By Blair Gorenberg MA, CCC-SLP
Childhood is an exciting time full of changes and growth. Though there are norms that children typically follow throughout their development, meeting speech and language milestones may look different for your child. When your child isn’t following the “normal” flow of development, speech therapists are here to help! Whether your child struggles with eye contact, following directions, talking, or speech that is difficult to understand, it is never too early to seek intervention from a speech therapist. Here are some questions to help guide you through the early intervention process.
What is early intervention?
Early intervention is defined by providing services to children as early as possible to help combat a concern. For example, a common speech and language milestone for children is being able to say one or two words by their first birthday. When that milestone is not achieved, early intervention services can help provide the language stimulation the child needs to work on increasing the child’s communication. I want to learn more about early intervention.
Who is early intervention meant for?
Early intervention services are provided for children between birth and 3 years of age. In some states, early intervention services are available to children up to 5 years of age. Any child who may not be meeting a developmental milestone, such as babbling, saying the first word, or putting words together to form sentences, may qualify for early intervention services.
How do I seek early intervention services?
There are many resources available to help acquire early intervention services for your child. Talking to your child’s pediatrician about your concerns may result in the doctor placing a referral for early intervention services. In many states, programs have been set up for children between birth and 3 years of age. These programs can be found by searching “(state name) early intervention services.” For example, in the state of New Jersey, residents can seek more information and obtain a referral for services by calling 888-653-4463. Families can also seek help through private speech therapy clinics, such as The Therapy Place! If you are concerned about your child’s development, contact The Therapy Place today to see how our speech therapists can help your child.
What does early intervention look like for speech and language delays/disorders?
Early intervention services may take place in your home, in a school, or in a speech therapy clinic. No matter where the services are located, the speech therapist will make sure that your child feels comfortable and has a wide range of toys and activities that interest your child. The speech therapist often involves the parent/guardian in the session, which will help you carry over the strategies and activities your child is working on in therapy into your own home! Early intervention services may also be provided in a classroom setting, giving your child the opportunity to work on improving speech and language while interacting with other children. Parents are a very important part of their child’s speech and language development, but children can also be very motivated by their peers.
What are speech and language milestones my child should be meeting?
It’s important to recognize that these stages and milestones can look a little different in every child. The generally acknowledged stages of development are:
Birth to 3 months:
- Coos and makes pleasures sounds
- Produces a social smile in response to seeing familiar people
4 to 6 months:
- Babbles with a variety of sounds
- Follows sounds with eyes or by turning head
7 months to 1 year:
- Communicates via gestures such as waving or reaching up when wanting to be held
- Produces 1 or 2 words by first birthday
1 to 2 years:
- Follows simple commands
- Acquires new words on a regular basis
2 to 3 years:
- Putting words together in 2-3 word phrases
- Following 2 step related commands
- Answers simple questions
- Uses 4+ words to create a sentence
- Understands most of what is said at home and in school
- Able to be understood by familiar and unfamiliar listeners
How do I know when to seek help?
If you have any concerns about your child’s speech or language development, seek help earlier rather than later. Research shows that the earlier intervention is provided, the more likely your child is to make progress towards resolving the delay. Early intervention services can start as early as birth so it is never too early to contact your state or a local speech therapy clinic to request an evaluation. Even if your child doesn’t end up needing services, the speech therapist can provide you with helpful strategies to incorporate into your home to help aid your child’s development and information on how to seek follow up if your child’s development does not continue as expected.
Dpowell. “Early Intervention.” Department of Health | Early Intervention | When Does A Child Need Early Intervention?, https://www.nj.gov/health/fhs/eis/for-families/when/.
“Early Intervention.” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, https://www.asha.org/public/speech/early-intervention/.
“Speech and Language Developmental Milestones.” National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/speech-and-language. “Speech Therapy.” The Therapy Place, 13 Jan. 2022, https://www.therapyplacenj.com/speech-therapy/.