In this article we are talking about Early Intervention for Speech and Language Therapy, and how it can Change the Trajectory of Your Child’s Long-Term Communication Skills
What is Early Intervention?
Early Intervention (EI) is the treatment of developmental delays in children 3 years of age or younger.
In regards to receptive, expressive and social/pragmatic language development, the first 3 years are critical to the trajectory of a child’s long-term communication skills. This portion of time is so critical due to the rapid development taking place in the brain at this particular age.
When first noticing a delay in their child’s communication skills, some parents may feel or be told that what their child is going through is “just a phase” , that they will “grow out of it” or that they should wait until their child starts school. However, research tells us that intervention before the age of 3 is more effective than treatment after the age of 3.
Believe it or not, after 3 years old, most major areas of the brain have already reached maturity! Treatment taking place before this critical age can increase the effectiveness of being able to make significant transformations in a child’s development and progression.
Additionally, EI for speech/language has been shown to increase skills in literacy, behavior, learning and social/pragmatic skills in the long-term.
When it comes to EI, the earlier you start, the better the prognosis!
So how does a parent go about getting their child the help that they need right away?
How get started with Early Intervention Speech and Language Therapy
Get a Referral
Early intervention starts with a referral from your child’s pediatrician. It is important to communicate any concerns that you have for your child’s development to their primary care provider, whether it be speech and language, feeding/swallowing, fine/gross motor skills, social-emotional skills, aversive behaviors or concerns for overall neurological development.
Contact a Service Provider
Once you have a script or referral from their pediatrician indicating a need for formal speech/language evaluation and treatment, you are ready to contact a service provider to schedule the initial speech-language evaluation.
For most initial evaluations before the age of 3, the process will look like a parent interview of your child’s birth and medical history and an inventory of your child’s speech and language skills. It will also likely include a clinical observation and assessment of your child during play and conversation with a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP).
What does Early Intervention Speech Therapy look like?
Once it is determined that your child is eligible for speech/language services, the treating Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) will work with you to come up with a plan to best support your child’s individual needs.
In the beginning, treatment might be challenging. For most children, this is the first time that they are having structure and demands placed on them. Your child may be resistant at first and you may even see an increase in aversive behaviors, depending on your child. However, it is crucial that these demands be met with consistency and follow-through in order to see progress.
Early Intervention is centered around play, but involves cooperation and elicitation of communicative intent and the use of more appropriate forms of communicating. Your child may start by learning simple gestures for choosing, requesting and refusing or they may be at the level that they will be expected to use single words (ie: “want”, “ more”) or even carrier phrases (ie: “I want + object/toy”, “more + object/toy ”, “All done+ object/toy” in order to communicate their wants and needs.
In addition, your child may work on following directions, identifying/labeling common vocabulary, joint attention skills, cooperative, functional and pretend play skills, along with many other things, depending on their specific needs.
Intervention + Carry-over Techniques = a Recipe for Success!
Perhaps even more crucial to the success of your child’s speech and language development is the carry-over work that happens at home and other settings outside the clinic. Even with the most intense of speech-language therapy, the SLP is only seeing your child for a few hours per week.
As parents, you are with your child the rest of the time. Carry-over techniques, or what Always Keep Progressing clinicians refer to as “homework” for your child, are imperative to the generalization of the skills they learn while in the clinic. It is important that the entire household, close relatives who spend a lot of time with your child, daycare/preschool staff and teachers and other interventionists working with your child are up to speed on your child’s goals. Consistency is KEY for reinforcing the responses, behaviors, and skills that your child needs to develop in order to become a successful communicator.