A little over a year ago, I made one of the hardest phone calls — I called the pediatrician and asked for an appointment because I had concerns over my toddler’s speech. The next day, I sat in the pediatrician’s office with Harrison quietly zooming cars at my feet and I explained that he had completely regressed in speech. He maybe had twelve words and about half of those were in his own language that only me and my husband understood. I told the doctor about the head banging Harrison did from frustration, the screaming and whining, and me nearly pulling my own hair out from frustration. The inability to communicate with my child was breaking down our relationship and creating horrible stress in our family.
He smiled and reassured me that this was normal, especially for a boy. But that there was absolutely something we could do about it. He jotted down the number of a private therapist who he liked and told me to start there. The private therapy group would do an evaluation (that would be covered by insurance) and we could go from there with a decision. “Won’t he talk eventually?” I asked. That was what everyone always said to me before when I expressed concern — he’ll talk eventually, boys always talk late, just you wait, he’ll open his mouth and be speaking sentences when he’s four — but somehow in my gut, I knew this was different.
“Yes,” the pediatrician smiled, “he will talk eventually without therapy. But the big issue here is that he’s almost two and not talking. What you run the risk of is the speech delay creating other delays and then him being labeled. For instance, the three-year-old that hates tags in clothes. He will scream and kick and be labeled with a sensory disorder when really, it’s just a tag that’s bothering him every day but he can’t say it.”
It made sense to me and it was all the kick-in-the-pants that I needed to make that phone call.
After three months of private therapy, our therapist recommended that we apply for the Wake County speech program, Early Intervention. We were in it for the long haul, she explained, and Early Intervention had the resources to help us with the cost. It meant another evaluation for Harrison, but it was free and soon 90% of our speech expenses were covered by a combination of the county and our private insurance policy. We were able to keep the same therapist we had in private therapy by asking for her specifically. (And she agreed to see him in our home!) A year later, Harrison exited the program as a three-year-old that was almost caught up to normal speech for his age. It was a hard year and hard work, but my little boy was a champion through it all. I’m so proud of him.
I get asked pretty often about the first steps to take, the options available, etc. So here is a “Speech Therapy 101 for Toddlers” as I learned it over the past year:
Disclaimer: This is based off my own personal experience. Remember that the first, and most important, step is to talk to your doctor!
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