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Speech Pathologist: Avoid Saying 'Don't Worry' If Parents Suspect Developmental Delay
  • Every child develops at his own pace, but parents cannot help but worry when their child is a “late talker,” because it suggests delayed development or learning disabilities. To comfort them and to make them feel better, we would often say, ‘Don’t worry,’ ‘They’re fine,’ or ‘Let’s wait.’ But a speech pathologist says these phrases can actually be harmful to both parent and child.

    In a Facebook post, speech pathologist Andi Putt, who also runs the blog Mrs. Speechie P, says that saying ‘don’t worry to a parent,’ not only prevents or delays a child from receiving help, but it also invalidates a parent’s feelings.

    “If a parent is asking about delayed development, chances are they are already worried,” Putt writes. “When enough people say ‘don’t worry,’ it makes the parent feel like they are overreacting when really they are correct to trust their gut feelings.”

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    While Putt acknowledges that many kids can catch up on their own, around 30 to 40% of kids with speech delay go on to need intervention. “Some kids might need a short amount of speech therapy to progress, but others may need years of interventions,” she says, stressing that “early intervention has the best outcome for these children.”

    On her website, Putt talks further about early intervention and gives an example. “Let’s say you have a 20-month-old boy (yes, boy, because everyone has told you, ‘oh, boys develop later than girls, he’s fine.) who says five words. Everyone has told you not to worry, he will grow out of it, but you are worried so you take him to an SLP (speech-language pathologist).”

    “She says he’s about six months behind in his language skills than he should be and recommends services. That means [to] get ‘caught up,’ he will need to make up those six months that he is already delayed PLUS continue to make gains as he ages.”

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    Putt goes on to say that if the mom or dad decides to wait until their child is 2 years old to see an SLP, it is more likely that the child now has a nine- to 10-month delay, and it will take longer to help her than if she started therapy earlier. The longer a parent waits, the further the language gap grows, which is why early intervention is key.

    Mom, Thalia Valerio, who suspected delayed development in her daughter at 18 months but decided to wait until she was three before seeking help for her daughter, shares in her article for SmartParenting.com.ph that because they waited too long, “we missed those windows of optimal brain development.”

    She shares, “Early intervention helps. Therapy is a focused practice that is carefully designed to help each child with their unique developmental issues.”

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    While others may have said “don’t worry,” out of love, it is still best to seek a professional not only for peace of mind but to give your child the chance to catch up if ever there is a delay.

    Mom Thumby Veloso, whose daughter has speech delay, says in her article for Smart Parenting, “Our family and friends care about their children and have their best interests at heart, but they may not be equipped with the necessary background knowledge to help you identify or address the unique challenges your child is facing.”

    For parents with “late talkers” but were able to overcome it, whether through therapy or by letting their child catch up on his own, Putt suggests that you can still share your success story to other parents, but you can also emphasize and recommend that they get a professional opinion.

    “Remember that for every ‘my child is fine’ story, there is a ‘my child is successful because of intervention,’ and/or an ‘I wish I had trusted my gut and started intervention sooner’ story,” she says.

    Are you facing speech delays? Click here for tips and ways to help your child overcome it.

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