Is Your Child “Falling Through the Cracks”?

Good evening, everyone. Speech-language pathologist/momma here.

Many times, we speech-language pathologists are referred to as “speech therapists.” Oftentimes, we refer to ourselves as this as well. However, many do not realize that we treat much more than “just the way someone talks.” A large chunk of our time is spent treating language issues. Language is made up of the way a person thinks, how they perceive what they see and hear, and how effective they are at expressing themselves, whether that be through gestures, sign language, or actually speaking words.

Oooookay, so why are you telling me this, Veronica?

Because THERE ARE A LOT OF CHILDREN FALLING THROUGH THE CRACKS. What I mean by this is there are a lot of children that have language issues that go “unnoticed” and untreated until that issue builds up and builds up and THEN, the “issue” is now a “CRISIS.”

I apologize for coming on strong here, but this is a concern.

So who is at risk of falling through the cracks? While reading the lists below, please do NOT assume that your child has a language delay or disorder if any of these describe your child. As parents and caregivers, I believe that we all have that same inherent gut feeling when our child needs our help. Keep it simple and follow your instincts.

late show oops GIF by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

Some of the more OBVIOUS characteristics of children that are at risk of falling through the cracks are:

  • panics when something unexpected happens
  • does not seem to notice if anyone is around them
  • the child who, even after repeated exposure, doesn’t seem to remember anything
  • Preschool and Kindergarten age, but still does not recognize colors, simple shapes
  • frequent ear infections and/or diagnosed hearing loss
  • only produces words when they are singing
  • will not voluntarily make eye contact

Some of the more current “sneaky” issues that can lead to a crisis are:

  • the child whose pediatrician says they will “grow out of it” or “will talk when they’re ready” or “they’re just being stubborn” Please see Waiting to See if They “Grow Out Of It” to read more on this topic!
  • the 20 month old that has not said any words yet
  • uses a lot of empty words such as “you know that, thing,” that “watchamacalit,” it was “oh, you know”
  • only wants to talk about things they are interested in (okay, this is sometimes human nature, but as a typically developing child gets older, they begin to realize it’s important to ask others about their interests and lives)
  • the  child who, even as they grow older, does not seem to understand what’s rude and what’s not or when someone is joking and when they are truly being mean
  • the school aged child who consistently gets in trouble when it’s time to do school work (again, we all just want to play and have fun! Is there something about what is being asked of them, however, that is particularly difficult for your child?)
  • the 3-3 1/2 year old that is saying only 1 or 2 word utterances, i.e. “want” or “want milk” INSTEAD OF “I want milk”
  • the child who becomes very upset when experiencing loud noises, smells, certain textures
  • the toddler who consistently responds incorrectly when asked simple questions such as, “Where’s mommy?” or “Which toy do you want?”
  • does not demonstrate simple problem solving skills
  • waits a long time before responding to questions or comments
  • termed as “lazy” because they’re not following your or their teacher’s instructions

If You Are Suspecting That Your Child’s Language Needs to Be Examined More Closely..

Definitely and always go with your gut instinct. Even if the pediatrician says, “No, it’s nothing to worry about,” check it out anyway. Ask your pediatrician for a referral for a speech-language therapy evaluation. If your child is already attending preschool or a higher grade, contact your child’s school and ask about obtaining a speech-language evaluation.

Getting a Speech-Language Evaluation

If your child is below the age of 3, they may be referred for an evaluation by a speech-language pathologist that contracts with an early intervention services provider, such as First Steps. Therapists and providers that contract with First Steps perform evaluations and treatments in your home or another community site. If that’s not your or your child’s cup of tea, you can also have your child evaluated by an outpatient speech-language pathologist.

If your child is above the age of 3, you can take them to an outpatient speech-language pathologist or contact your local school district and ask to speak with their speech-language pathologist about the referral.

Getting to the Meat of the Matter

Here’s what I think on the matter, as a speech-language pathologist, momma, and human. We are all human. No one is perfect and no one is going to the be the master of every language skill. No child is going to grow into an adult that has ALL of the following skills or even most of them: perfect attention span, perfect social skills, perfect comprehension, perfect memory, a vocabulary that gives Merriam-Webster a run for its money, perfect communication skills, etc etc etc. As a matter of fact, I am not even close to being perfect in even one of the areas I just listed and chances are, you’re not either.

