Language delay in children
My son was never formally diagnosed with a delay until around 4 years of age. I knew it seemed quite obvious that something wasn’t right. He didn’t reach those 'normal' speech milestones that toddlers do, but my GP kept telling me he's a boy, boys are slower to develop than girls etc, so we just progressed with no intervention and gave him some time.
There was something more to it - call it 'mothers intuition' but I knew there was a problem - that's where my journey began and I'm still on that journey. Seeking and finding out information for him, for me. Watching and supporting his development, meeting new people, finding speech pathologists and other dedicated specialists that can assist with intervention but also they offer support. They are the specialists and can answer the questions and more importantly guide us.
So what exactly is a Language Delay?
When a person is unable to produce speech sounds correctly or fluently, or has problems with his or her voice, then he or she has a speech disorder. Difficulties pronouncing sounds, or articulation disorders, and stuttering are examples of speech disorders.
When a person has trouble understanding others (receptive language), or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings completely (expressive language), then he or she has a language disorder / delay. Both children and adults can have speech and language disorders. They can occur as a result of a medical problem or have no known cause.
* Source: American Speech and Language Hearing Association
So why does it matter whether or not you get intervention if your child has a language delay?
Firstly, kid's speech matters. With no intervention there are obvious learning difficulties which can lead to and can be the result of behavioural issues and frustrations. Imagine not being able to say what you want. Or not being able to understand what is going on around you? This is what it can be like for a child with a language delay.
In my son's case he was speaking jargon or he would repeat back to you partly what you said. He didn't make sense but that was because he wasn't able to hear the spoken words clearly. Once this was rectified with grommets he was on his way to hearing and learning - he was 4.5yrs. He has exceptional visual skills and relies on them most of the time. It gives him the assistance needed to work out what is going on.
So he has 'winged it' at the best of times and go himself through. As he steps into Year 3 this year - winging it isn't going to cut it.
He has developed and progressed very well, is able to read, works on the computer independently, interacts appropriately socially and joins in with the class activities. He has required constant intervention at school and home to assist with this learning.
A statistic that I found quite interesting, 'one in seven Australians has some form of communication disability'. This means that one in seven people has a problem understanding other people or being understood by people.
'An example, 13% of school aged children will have a speech and language disability.' As quoted for Speech Pathology Australia's website.
What to do if you think your child could have a Language Delay?
In the first instance visit your GP or go direct to a Speech Pathologist (if you want to claim a Medicare subsidy for the appointment with the Speech Pathologist, you will need to get a referral from your GP first). They will point you in the right direction and give you the referrals you require for a specialist to assist and do language assessments. Check our directory of speech therapists of ask your local health authority for guidance.
If you feel there is something wrong, look into it and insist that your doctor refers you. It can't hurt to check things out and know for sure what is going on.
If money or funding the visits to specialists is a concern as they can be expensive - there are pathways for funding via Medicare. Your doctor, speech pathologist and paediatrician can help you activate this funding which will help with part of the cost.
Where to get support and further information
A step in the right direction it to look at sites like Bub Hub who have other parents sharing their knowledge (including myself) stories and supporting one another. It's important to feel that you can relate with other parents and not feel isolated.
You can find information on the web, be sure it is current by checking dates. I have my website you can subscribe to; this is a network to assist parents and teachers. This information is being updated regularly. The focus being on language delay information and also education information that is available.
There are government sites ie. Early Childhood Intervention. Information from your maternal health, local children’s clinics and speech pathologist even try Speech Pathology Australia’s website. If in doubt keep asking those questions and get the information you need.
What is available for my language delayed child at school?
Late last year I started to explore for more options/alternatives where my son was concerned. I'd like to share this information with you as some or all of my experiences and contacts I found as I searched through Google and followed up through endless conversations or phone calls may be of help.
A great resource for you is your local support officer with Association for Children with a Disability (ACD).
Admittedly I wasn't really in the frame of mind that my child had a disability or that language delay could appear in this category as a disability - but it is. They are also very helpful with giving you support if and when you need it.
On my quest for information there is a book that I feel is a must read for parents who have children with language delay, speech delays, learning difficulties and/or auditory processing disorders. The Positive Education Planning Guide it's free.
I was very excited to see the government are supporting this guide. Now they just need to educate more teachers on language delay and give them more resources. The book can be a heavy read i.e. you have to refer to the glossary now and again.
If you persevere it did answer a lot of questions when I needed to know what I was entitled to and what some of the jargon meant.
There are parent stories and some practical advice for getting yourself prepared for Parent Support Groups (PSG’s). Some schools just don't tell you this, or aren't ensuring you get what you are entitled to so it's good to be informed.
Some key points on what you can be looking out for when your language delayed child starts school.
Primary school - what you can request and should be offered to you if you have a child with a language delay or language disorder:
- Program Support Group meetings (PSG’s) at least 2 per year
- Minutes from these meetings with clear realistic goals
- An individual learning plan (ILP) for your child set by the school with input from Teacher, Speech Pathologist and other Specialists or staff if applicable.
- Integration Aide – if eligible for funding. Dependent on scores from assessments which the school can undergo if you don’t have your own. These need to undertaken by an accredited speech pathologist or school speech pathologist
- A face to face meeting with your child's teacher each term – minimum
- A communications book for your child so you have ongoing dialogue with your child's teacher – or email if this can be set up and is easier for you both.
- Access to school speech pathologist if you aren't privately funding your own.
- If you don't have your own assessments from private specialists – access via the school to their speech pathologist and psychologist to gain up to date testing.
I hope this article has been insightful and ensure that you do talk about Language Delay. It's a very niche topic but the more awareness created - it will identified, given the right diagnosis and more government support, especially where education is concerned.
If they aren't achieving that, then the people around them, in their lives, need to be able to accommodate and support them where possible.
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