Does My Child Need Speech Therapy? Advice from an SLP!

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Does my child need speech therapy?

Excellent question! There are lots of things that might cause you to think to yourself, “Hmm, is this typical? Do I need to get an SLP involved here?” Let’s explore some of these concerns more in depth! But before we do, let me say this:

If you are concerned about your child’s speech and/or language development, you should ABSOLUTELY seek the advice of a speech language pathologist (SLP). Nothing will put your mind at ease like talking to a professional and hearing their thoughts and recommendations. Some SLPs even offer a consult before you commit to an evaluation or to weekly services.

Let’s talk about some concerns LOTS of parents have — and what you can do about them!

My child isn’t talking yet. Do they need speech therapy?

There is a lot of information and research about when children typically say their first word. (Spoiler: It’s around their first birthday). BUT! This is purely a “guideline” — your child might say their first word at 9 months, or they might say their first word at 15 months. And both of those are FINE! As an SLP, I’m really more focused on the natural development of language. Is your child following the typical progression of developing pre-verbal skills? If so, great! You might just need a few strategies to move things along. If your child is not showing many pre-verbal skills by 12 months of age, I would consider seeking an evaluation from a licensed SLP.

“Jess — what are pre-verbal skills?” So glad you asked! Pre-verbal skills, or pre-linguistic skills, are skills that are mastered before a child begins to talk.

My child doesn’t follow my directions. Do they need speech therapy?

There are a few possibilities here. For the sake of argument, let’s say we’ve already ruled out that your child can understand you but just doesn’t want to do what you’re asking them to do. There are two possibilities that come to mind:

There might be a receptive language delay. Receptive language refers to the language we understand — following directions falls under this category. If your child has a receptive language delay, they may have issues with:

  • answering questions
  • identifying objects and pictures
  • difficulty understanding a story
  • difficulty paying attention and listening to language

The directions you’re giving your child might be too complex for their developmental stage of learning. Here are some general guidelines:

My child is saying some of their sounds incorrectly. Do they need speech therapy?

Again, there is a lot of information and research about when children develop certain sounds. My general thought is that if your child is able to sit for around 30 minutes while playing (with some breaks!) and can follow some directions, they might be ready for articulation therapy. The longer we wait to address a child’s speech sound errors, the harder it may be to change that motor pattern of producing the sound in that way.

No one can understand my child except for immediate family. Do they need speech therapy?

In terms of intelligibility, I follow these general “rules.”

If other people in your family or at school are having trouble understanding your child by age 3, I would definitely look into speech therapy!

My child isn’t meeting speech and language milestones. Do they need speech therapy?

Milestones are important to follow and keep track of, but they are not the end all be all of language development, ESPECIALLY if they are attached to specific ages. Like I mentioned above, I’m more concerned about whether your child is following the natural progression of speech and language development, and I’m generally LESS concerned about what age your child is when they meet that milestone.

SO. That being said, milestones can be a good guideline to show the order in which many skills are developed. Just ignore the ages if you look up “developmental norms” on Google. Which I do not recommend. If you want good resources, check out ASHA.org or zerotothree.org

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I believe that if you are concerned about your child’s development, that is reason enough to consult an SLP and schedule an evaluation. The results of the evaluation will give you lots of information about your child and help guide your decision making as you continue to support their development and growth.


Please visit CommuniKidsSLP.com or email me at [email protected] to set up a free phone consultation.


Jessica was born and raised in a suburb outside of Boston. She has worked with children for over 10 years, in preschools, elementary schools, private practices, and state agencies. She earned her master’s in speech language pathology with an additional certificate in early intervention at Northeastern University, all while planning a wedding and a honeymoon! Her specialty is working with children ages 2 to 10 with speech or language disorders, and she opened her own practice to help families support their child’s development.

CommuniKids Speech and Language Services, LLC, offers play-based, family-centered speech therapy for families across Massachusetts, either in person or via teletherapy. CommuniKids also provides comprehensive evaluations, individualized treatment plans, and parent coaching sessions to help provide strategies to parents that will help them communicate effectively with their children.

Jessica and her husband split their time between Newton and Cape Cod, and they love cooking, traveling, paddle boarding, and reading. You can contact Jessica via email, on her website, or on Instagram.

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