Do you think your child exhibits language impairments and developmental delays? If so, it’s important to intervene early. Early intervention for children with language impairments and developmental delays may make the difference between having an impairment that is mild – or perhaps even nonexistent after interventions – to having one that causes difficulty throughout his or her life.

What should you do if you think your child has language impairments and developmental delays?

Have your child evaluated as early as possible.

If you think your child exhibits delays compared to other children his or her age, arrange for a professional evaluation as soon as possible.

Small children generally overcome developmental or speech delays with early intervention much more easily than older children, so it’s imperative that you get help as early as possible.

Determine other causes for speech or language delay.

The specialist who evaluates your child determines whether other causes for language impairments or development delays may be present. These may include intellectual disabilities, hearing loss that cannot be corrected with surgery or other interventions, auditory processing disorders (whereby children have a problem decoding speech sounds), autism, speech apraxia, and so forth. Once the cause(s) of the child’s speech/language/developmental difficulties are diagnosed, a proper therapeutic course to correct them may be established and carried out.

Address any physical deterrents to proper speech and language as soon as possible.

If your child’s hearing is impaired but correctable, take care of this as soon as possible. For example, if your child has a hearing difficulty that experts say is fixable with surgery, such as placing tubes in the ears to ensure fluid drainage, then have procedure done as soon as you can. If your child can’t properly hear, he can’t properly develop language; early surgical or other intervention that restores hearing encourages language development on a normal trajectory.

If your child has a cleft palate, or other facial structural abnormality that makes speech difficult, your doctor will probably recommend correction shortly after birth. If your child cannot physically create proper speech, even though he may be perfectly “normal” in every other way, no amount of standard speech therapy will help. Correcting physical difficulties as early as possible ensures that you’re making a difference for your child.

Consistency is important, too.

Depending on your child’s impairment, professionals will suggest programs to follow at home. They will also show you how to interact with your child so that speech is something with which he’s “forced” to engage. Parents often unwittingly “help” their children by letting them use noises or signals instead of actual speech to communicate wants and needs. Assisting children with language impairments and developmental delays is not easy, but coddling or otherwise enabling your child’s unwillingness to challenge himself is certainly ill advised.

Early intervention is the key to truly effective therapy.

To make the most difference in your child’s life, make sure therapy and other interventions occur as early as possible. Young brains are malleable brains, and children who receive the proper intervention right away experience much less difficulty later in life – and may even completely recover depending on the disorder – as compared to older children.

It’s important to note that your child should not be “punished” for speaking incorrectly. Instead, ask your child’s speech therapist or other professional to show you how to model correct speech around your child, and then entice him to respond appropriately. Similarly, playing games, singing songs, and reading books are all fun ways to develop language without making it seem like work. As a parent, it all falls to you, but the therapies you follow don’t have to be “necessary evils.” Instead, they can be fun ways to develop methods that fully engage your child and make him want to speak and communicate with others more effectively.

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