May is Better Hearing and Speech Month  

May 17, 2018

The results of a new poll released May 1 by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) for May Is Better Hearing & Speech Month shows a majority of communication professionals say parents are generally not aware of the early warning signs of communication disorders, nor do they recognize the benefits of early treatment. ASHA is releasing a new broadcast public service announcement in conjunction with the results of the poll to encourage parents to seek help if they have concerns about their child’s speech/language or hearing abilities.

According to the poll of more than 1,100 ASHA members (audiologists and speech-language pathologists) the number one barrier to early identification of communication disorders is lack of awareness about the warning signs among parents. In fact, 46% said this was the case. A full 69% say parents of young children are not aware of the early warning signs of speech/language disorder, while 32% say that, on average, the symptoms of hearing loss are going undetected in children for 1 year or longer.

“Communication disorders are among the most common childhood disabilities and they are highly treatable in most cases,” said Elise Davis-McFarland, PhD, CCC-SLP, ASHA 2018 president. She continued, “We know parents want the best for their children. However, they may hear messages that encourage a ‘wait and see’ approach by suggesting a child may grow out of a communication issue. Unfortunately, this often is not the case. Delaying treatment means children may miss a critical developmental window where they acquire a majority of their foundational speech and language skills, which occurs between birth and 3 years of age. Hearing and listening to language is the primary way young children learn. The skills achieved during this time lay the groundwork for later success with listening and speaking, reading and writing, academics, social interactions, and career options and advancement. Thus the importance of ensuring early intervention services for any speech/language or hearing problem, preferably well before age 3.”

More than half of the polled experts (56%) say parents are not aware that by addressing the symptoms of communication disorders early, treatment is often less expensive and takes less time. Other findings of interest include:
•  Only 12% say parents are generally acting within 6 months of first observing symptoms of a speech/language delay. On the hearing side, this number is only slightly higher at 20%.
•  70% say they do not think parents of young children fully appreciate how vital everyday communication (talking, reading, and singing) is to their child’s development.
•  Yet they remain optimistic: 68% say they expect public awareness to improve over the next 5 years.
•  “Our take-home message for parents is ‘Don’t delay if you have any question about your child’s ability to hear, speak, or understand’,” said Davis-McFarland. “Some of these disorders can be reversed or even prevented if a child is treated early enough. Parents should familiarize themselves with communication milestones, which are very specific and begin within the first few months of life, as well as the early warning signs of communication disorders, which can be subtle. 

Signs of common speech and language in children between birth-to-4 years of age, an important stage in early detection of communication disorders. The following information from ASHA’s  Identify the Signs website:

Signs of a Language Disorder
•  Does not smile or interact with others
•  Does not babble (4-7 months)
•  Makes only a few sounds or gestures, like pointing (7-12 months)
•  Does not understand what others say (7 months-2 years)
•  Says only a few words (12-18 months)
•  Words are not easily understood (18 months-2 years)
•  Does not put words together to make sentences (1.5-3 years)
•  Has trouble playing and talking with other children (2-3 years)
•  Has trouble with early reading and writing skills (2.5-3 years)

What Parents Can Do

•  Listen and respond to your child
•  Talk, read, and play with your child
•  Talk with your child in the language you are most comfortable using
•  Know it is good to teach your child to speak a second language
•  Talk about what you are doing and what your child is doing
•  Use a lot of different words with your child
•  Use longer sentences as your child gets older
•  Have your child play with other children

Signs of a Speech Sound Disorder
•  Says p, b, m, h, and w incorrectly in words (1-2 years)
•  Says k, g, f, t, d, and n incorrectly in words (2-3 years)
•  Produces speech that is unclear, even to familiar people (2-3 years)

What Parents Can Do
•  Say the sounds correctly when you talk (it is okay if your child makes some mistakes with sounds)
•  Do not correct speech sounds (it is more important to let your child keep talking

Signs of Stuttering (Disfluency)
•  Repeats first sounds of words, e.g., “b-b-b-ball” for “ball”
•  Speech breaks while trying to say a word, e.g., “—–boy” for “boy”
•  Stretches sounds out, e.g., “ffffff-farm” for “farm”
•  Shows frustration when trying to get words out

What Parents Can Do
•  Give your child time to talk
•  Do not interrupt, stop, or tell your child to slow down while he/she is speaking
•  See a certified speech-language pathologist if you are concerned

Signs of a Voice Disorder
•  Uses a hoarse or breathy voice
•  Uses a nasal-sounding voice (coming through the nose)

What Parents Can Do
•  See a doctor if your child sounds hoarse or breathy or has a nasal-sounding voice
•  Tell your child not to shout or scream
•  Keep your child away from cigarette smoke

Go to the link to access Communicating With Baby: Tips and Milestones From Birth to Age 5. This toolkit details communication skills that parents should expect to see in their children. Pamphlets are available in English and Spanish for ages: birth - 3 months, 4 - 6 months, 7 - 12 months, 1 - 2 years, 2 - 3 years, 3 - 4 years, 4 - 5 years and include tips for how to support children’s development through daily reading. The toolkit was developed by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and Read Aloud 15 MINUTES. Children develop at their own pace. These flyers show the average ages when most children have developed these skills. Your child might not have all skills until the end of the age range.

If you have concerns about your infant or toddler’s cognitive, speech, motor, adaptive or social-emotional development, please call Planning Region 10’s Early Development Network Services Coordination at (308) 237-2280. For concerns about children three years of age or older, contact your local school district.

Judy Lauby, M.S., CCC-SLP
Speech Services Coordinator ESU 10