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Identification and Evaluation of Speech-Language Disorders
Authors: Saraswathy Ramamoorthy with Judith A. Myers-Walls, PhD, CFLE

It is important to identify communication disorders in children when they are very young. Communication disorders can become worse and more serious as children grow older. When a disorder gets worse, it becomes harder to treat and correct. Sometimes, it is difficult to know for sure if a child has a communication disorder. Children differ from each other in the way they develop, so it may be hard to tell when they have unusual problems. Parents may not know whether to take the child for a checkup. It is always better for children to be tested when they are young. As a provider, you can help parents figure out where to go for help. This way, if children do have a communication disorder, treatment can start early.

The people who test speech and language are called speech-language pathologists. They may be connected to early childhood development programs. They also may be located in children’s clinics or schools. As a provider, it would be helpful for you to have a list of some of these professionals before problems occur.

Some common misunderstandings about speech and language development are:

The problem will go away as the child grows older. Sometimes a disorder goes away as the child grows up (like stuttering). But this does not happen with all children or with all problems. It is always better for a child to be tested and treated when she is very young. Do not wait to see if the problem will go away by itself.

The child is too young to be tested. This is not true. Even babies can be tested to check if they can hear and make sounds normally.

A child who doesn’t talk yet cannot be tested for speech. Again, this is not true. A child who is too young to talk can still be tested. A professional can check a child’s hearing. She can also check how well he understands what others are saying to him. This will give some idea of whether he is on track in learning speech.

He’s a boy, so it is normal for him to be slow in speech. It is true that girls speak earlier than boys. But this does not mean that it is OK for boys to start talking very late. A boy who is not talking like other boys of his age should be tested.

She doesn’t talk because she is just stubborn. Some children may really be stubborn and not talk. You should still watch the child carefully. It is possible that she does not talk because she cannot. It is important to follow up to see if there is a problem.

We can wait until she starts going to school to find out if there is a problem. Parents may want to wait and let the school take care of things. Providers also may think it would be easier to let the school take care of it. You should not wait for the child to start going to school, though. Sometimes that may be too late to fix the problem.

It is not worth worrying about speech because he has emotional problems or is mentally retarded. Even children with other problems can learn to express themselves better. It may be possible to improve their speech, even if they have other problems that cannot be fixed.

You may find it very helpful to contact organizations that deal with communication delays and disorders. They may be able to help you understand the problems better and find help.



For more information, contact Judith A. Myers-Walls, PhD, CFLE at jmyerswa@purdue.edu

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