with author Friends of Ricki
is my preschooler speech delayed?
As the mom of a child with autism, I found it difficult to get answers when my son was younger. It wasn't until we demanded a complete assessment that we finally received a diagnosis. But a child doesn't have to have autism for a parent to be filled with worry and questions, wondering if they're hitting milestones on time. It's important, as parents, to be educated on where our child's abilities are expected to fall yet be flexible in realizing that every child is unique and learns at an individual pace. Friend of Ricki Louise Sattler has offered to provide readers tips on recognizing speech and language delays. -- Team Ricki Jackie
Friend of Ricki Louise Sattler: As a school psychologist, I often would be involved with helping to determine if a child had a speech-language delay. Often this would involve meeting with parents and a psycho-educational team to determine if a toddler or preschooler truly was delayed with speech and language development. Together we would observe, and perhaps assess a child, then make recommendations. Many times it would be found that the child did in fact have delays, ranging from mild to severe, which would mean that services through the school district could be made available and therapies implemented.
The worst part of the “job” was the reaction of parents who often would be devastated with the results of our team evaluations. For some, we confirmed their greatest fears, such as proving that their child did indeed have cognitive delays, deafness or autism. It often was heart wrenching for the parents and the professionals. I often felt as if I had burst their “dream bubble” of how they envisioned their family life only to replace it with a much different scenario.
Then, in 1992, the tables were turned. I was the parent and it was OUR two-year-old child that didn’t speak. Our family then became part of the “process,” we were the ones signing forms on the line designated for “parent.” Our son was the one whose name appeared at the top of the official paperwork. OUR child was the one that needed the therapies and interventions that my colleagues had prescribed countless times to others. The “routine” now became the “unfamiliar.” Despite having the “knowledge” of what to expect, it still felt frightening, awkward and at times sad. Talk about “Ah-Ha” moments!
Believe me when I tell you that being a parent of a child with delays made me a better psychologist. It also made me a better parent. My goal always has been to help others. Here is what I learned from being on “both sides of the table."
Trust your instincts and observations Kids will attain skills at their own rate, but if their speech and language (or motor skills) seem too far out of the normal limits as compared to other children their age, then it is time to seek the help of professionals.
Share your concern with your child’s doctor Many times we need to rule out medical reasons for speech delay, such as fluid in the ears.
Do avail your child and yourselves of programs for children who have special needs or challenges Make the Internet your friend. Also, early intervention programs often will provide assessment, services and support to those who qualify. Even children with mild delays may be eligible. Simply call your local school district for information.
Try not to immediately go to the “bad place” There is so much written in the press about children with serious developmental disorders— Autism, Aspergers, ADHD, among others— it can make anyone’s head spin.
Reach out to others who share like experiences and challenges Many support groups and organizations are community based.
National Association of School Psychologists (click on the "families" tab)
Louise Sattler is a nationally certified school psychologist and founder of both Signing Families and 411 VOICES. She contributes to Education.com and often speaks nationally on helping children with special challenges.