But No One Else Seems Concerned …

Again, follow your gut instincts. Chances are, you’re already concerned or you still wouldn’t be reading this. If your child is older and is in school, you may be wondering why your child’s school has not contacted you yet with concerns in regards to your child’s language. This all goes back to the “sneaky” language issues that often cause children to fall through the cracks; language issues that are not as glaringly obvious as others.

For example, let’s say your child is in Kindergarten and they’re having trouble blending sounds together while reading. They are referred to as, simply, “a struggling reader.” Suppose as your  child gets older, their ability to blend sounds improves, but is still not at the same level as their classmates. By this time, their classmates are now focusing more on reading comprehension and answering questions about what happened in the story and why. Your child is still having to use so much of their brain power on just blending those sounds together and reading at a faster rate, there is little brain power left to focus on comprehension. So now, your child is being referred to as “okay reading fluency (speed and fluidity while reading), but horrible comprehension.”

NOW LET’S PLAY THE SCENARIO OUT DIFFERENTLY. WHAT IF …

Let’s say your child is in Kindergarten and they’re having trouble blending sounds together while reading. Your child is referred to as a “struggling reader.” You ask for a speech and language evaluation. They are evaluated by a speech-language pathologist and the assessment reveals that your child has typical speech development, but noted that your child did struggle with some of the comprehension (which is part of language) portions of the test, especially the parts that did NOT have pictures. The speech-language pathologist suggests having your child evaluated by an audiologist, due to a suspected auditory processing disorder (APD) (APD does not mean your child has impaired hearing. It means that your child has difficult processing what they HEAR. Words and sounds may become distorted, for example, due to a “glitch” in the connection between their brain and ears). Your child’s evaluated by the audiologist and is diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder. Aha! Now that changes everything. Yes, they are still the “struggling reader.” But NOW they are the “struggling-reader-and-we-know-the-cause-and-are-taking-active-steps-to-work-on-that” child. The evaluation reports are taken back to your child’s school and your child begins speech-language therapy to improve their auditory processing skills and the manner in which the teacher presents information to your child is modified.

So Here’s the Point

You can NOT treat symptoms and expect permanent results. You MUST treat the cause. There is a reason for the reason. Back to the “struggling reader” example. What was the reason for poor reading skills? Difficulty with blending sounds. DON’T let it stop there. Then why? What is causing his/her difficulty with blending sounds? Auditory processing disorder.

Let Me Be Upfront Here

This may be stating the obvious, but I want to state it anyways. Once your child begins intervention, whether that be speech-language therapy or whatever have you, it takes time and patience and time. Learning new things and especially learning how to do old things in a new way, does not feel natural at first. Your child’s brain is going to rebel against itself and is not going to enjoy therapy’s attempts at “rewiring” it. If the brain’s “wiring” in a particular area(s) was/were functioning in the way it should be, however, your child wouldn’t be struggling. Therapy encourages new neural connections to be formed; basically, specific areas of their brain will be trained to operate in a new way. This is something that doesn’t happen overnight or even within a month.

The rate at which your child’s brain is “re-wired” however, can happen much more quickly if everyone is on the same page. The therapist, parent, and teachers are a team. If only one person provides the intervention to your child, it is either going to take a very VERY long time to see any improvement, or it may not happen at all. WE must ALL intervene; therapy room, classroom, home.

Posts Related to Today’s Topic

What Does It Mean if My Child Has A Language Delay or Disorder?
Is Your Child Having Difficulty Communicating? It May Be Due to a Limited Vocabulary Bank.
How to Expand Your Child’s Vocabulary to Improve Their Communication
How to Teach Your Nonverbal Child to Communicate Without Using Words
The “Little Things” That May Be Hurting Your Child’s Speech and Language Development
How to be Prepared if Your Child’s School Wants to do a Speech-language Evaluation

I hope everyone finds something in here that is helpful. If you do not see something that relates to your child, please leave a comment below or email me at reachthroughspeech@outlook.com and I will do my best to create a post, no names mentioned of course, that will hopefully help your child.

Disclaimer Statement

This article was written by a speech-language pathologist, but is not meant to replace a speech-language evaluation or speech-language therapy. If your child is already receiving speech-language therapy at this time, please continue to work on improving your child’s communication at home. Therapy is so much more effective when we all work together with the same goal in mind!

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