My Toddler Isn’t Talking. What Should I Do ?
Most parents eagerly wait to hear their child’s first words.
If your child is not talking, especially when you think he or she should be, it is worrisome. You may even go down that dark path in your brain and start to wonder, “What if…?” “Will he ever talk?”
We’re not going to dwell on the negatives – because negative thinking gets us no where.
Let’s focus on what you can do now to help your child.
YOU HAVE OPTIONS.
In this post, I’ll tell you about various options that are available in the United States for toddler language evaluations and speech therapy services.
What is Early Intervention?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines early intervention as “…the term used to describe services and supports that are available to babies and young children with developmental delays and disabilities and their families.”
Many studies show that early intervention is very effective and may, depending on the reason for the suspected delay, decrease the potential need for special education and related services (like speech, OT and PT). This is because the brain is extremely plastic and malleable in the first three years of life and good quality early intervention has the potential to rewire the brain.
As a parent and a speech language pathologist (SLP), I highly recommend that if you are concerned about your child’s language - do something about it.
Get an evaluation and start services if warranted.
These are some viable options:
1. Consider state provided early intervention services.
· Get early intervention services through your state. EVERY state in the US provides early intervention services. These services aim to support children with either developmental delays or specific health conditions and their families. They may include speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, social services, and other types of services based on the needs of the child and family. There are some variations in how each state may provide services, set eligibility requirements, and require families to pay for the services. In some states, early intervention services are entirely at public expense (e.g. New York) while in New Jersey the family costs are on a sliding scale and dependent on income.
· To learn more specifics about early intervention, read: Early Intervention: What It Is and How It Works.
· To have your child evaluated and find out if he or she is eligible for early intervention services provided in your state, visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website EARLY INTERVENTION CONTACT INFORMATION BY STATE
· If you are unsure what to say when you call your state, the CDC recommends saying:
“I have concerns about my child’s development and I would like to have my child evaluated to find out if he/she is eligible for early intervention services.”
Advantages to state provided early intervention services: Affordability depending on your state and or based on your family income, a streamline process that easily transitions into the public school system if your child still requires services after turning 3 years old, access to a services coordinator for additional support, and services provided in the child’s most natural environment. Possible disadvantages: waiting for services to begin, inability to pick and choose your clinician, not immediately being assigned a speech language pathologist (SLP) instead being assigned a developmental interventionist – to read more about this topic, I highly recommend reading Why It’s Important to Know Who is Treating Your Child in Early Intervention by fellow SLP, Tatyana Elleseff:
2. Consider speech therapy services at a university clinic.
· Have your child evaluated and treated by a graduate student who is studying to become a speech language pathologist (SLP) and who is being mentored by a supervisor. Advantages: affordability as these services are often offered at a reduced rate, treatment by eager beaver graduate students who have probably spent a good amount of time and thought preparing your child’s speech therapy sessions, and possible access to professors and experienced clinical supervisors. Possible disadvantages: Graduate students are still learning and need clinical experience.
To find a graduate program in your area visit:
3. Consider clinical services at a private practice.
· A speech therapist in a private practice is one who provides services independently and sets his or her own policies. Some private practices may accept payment from insurance companies while others are considered out-of-network. This means you have to pay out of pocket. I am a solo practitioner in my private practice located in Ramsey, NJ. To find a state licensed and ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) certified SLP who works in a private practice, visit ASHA ProFind and follow the directions. Advantages: Being able to hand select a qualified and highly skilled speech therapist who connects with your child. Possible disadvantages: Potentially cost prohibitive if you have to pay out of pocket for services.
4. Consider clinical services at a hospital.
· Many hospitals employ speech therapists in their outpatient centers. Try calling your local hospital and ask if they provide speech therapy services. Advantages: If you have coverage for speech therapy with your insurance plan, usually, hospitals accept many different insurance plans. Possible disadvantages: Long wait lists and short sessions (usually 30 minutes as opposed to 45 to 60 minutes).
5. Educate yourself and stay positive.
Whenever I have a problem or a concern, I turn to books. I am a voracious reader. You should see my nightstand. I’m not too sure if you like to read, but if you do, there are some informative, helpful books on toddler language development. I have written two :)
In the meantime, stay hopeful and surround yourself with people who will support you and your family.
In her book, Cribsheet, author Emily Oster writes, “The moment your child stops having to cry and point desperately at the refrigerator and can instead say, “Milk, please” (or even just “MILK!”) is one in which you can start to see glimmers of a person in there.
While I think Oster hits the nail on the head, I feel it’s more productive to switch perspectives and consider Kimberly Knowle-Zeller’s thinking. She wrote a beautiful piece titled, When You’re The Mom of a Toddler Who Isn’t Talking Yet.
In it she writes,
You see, I found that with all my attention to her lack of words, I failed to notice what my daughter actually is doing. Concentrating on what she’s not doing, I forget to see this beautiful, unique, and special gift right in front of me…When I turn my attention away from what she’s not doing, I open my eyes to so much more — to all the things that she is doing, to all the ways she is living. I open my eyes to this precious gift, full of wonder and curiosity.
In closing, I encourage you to stay hopeful, to adopt Knowle-Zeller’s mindset, and to surround yourself with people who will lift you up…you are not alone and you have options.
Stay Tuned for more…
For more suggestions, strategies, and ways to stimulate and promote your toddler’s language, please see my books:
Amazon affiliate links are included for your convenience.