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You're not a doctor and neither is the Internet. And if you are reading this article, there's a high chance you suspect your child's speech is delayed.
Maybe you noticed that your child isn't speaking as much as his or her peers. Maybe you have another child, and you noticed that this child seems to be developing differently. Maybe you were reading toddler language milestones and realized that your child wasn't meeting them.
Whatever the case, you go online for answers. I've been down that rabbit hole, and it's very scary. Here are some suggestions on what you should do if you suspect your child has a speech delay:
Remind yourself that you have done nothing wrong. If you are reading this, it's likely that you read to your child frequently, you narrated things and encouraged speech in all the ways you were told to do so. The fact that you are here and not watching cute cat videos to avoid the issue is a demonstration of how committed you are to your child.
Call your doctor and schedule an appointment. Consult with a professional about your doubts and concerns. If your doctor first noted that your child was delayed, feel free to follow up with questions that come up after the appointment.
Don't wait to start formal speech therapy.
Make an appointment with a speech therapist for an evaluation. This evaluation can be done through your insurance provider or state agency.
Talk to other people in your son's life who act as caregivers. Express your concerns and get their feedback.
Learn more about how children acquire speech and language. One speech therapist we met recommended an excellent podcast called "Teach me To Talk." The host, Dr. Laura Mize, is a wealth of information and her website is an excellent resource.
Don't wait to start formal speech therapy. You can start doing your own exercises and interactions with your child.
Start taking notes about things you observe. As you go through this journey, you will be asked more questions about your child than you ever thought possible about his speech and overall development.
Confronting the possibility that my child is facing this enormous obstacle is heartbreaking, but I know that I still need to take care of myself and find joy in life.
Make sure you also keep notes about your appointments with doctors and other therapists. Don't expect doctors to know everything about your child—act as de-facto casework manager on their behalf. For example, while my son was referred to speech therapy after his evaluation, we took it upon ourselves to call our pediatrician for a referral to a developmental pediatrician to discuss the potential cause of his speech delay.
Keep enjoying your child. Relish your child's smiles and giggles. While it is important to take advantage of interactions to encourage speech development, it's also fine to take a break here and there.
Take care of yourself. It goes without saying that I want my son to be healthy and thrive in every way. Confronting the possibility that my child is facing this enormous obstacle is heartbreaking, but I know that I still need to take care of myself and find joy in life.
Don't do this alone. Since sharing what my son has been going through, I have heard from so many people who are going through the same thing or know someone who did. Whatever you are going through, you don't have to go it alone.
I'm not a doctor. But I am a mother, and so I know that if your instincts tell you something isn't quite right, then it's worth exploring. Best of luck on your journey. Just remember: you are doing a great job.