Speech pathology for toddlers is the practice of working with children older than infants, but usually younger than kindergarten, to improve language skills. While some mispronunciations are common among toddlers and the situation generally requires no intervention, there are times when speech development could become worrisome. To help correct the problem, speech pathology for toddlers helps teach younger children the proper way to make the most common sounds, given the developmental age of the child.
To truly understand what the real problem may be, a therapist specializing in speech pathology for toddlers may want the toddler's hearing tested. This is one of the most common reasons for delayed development. Even if hearing is not suspected to be a problem, often this is one of the first steps taken, especially for toddlers, who generally cannot report problems related to hearing. If a toddler's hearing is adequate, then the speech pathologist will begin working on common sounds.
Either before or after the hearing test, the pathologist will conduct an initial assessment. While pathologist may do this simply by having a conversation with the child, the more common method is to ask the child to repeat certain words. Those words have common sounds, or sound combinations, that provide the pathologist with a benchmark that he or she can compare to normal speech development. If the child is missing certain sounds that should be present, given the child's developmental age, the pathologist will concentrate on developing those sounds.
To entice toddlers to concentrate on the sounds and making them correctly, speech pathology for toddlers concentrates specifically on the way the words are formed in the mouth. The pathologist usually demonstrates for the child what he or she should do, and then asks the child to mimic the action. If the action is successful, then some sort of reward may be offered to the child such as a piece of candy, a sticker, or advancement in a game.
One of the most common concerns in speech pathology for toddlers is the substitution of certain sounds for others. For example, toddlers often substitute the "r" or "w" sound in place of the sound for "l". The development of the letter "l" generally happens by the age of 5. The ability to make other sounds are generally acquired before the age of 5.
Speech pathology for toddlers could happen in a variety of settings. Some pathologists work in a private practice or office, where clients may be referred to them by medical professionals, educators, or parents who are concerned. Others primarily work in school systems, especially those that offer preschool services. Some services may be paid for through private insurance, self payment, or possibly paid for by a school system.