Thursday, January 9, 2014

Know the Signs of Speech & Language Disorders

Our speech-language pathologists at MedCare Pediatric Group, LP working in the field of communication disorders know firsthand that treatment is much more successful when it begins before age 3—and key early indicators are frequently overlooked.
A new, nationwide effort to educate the public about communication disorders was recently launched by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)—a professional association of which I am a member. Called Identify the Signs, this campaign specifically aims to help people recognize the early warning signs of communication disorders. This topic couldn’t be timelier—or more important.
An estimated 40 million Americans have trouble speaking or hearing due to a communication disorder. Millions more family members and friends are also impacted. Here in the greater area of Houston there are parents reading this whose children are struggling to speak or understand language; spouses living with partners whose hearing is deteriorating; and co-workers, neighbors and others who see someone who needs help but don’t know what to do. Identify the Signs offers tools to change that, and I couldn’t support the campaign more.
With 5 years of experience working in the field of communication disorders, I have seen the debilitating effects that these issues can have when left unaddressed. Too often, people wrestle with these challenges for years because they fail to receive proper, timely treatment.

Do any of these lines sound familiar when discussing your child’s communication?
 “She kind of has her own language. We can understand her at home, but others have a hard time.”
“He says the t sound for the k sound.”
“I am not sure if my child understands what I am saying.”
“She’s not talking much yet, but she is only two.”
As a pediatric speech-language pathologist these are some of the most common concerns and questions I hear during the initial evaluation. Many caregivers are unaware of these warning signs and the resulting impact they may have on language development. Knowing what is “common” when it comes to communication can be challenging for caregivers, especially when it’s a first child. Well-meaning friends, grandparents and even pediatricians may advise concerned parents not to worry; saying that a child will speak when he or she “is ready.” Although they may be right, taking a wait-and-see approach is risky. If a disorder does exist, caregivers are neglecting a critical treatment time frame. Research indicates in the first years of a child’s life the foundational communication skills are formed for a lifetime. Therefore, during this period, children generally respond extremely well to treatment. Early detection of speech, language, and hearing issues is absolutely critical to improving academic, social, and career outcomes—and improving one’s quality of life at any age. 
For people with communication disorders, those closest to them are often their biggest asset. Unfortunately, many parents and caregivers are unable to identify the warning signs or dismiss them too readily. A recent poll of speech-language pathologists and audiologists by ASHA reported significant parental delays in getting help for children with communication difficulties. This is just one example of the missed opportunities that commonly occur with communication disorders. 

ASHA has identified the following 6 early warning signs of communication disorders in children between birth to 4 years of age.
Does not interact socially (infancy and older)
Does not follow or understand what you say (starting at 1 year)
Says only a few sounds, words, or gestures (18 months to 2 years)
Words 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 encourage you to visit the website to learn about more signs and share the information and resources you find there. Above all, though, I hope you will seek help if you suspect that you or a loved one shows signs of having a disorder.
Every day, I see in my work that untreated communication disorders often lead to larger academic, social, and developmental issues. Early diagnosis is the most powerful way to reduce or even reverse their impact and can give your loved ones the opportunity to lead the fullest lives possible. We welcome you to contact MedCare Pediatric Group LP at (713) 995-9292 to schedule your loved one for an evaluation if you suspect that he or she is presenting with a communication disorder.
Brittney Goodman M.S. CCC-SLP
MedCare Pediatric Rehab Center-Katy