By BETSY BETHEL
For The Times Leader
Parents are on the front lines when it comes to their children's health, so it's important for them to know how to spot problems with development. In general, the earlier a problem is found, the better the outcome.
Photo courtesy/ BETSY BETHEL
Speech therapist Sheila Archer engages 4-year-old Isaiah Sterling of Rayland during a session at the Wheeling Hospital Center for Pediatrics Rehabilitation Services facility in Wheeling. Early intervention is important to seeing good outcomes in speech and language disorders, therapists say.
That's certainly true with speech disorders, and to give parents an idea of what to look and listen for, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association has launched the Identify the Signs campaign.
Speech disorders are among the most common disabilities in the U.S. - 8 percent to 9 percent of children have them. If they are caught early, they often can be eradicated.
"One should not assume a child will 'outgrow' speech or language difficulties. There is never harm in seeking an assessment, whether it results in putting a parent's mind at ease or identifying a potential issue in a child that can be treated," said Katherine Rogers, a speech-language pathologist at Wheeling Hospital.
"Parents are the best advocates for their kids," said Sheila Archer, also a speech therapist with Wheeling Hospital. "It's important that they are aware of the developmental norms of children."
The website, identifythe signs.org, lists several signs that could indicate a speech problem, including the child doesn't interact socially, only says a few words by 18 months to 2 years and does not combine words starting at 2 years.
Lynette Sterling of Rayland noticed her 1-year-old son, Isaiah, was choking frequently on his Cheerios. It was determined he was tongue tied, which not only caused eating issues but also affected his speech development. After surgery when he was 2, he started speech therapy. Soon after that, he was diagnosed with autism, which caused additional speech problems.
Isaiah switched therapists to Archer a little over a year ago, and Sterling is amazed at how far he has come.
"Isaiah would never be as far as he is now if he hadn't started (therapy) early," Sterling said. "I was floored at the number of words he said in that first half-hour session with Sheila. He was saying words I never heard him say before." Even working with the first therapist, Isaiah was getting the help he needed, Sterling said, but Archer was a "miracle worker."
"I see the benefits of early intervention every day," Rogers said. "Unfortunately, I also see the consequences of parents and others waiting too long to seek treatment, which is why the Identify the Signs campaign is so important." In young children, early treatment can help prevent them from falling behind academically, socially and in other key areas.
According to identifythesigns. org, parents should watch for the following signs of speech and language disorders:
- Does not interact socially (infancy and older).
- Does not follow or understand what you say (starting at 1 year).
- Says only a few sounds or words or makes only a few gestures (18 months to 2 years).
- Says words that are not easily understood (18 months to 2 years).
- Does not combine words (starting at 2 years).
- Struggles to say sounds or words (3 to 4 years).
"I suggest all parents familiarize themselves with these signs at IdentifytheSigns.org and seek an assessment from a certified speech-language pathologist if they have any questions," said Rogers. She added that while early intervention is important, it is never too late for an evaluation.
For more signs, treatment information, and other resources, visit identifythesigns.org.