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Speech therapy for toddlers is the first step to getting them the help they need in society; as a person who benefited from speech therapy and who also just went through the process of having their child in speech therapy.
I will share my experiences and some signs you should look out for and if it does help with your child’s speech delay.
Before we dig into the post, because everything varies from state to state, county, and city, all of this information is based on my personal experience. But you will be able to find a lot of this useful, especially regarding the results.
What is Speech Therapy for Toddlers
So a toddler, is anyone over 12 months up to three? Sometimes they do classify toddlers up until the age of five, which they’re technically preschoolers. But all this information is usually beneficial for children under five.
If you have not learned what I’m talking about, speech delay is how you will lead to speech therapy. So speech delays in toddlers include language and cognitive or motor delays that your pediatrician or even you’ve noticed in your child.
- It can be delays in feeding.
- It can also be delays in fine motor skills that they should develop once they reach 12 months. Here are examples of speech delays:
One in five children will have some developmental delay, whether speech or a physical delay or disability. So it’s not uncommon that your child.
As they’re growing up, they will have some signs of being delayed in some areas. There are also family factors that go into a speech delay.
Here are the seven steps to getting speech therapy for toddlers.
One of the sources I will be referencing is the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. This site can provide you with state-level information that you can use to find out how you get speech therapy services in your area.
It will vary based on your county or where you live, but there are state-level resources for your child. Depending on their age, they can even stay in until your child(ren) turns three or they test out.
So if you have a child under five, this will also be relative.
Now, let’s talk about some of the causes of speech delays. While it’s not tied to anything specific, if your child falls into one of these categories, they have a higher likelihood of a speech delay.
And if your child has a speech delay, they’re probably experiencing these things as well, just so that you are aware. So, for example, I had a speech delay, which might lead to your child has a speech delay. Both my son and I were firstborn children.
So you can look at that pattern and say, okay, if I’m a firstborn child, my son’s a firstborn child. We both had speech delays. You can make a correlation in some aspects of that.
It’s not proven, but that’s an example of family factors and how your child might have a delay. If other family members have delays, this can increase your child’s chances of having them.
Labor & Delivery
It is often linked to family factors. Your child’s speech delay depends on how it was delivered at birth. If you had a difficult delivery, maybe you were stressed during birth.
Or there was some trauma to your child while delivering them.
Lip & Tongue Tie
That can also lead to factors of there being a delay as well as your child having lip or tongue tie difficulties. If you find that your child:
- had to have lip and tongue tie surgery
- has issues with eating
- difficulty swallowing
- using a handle
- developing oratorical skills
That could signify that they may have a speech delay or problems as they age.
One of the things that I noticed with my child is that the speech delay didn’t come with communication. It had to do with receptive language. I discuss this in more detail during my son’s 2 year old speech journey.
Speech therapy will help your child figure out ways to have them communicate that are very effective for them. I was utterly nonverbal until I was about four years old.
My son has always been verbal. That’s an example, too, of the differences between different levels of delays in your children.
Having your child participate in speech therapy will allow them to be better in social situations by improving their social skills.
If your child cannot ask for water, say bless you, mommy and daddy, then you need to figure out what that situation is like and why that is so that you can get them the help you need.
Hitting Language Milestones in Children
If you’re going to get speech services, there are different ways of going able tit. If you are going through the state level, the state will come to your home during the evaluation process. That way, the state will be able to see your child(ren) in their natural environment and how they’re able to communicate.
Of course, there are different levels. If the state notices the communication challenges, they see that when it comes to using fine motor skills, they’re not able to use that to help with their level of communication. Sometimes they will also recommend having occupational therapy or seeing occupational therapists.
So, for example, a 12-month-old should be able to say “dada” and maybe try to pick up an item. But if you notice that your child is struggling to pick up a piece of paper, they would also recommend having occupational therapy and speech therapy.
Usually, the speech therapist will let you know if any additional therapies are needed. If autism is suspected, further testing will be required. But it all starts with having that initial evaluation for speech therapy. And then, they’ll let you know if it needs to be escalated for the autism or occupational spectrum.
Verbal Expression of Language
Pediatric speech therapy provides your child with as much support as possible. Another reason speech therapy benefits toddlers is that your child will get an individual education plan. As they get older, if they need to continue speech therapy, they will be around people in their same age group having similar treatment.
It can be daunting as your child is getting older, they’re going into PreK-3, PreK-4, and you have them in the general population. You’re nervous that they will not be able to communicate effectively with other children if they are in a state or county-run program.
They will put them with peers who are going through the same things. So at least up until the first grade, you can protect them from being in any situation that will make them uncomfortable with communication.
If your child is also going to daycare, your speech therapist could go to daycare, depending on where you live. Or the school facility where you have your child and have them go there and perform the treatment around other children. You feel supported and get a caseworker.
Now, as a millennial who tested into speech therapy when I was two and tested out when I was six. So I was there for about four years working on developing my oratorial and cognitive development. So it’s beneficial to see if your child will need speech therapy.
How Toddler’s Speech Therapy Session Works
Signing your child(ren) up for speech therapy will determine the type of speech therapy they practice. A one-year-old is not going to be able to participate in flag football. So there are different types of speech therapy. The most common for children up until they’re about three is play speech therapy doing play-based activities.
So the therapist will use techniques to interact with them and build vocabulary and cognitive language through play. Below is a list of some great toys to use at home to assist your speech therapist and get your child to build up those vocabulary muscles.
If you’re more in the Montessori realm, you’ll get a sensory bin (here is the one we got for our son, and he loves it), for example. From there, the speech-language pathologist will have your child point out things:
- how a rock feels
- how the sand feels
- naming parts of the bin individually
Sensory bin theory is to help build works on top of each other. For example, if you’re reading a book for someone much older simple words might work best for them and their comprehension,
Since the therapy for younger children will be around toys, your speech therapists will recommend specific types of toys that you get for your child’s needs. If you are looking for some great options, I will list a few that we have used below that have been helpful, and as he’s gotten older, he loves to play with them as well.
