Early Intervention Important for Speech-Language Issues

Early Intervention Important for Speech-Language Issues

The following is a news release from The University of Southern Mississippi

As recent studies indicate that speech and hearing disorders are growing causes of disability for children in the U.S., May's Better Hearing and Speech Month is the perfect time for parents to learn how to recognize the early signs.

The DuBard School for Language Disorders at The University of Southern Mississippi is encouraging parents to educate themselves through the Identify the Signs campaign, a national effort of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). The campaign is designed to combat an overall lack of awareness about communication disorders — a major barrier to treatment to the many who struggle.

Speech, language, and hearing disorders are among the most common disabilities in the United States. However, unlike many other disabilities, these disorders often are reversible and even preventable with early intervention. Unfortunately, many parents do not recognize the first signs of these disorders. In young children, early treatment can help prevent them from falling behind academically, socially, and in other key areas at a critical time in their development.

"As an ASHA member, certified speech-language pathologist, educator of the deaf and hard of hearing, and certified academic language therapist, I see the benefits of early intervention every day," said Dr. Maureen Martin, DuBard School director. "Unfortunately, I also see the consequences of waiting too long to seek treatment—which is why the Identify the Signs campaign is so important."

Speech and language development doesn't just affect the here and now; there is a relationship between speech and language skills as a young child and reading proficiency later in life. Preschoolers with early language impairment develop are more likely to develop reading difficulties later, often in conjunction with broader academic achievement problems. Addressing potential issues at a young age could help children as they continue to develop later in life.

"While it is certainly never too late to seek help, treatment is most successful, less expensive, and takes the shortest amount of time when a parent or loved one is able to pick up on the earliest signs of these disorders," said Martin. "As May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, I suggest all parents familiarize themselves of the signs, learn more at identifythesigns.org and contact us if they have any questions. 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."

While it is important to remember that every child is different, parents can best prepare themselves by knowing what milestones their child should reach at each age:

Interacts socially and babbles (infancy and older)Follows or understands what you say (starting at 7 months)Can say p, b, m, h, and w sounds correctly in words (1 to 2 years)Says more words every month (18 months to 2 years)Says words that are easily understood (18 months to 2 years)Plays and talks with other children (2 to 3 years)Can say k, g, f, t, d, and n sounds correctly in words (2 to 3 years)People outside of the family usually understand child's speech (3 to 4 years)Parents are encouraged to listen, respond, talk, read and play with their child regularly as well as encourage playtime with other children to build speech and language skills. If you suspect your child may have difficulty with communication, contact the DuBard School or your local health professional for an evaluation.

For more information visit usm.edu/dubard or call 601.266.5223.