based Practice in Speech-Language Pathology: Where Are We Now? American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. 2021;30(1):186-198. doi:10.1044/2020_ajslp-20-00194
- Broomfield J, Dodd B. Is speech and language therapy effective for children with primary speech and language impairment? Report of a randomized control trial. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders. 2011;46(6):628-640. doi:10.1111/j.1460-6984.2011.00039.