I consulted with a mom last week who is a terrific example of a “with it” mom. Of course I think that all the moms I work with really know their kids. That’s why when a mom expresses concerns to me about her child’s speech and language I really listen.
Usually it’s a small detail that could be rationalized but doesn’t seem right to the mom like, “When his playgroup comes over, he smiles at them but then goes off and plays by himself” or “He talks a lot to himself but not to his peers” or “Other kids his age seem to have many more words” or “He leaves off all the ending sounds of his words” or “He doesn’t answer questions.” Many things that a mom is concerned about could be absolutely “typical” or “normal” for their child’s age, but I always encourage moms and dads to get concerns checked out.
First, mention it to your pediatrician. I encourage moms to make a very specific list of what behaviors they are concerned about. Give examples. Don’t just say he doesn’t play well with his peers, but say when a friend came up to his pretend zoo and asked for an animal, Jimmy ignored him and went on talking to himself or left the play area and chose another toy. Write down your list and give a copy to your pediatrician. Many pediatricians are terrific at what they do BUT remember that they only have limited time with you and your child during a well-visit. And some pediatricians are better at diagnosing developmental delays in speech and language than others.
If your child is under three years of age, call your Birth-to-Three organization and ask for an evaluation. In the state of Connecticut they send out two professionals to assess your child in your home and it is free. They will evaluate your child in many areas as well as speech and language and share the results with you. If your child qualifies for services, you will begin therapy.
If your child is three years or older, call your public school system and ask to speak to the Special Education department. Let them know that you have a child that you would like to be evaluated. Our town has a special needs preschool that works with children three years until they enter kindergarten, but every school district handles the delivery of speech services differently.
Another option is to have your child evaluated privately. You can find a qualified certified private speech pathologist through a directory for the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA). Another good source is your pubic school Director of Special Education because they usually work with private therapists that they can recommend.
I always tell moms to go with their gut feeling. If they think there might be a delay, pursue getting an evaluation. Moms know best!