My son is intelligent, has a wonderful imagination, and has no worries about his incredible life. A year ago, you would have not been able to understand his inquisitive conversations or wild imaginative scenarios. My son has had delayed speech since before he could speak. I have seen countless specialists (eastern and western), spoken with pediatricians, and had him evaluated many times with speech therapists. I was persistent until I received the treatment I knew was right for my son and since then, both he and I have seen amazing progress – he continues to be so proud of himself through all speech accomplishments!
I have learned a lot through this experience that I now want to share with other mamas so that they may have an idea that their child has delayed speech or delayed skills related to speech.
3 signs of delayed speech in children
My son never stuck out his tongue.
I remember modeling for my son to imitate sticking his tongue out when he was a few months old; I have seen infants imitate this. I was also having a difficult time breastfeeding my son from the start and he was underweight until I introduced solid foods. We found out he was tongue tied when he was just 2 weeks old (despite 2 other pediatricians looking at him and denying a tongue tie). I was not educated on the repercussions of being tongue tied and how his oral-motor muscles were affected since 12 weeks gestation. We ended up getting his tongue tie, lip tie, and cheek ties lasered along with post oral-motor therapy. I immediately noticed a difference in breastfeeding following the tie releases. Following the oral-motor therapy, I began to notice a slight improvement in his oral-motor skills as well.
My son’s babbling was not diverse.
My son started out with some “aaa” noises and from there started saying “ba” at around 10 months. At 11 months he introduced “mama” into his vocabulary for about a week and then we didn’t hear it again for a long time. I now know this is a sign of delayed speech. Everything he would attempt to label was either “a” or “ba.” I got him evaluated with early intervention at 13 months and the two evaluators assured me everything would be fine and he would start making more sounds soon. I said “well, how do you know? And what do I do if he does not?” All they said was “trust me, he will.” Many parents would stop there and not pursue any further. This critical thinker pursued onward! I searched for a private speech therapist; I then switched speech therapists three times until I found the right speech therapist for my son’s needs. Amongst the search for the right speech therapist for my son, he developed a stutter from developing anxiety from a speech place that drilled him way too hard for the tender age of two. Another speech therapist told me he needed behavioral intervention at 18 months. Our current speech therapist has the approach that my son needed and we have been happy with her ever since. She has definitely contributed to the great gains I have seen over the past year!
My son’s fine motor skills were delayed.
Various parts of the brain are responsible for the motor skills that allow speech and fine motor tasks to occur. My son’s gross motor skills were on time, if not early… he walked early at 10.5 months. However, this big walking baby was unable to pick up small pieces of food with his pointer finger and thumb until at least 1.5 years old; he was “scraping” the food on his plate for longer than he should have. He was not pointing by isolating just his pointer finger until around that time as well. These are skills I have observed other children displaying since they were 8 months old. Even at 4 years old, my son continues to display some difficulty with fine motor tasks such as holding a pencil / utensils efficiently and still isolating his fingers to count. The OT in me works on it daily but the mama in me cuts him more slack than I should!
Through my experience, both personally and professionally, most general pediatricians / specialists will tell you to “wait it out.” Being a pediatric occupational therapist with a holistic mindset, I know that waiting is usually not the best option; most therapists will agree! Catching a speech delay (or any delay!) sooner and intervening appropriately will result in faster, more efficient development.
Listen to your gut, mamas! You know your child best! Do your independent research! It is up to you to educate yourself on child development and traditional / non-traditional ways for intervention if needed. My son has made the most gains with a combination of both and I found out all of it through independent research and remaining persistent. My son cannot advocate for himself yet; I am here to do it for him. When he is able to independently advocate for himself later in life, he will have seen that I stopped at nothing to get what I thought was best.
Brittany is a pediatric occupational therapist and co-owner of Jump Ahead Pediatric Therapy in Jersey City and Little Falls, NJ. She strives to provide affordable, effective, and fun speech and occupational therapy to kiddos of all abilities. She is the mama of two spunky kids and wife to a police officer. Brittany prides herself on the healthy, holistic lifestyle she has created for herself and her family. She strongly believes in critical thinking and independent research in all aspects of life. Find out more about Brittany and her in-network practice at JumpAheadPediatrics.com, on Facebook @Jump Ahead Pediatric Therapy, or on Instagram @Jump Ahead Pediatric Therapy.