The other most common type of speech therapy you might encounter is family centered. Family-centered therapy is when you go through a provider or request to be present with your child when they have their sessions in the home or school. So the state or if you go to a service provider might offer this.
Suppose your treatment plan has you going into weekly sessions. In that case, you can see firsthand what your child is doing and not doing and provide feedback to the therapist. And vice versa, so we can get a good game plan to increase his speech as your child. Those are the two common ones.
There are other types of speech therapies. However, usually, for small children, play is going to be the best kind. Make sure to let your speech therapist know.
Most, if not all, speech therapists will be very accommodating if you want to be in the sessions. They will be family-centered if you’re interested in doing that. That can happen, so you don’t have to worry about it if it’s just your child and the speech therapist. You can be involved in that as well.
Were you interested in purchasing the toys in this video? Click here to get these toys and other great options for toddlers to learn through speech.
Speech Therapy Exercises for Toddlers
Along with the different types of speech therapy, there are exercises that your speech therapist will have your child do, and trust me. But they are necessary to ensure your child hits different milestones every few months.
You see an increase in their oratorical skills as they go through the program. It’s going to take a lot of work for you. It’s going to take a lot of work for them.
As I mentioned, for younger children, that therapy will be play-based. One of the first things you’ll notice is that they’re playing games.
There will be games that your speech therapist will do with your child to try and get them to remember words and sound words out. In the first speech therapy session, you will notice that the speech therapist will benchmark your child’s communication skills. So that specific goals are starting to be made after each session.
Speech Therapy Verbal Exercises
The exercises can be as simple as playing a little goldfish game and then asking your toddler to sing the letters of the alphabet. If they get stuck, the speech pathologist will skip over it.
Suppose their speech therapist also combines occupational therapy. In that case, you can use the fishing game to have your child pull out the letter and then have them sound it and make that word.
For example, your child might be participating in the game type of speech therapy with your speech therapist. Your speech therapist will also have your child do some arts and crafts. Some examples of the kinds of arts and crafts they might do include:
- maybe put together a snowman for the holidays
- if it’s around Christmas or Easter
- picking up a cotton ball
- putting it on a piece of paper
- using different types of plastic sticks, straws
- create different types of animals
- different kinds of shapes to help build vocabulary
Speech Therapy Arts & Crafts
Daycares also do this; they will have your toddler do arts and crafts occasionally for them to bring home for you. But your speech therapist, if your child seems to react better to doing arts and crafts, will also allow them to participate in arts and crafts.
The therapy sessions want to enhance your child’s ability. So, You will also notice that they’re asking you to do vocal exercises.
Depending on your child’s age, the speech therapist will let you know things you need to repeat to your child and what oral motor skills you need to work on with your child(ren).
For example, your child has difficulty answering questions or receptive language. One of the vocal exercises you would do with them is giving them either-or statements.
In-Home Speech Therapy
Your speech therapy that your speech therapist will be working with them in session and at home. Your therapist that you would say something like:
Do you want a cup OR do you want the plate? And that will challenge your child to vocalize what they want.
And the more you’re doing these vocal exercises, allow your toddler to feel confident in responding, but also build up that muscle of speaking. Those are just some common examples of activities you will be doing.
Please note that you, as the parent, must follow up on everything your toddler does in speech therapy at home. So if the speech therapist gives you specific instructions on things you have to do with them, you must follow up and do it at home.
This is part of the parent training that you also get to help with your child’s development. And the speech therapist, if they’re good, will be able to tell if you’re following up on those exercises or if you’re just not doing anything with them because they will be meeting with your child regularly.
When Special Education is Needed
Suppose your pediatric speech therapist doesn’t see any improvement based on the conversation that you’re having with them.
They might suggest putting your child in special needs. In that case, they can tell if you’re helping to move the needle or not doing anything.
If you have services with the state will let you know how your child is doing, and they have different milestones. When evaluating your child, see if they can stay in the early intervention speech therapy program. Or if you need to transfer to the local school district due to age. Based on my experience, it would be every 6 to 12 months.
Suppose you were to ask me if speech therapy was effective. No. Just a year and a half after, my son has been in speech therapy. He is saying complete sentences and is much more confident with answering questions.
For three, he is not where a three-year-old should be. But he is much closer than he would have been had we not invested in getting him speech therapy.
Final thoughts on getting speech therapy for toddlers.
We had the serves of work in tandem for the days that we knew he would need extra speech therapy assistance. Now we use state-level speech therapy and a private practice speech therapist.
Just because your child can test into an early intervention program or early childhood program for your state does not mean you have to go through with that program. That is also a decision you and your family can make.
I recommend that anybody who sees the signs their child might be struggling to get It looked into as soon as possible.
When it comes to your child’s health, you must take a proactive approach.
All the testing for these services should be FREE. So you don’t have to worry about it at the state level. Are they going to charge me to test my child? The answer is no. It should be free.
Now, as far as you coming into the program and then having to pay for services, that depends. Sometimes you can pay for it through your insurance coverage, and sometimes you won’t.
Personal Experience of Getting Toddler Tested For Speech Therapy
But as far as your child initially getting tested, that should be free. You can always reach out to your insurance providers to see your options.
If you are looking for ways to understand 2 Year Old Speech, this is a great resource. I have also written another blog post about my personal experiences with speech delays for my child and my experience.
I made an entire playlist of child development. Along with my different parenting experiences these past few years on my Youtube channel. You can check it out below, and remember to subscribe.
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