Why (and When to) Consult a Speech-Language Pathologist

Parents of young children may ask themselves the following question, “Does my child have a speech or language delay?”

When (and Why) to Consult a Speech-Language Pathologist by Paul Simeone

When (and Why) to Consult a Speech-Language Pathologist by Paul Simeone

There are usually some common reasons for this question:

  • An older sibling may have acquired language more quickly;
  • Parents may have witnessed communication difficulty with adults and other children in new and unfamiliar settings; or
  • The child’s peers are speaking more prolifically—combining words or using a more advanced vocabulary.

While each child has his own developmental trajectory, and milestones are reached at varying rates, interventions for speech and language delays are recommended for children who fall outside of the range of typical development.

So when is the right time to reach out to a speech-language pathologist (SLP)?

Research indicates that early intervention leads to better prognoses (1).

Given this, the key is to act early—the earlier your child receives services, the better her prognosis is likely to be. SLPs provide services as early as infancy. If you are concerned about your child’s development, it does not hurt to have her evaluated. Your mind will be at ease, and if services are recommended, you will address the concerns more quickly.

Here are some signs that your child would benefit from being evaluated by a SLP. Listed below are several areas of communication to consider (examples given vary by age). Note: For a more extensive list, click here. 

  1. Pragmatics/Social language: Your child demonstrates delays in interaction (e.g., doesn’t make eye contact or smile).
  2. Receptive language: Your child demonstrates difficulty understanding spoken language (e.g., has a difficult time following directions or doesn’t respond to his name).
  3. Expressive language: Your child demonstrates difficulty producing spoken language (e.g., uses only a few words or does not combine words).
  4. Speech: Your child speaks but is hard to understand.

By consulting developmental scales, you can take action if your child is significantly behind in any of these areas. There are several developmental milestone charts, including Brown’s Stages of Development and Gard, Gillman, and Gorman's Developmental Milestones, that are widely used by speech-language pathologists.

You know your child. Trust your instincts if you are concerned. And remember that intervening early is the best course of action. Please contact me with any questions.


Paul Simeone, MA, CCC-SLP, ATP


1. Rossetti, L.M. (1996). Communication intervention: Birth to three. San Diego: Singular Publishing.