Every child develops at their own pace, and when it comes to learning to communicate, there’s no one right path for babies and toddlers to take. However, there are certain milestones that can show if a little one is having trouble learning to express themself in a way that might mean they could use a little extra help, in the form of Early Intervention services, exercises, or a recommendation from a doctor.
These missing milestones may be signs that a child is missing some of the tools they will need to move forward in their language development. Evaluation can help families figure out if there’s an underlying reason why these tools might be missing, and Early Intervention services can help children build the tools they’ll need to develop their communication skills in the future.
Generally, a child’s healthcare provider will ask about these important milestones at regularly scheduled well-child visits (which is a big part of why keeping up with the schedule of well-child visits is so important). Doctors and pediatricians know that it’s parents who see babies and toddlers the most, and are the most aware of their patterns, however. If you have concerns about your toddler’s language development, talking through the behaviors that worry you with their pediatrician can help to give you both a better picture of how Baby’s language development fits into patterns of healthy development.
What does an evaluation for a language delay look like?
While talking to your pediatrician is a great place to get started if you’re concerned about your toddler’s language development, if they are between zero and three years old, in the U.S., you don’t need a pediatrician’s recommendation for an evaluation with Early Intervention services.
Evaluation with Early Intervention in the U.S. is a free service. Early Intervention programs vary by state, but if you pursue an Early Intervention evaluation, you’ll probably start by filling out some paperwork and answering some questions to help Early Intervention services decide whether a full evaluation is needed. If they determine that it is, they’ll conduct an in-person evaluation. Evaluations generally take place in a family’s home, or the child’s daycare – somewhere they feel comfortable, where the person conducting the evaluation will get the most accurate picture of how the child actually communicates as possible.
Depending on the concerns, evaluations are generally conducted by two professionals, one of whom is often a speech-language pathologist. The evaluation will include talking to parents or caregivers, observing the child, and then talking to and interacting with them. They’ll look for physical and other causes that might be behind delays.
What would a language delay mean?
The diagnosis of a language delay means something more specific than a child being a little behind on one skill as they work on mastering another. There isn’t always a surefire way to tell if a language delay means that a child is just a late bloomer, or if they are having trouble that can be helped with Early Intervention services, but access to services from early on can contribute to improved outcomes for young children, and access to Early Intervention services isn’t going to hurt, so many families find erring on the safe side to be helpful.
Language delays can be signs of several underlying conditions, and one evaluation won’t necessarily show whether one of them is affecting your child, but it can be a great way to keep an eye on them, and make sure they have access to anything that might be able to help them out as they grow.