Suspect a delay in speech and language?

Today’s health section in the New York Times features a column by primary care pediatrician Perri Klass, M.D.

Klass notes that pediatricians need to be reminded again and again to take a parent’s concern about possible speech and language delays seriously.

She mentions instances in her practice where 1) she herself fell short of alerting parents to her own concerns about a young patient, and 2) she was unable to clearly communicate her concerns about a patient to parents herself, resulting in delayed therapy for the young patient.

Early assessment for a delay is crucial. Delays in making the milestones for speech and language may be an indicator for other neurodevelopmental disorders, says Klass, including autism. But, she adds, sometimes a delay can be the result of a chaotic household, or that for some reason, no one is actually taking time to talk to the baby.

Jill Stamm, Ph.D., an Arizona State University psychology professor and director of New Directions Institute notes that when a caregiver avoids engaging in a two way interaction with a baby because of cell phone use or other distractions, opportunities for interaction and vital two-way communication are missed. Listen to Jill’s tips on brain development on RAK Radio.

Diane R. Paul, director of clinical issues in speech-language pathology for the American Speech-Language-Hearing association recommends these tips in Klass’s column for parents who wish to enhance a child’s speech and language skills:

  • Talk to your child about what they’re focused on.
  • Read to your child often.
  • If they’re in a bilingual home, speak to the child and read to the child in the language that you’re most comfortable with.
  • Speak clearly and naturally and use real words- not baby talk.
  • Show excitement when the child speaks.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association lists guidelines sorted by age.

For parents who are concerned that a child is not on track, ASHA provides a geographic search tool for certified professionals. Or, check out Raising Arizona Kids writer Brittany Walker’s list of local professionals.

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