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According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), speech and communication disorders affect approximately 40 million Americans. Treatment for such disorders costs Americans roughly $154 billon to $186 billion every year.

A speech disorder is classified as the inability or challenge producing sounds of speech fluently or correctly, or when someone’s voice has problems. When a person has trouble understanding others (receptive language) or sharing their feelings, thoughts, and ideas clearly (expressive language), they are considered to have a language disorder.

These disorders start manifesting early on and are noticeable in roughly five percent of children in first grade. Speech disorders can be a huge hindrance to a child’s ability to communicate. As a result, other areas of their life, such as learning and socializing, will also be impacted.

For a parent, it is nerve-wracking to imagine your child may not be able to develop normally. Fortunately, with research-backed speech therapy, your child can learn how to communicate effectively. However, early intervention is vital for the success of treatment.

How do you know if your child needs a speech evaluation?

As a child learns how to speak, it is normal for them to experience difficulty before they can produce each sound clearly. However, as they learn and practice, progress should be evident.

A three-year-old child should be able to pronounce, ‘d,’ ‘t,’ and ‘n.’ You should be able to understand three-quarters of what they say. By the age of five, most of their speech should be clear.

If your child seems to be too old to pronounce grandma as ‘gwanma,’ they may need the help of a therapist to get them back on track. Here is how to prepare for speech therapy.

Reflect on your child’s speech-language skills

While your first impulse may be to rush to a pediatric speech therapist, your first task should be to identify the areas of communication that are challenging to your child. You should also note down the areas they are strong in with as many examples as possible.

The more detailed and specific information you have, the easier it will be for your therapist to help your child. Note down everything you find out as well as the concerns or questions you may have for the speech therapists as you may forget some crucial details during the appointment.

Send relevant documents to the therapist

If there are any reports you may have from the Individualized Education Program (IEP) at school or previous therapies, send them to your current therapist well before the appointment. This will allow them to have an idea of your child’s condition and prepare for the child’s speech therapy.

Prepare your child for the evaluation

If your child is aware they are not able to communicate like other children their age, they may become more self-conscious, withdrawn, and afraid of talking. Before you visit the therapist, let your child know your plans and how it’s good for them.

Children often mimic their parents’ energy and enthusiasm. Being positive and outwardly excited will make the child less nervous and more open to the experience. Ask them what they think and encourage them to ask questions. This will help them understand more about what you are proposing.

At the pediatric speech therapy facility, let them know that you will be waiting for them and excited to find out how the therapy went. If your child has anxiety or separation issues, let your therapist know early on so that they can come up with the best strategy to help your child. You should also carry their favorite toy to help them relax.

How can you help?

As much as you hope your child’s challenges with speech will be resolved with the first speech therapy session, you should have realistic expectations. Most importantly, let the child know it will take some time.

During this period, you will also play an important role in their development. In between therapy sessions, you should follow all the recommendations from your therapist. By doing so, your child’s speech challenges will be a thing of the past in no time.