When a child is unable to produce speech sounds correctly or fluently, or has problems with his or her voice, then he or she has a speech disorder. Difficulties pronouncing sounds, or articulation disorders, and stuttering are examples of speech disorders. Having trouble understanding others, or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings completely, then he or she has a language disorder.

Parents know their child best and often have a “gut feeling” about the development of their child’s speech and language skills. Parents may also compare their child’s speech and language development to that of other children the same age and quickly determine that something is not on track. Parents can suspect that their child may have a speech and/or language development issue as early as 12months. Long before babies utter their first words they are actively trying to communicate with us using their eyes, by smiling, by crying, by cooing, by imitating sounds etc.

By 12-18 months, infants are expected to meet certain important communication milestones. For example, they should be able to locate a sound source, make eye contact, respond to their name, use gestures to get what they want, follow simple directions, produce a few words consistently etc. If a child is not meeting certain key communication milestones, some parents will seek services quite early (i.e. 18 months – 3 years old). In other cases, parents realize there is an issue when their child is older and the problem is more noticeable (3 years plus).

It is very important to act quickly. If your parental instinct tells you that there is something wrong, don’t ignore; it is your best guide. Chances are that indeed your child has some sort of speech disorder. The early years of your child’s life are the most important for building strong language skills. Research has shown that early identification of speech and language delays gives children a better chance of developing pre-reading and academic skills. In addition, early intervention can prevent speech and language problems from getting worse; it can decrease frustration and may help reduce behavior and communication problems.

The following signs may indicate a problem with speech and language development however, this list is not exhaustive.

- Frequent ear infections
- Poor listening skills
- Difficulty understanding simple commands
- Avoids eye contact
- Limited vocabulary
- Speaks in broken phrases or leaves out words in sentences
- Speaks in a way that is difficult to understand
- Mispronounces many sounds
- Has trouble finding the right words
- Stutters

At our center, we encourage parents and their child to participate in the Parent and Child Early Communication Enhancement Program. However, our clients are more than welcome to seek our private one-on-one speech and language service. Nonetheless, group therapy offers several advantages:

- Supportive network of parents
- Practice in a setting that models a real world environment
- Ability for your child to teach and learn from others
- Modeling and support from a registered Speech-Language Pathologist (S-LP)
- Cost efficiency

The Early Communication Enhancement (E.C.E.) Program teaches parents to implement specific language facilitation techniques that encourage, stimulate and support language at a very young age (for example, following your child’s interests, labeling, waiting, expanding etc.). As a child gets older, other strategies become more useful and are not the focus of this particular program.

At Agoo, our children are our priority; therefore, after the 6-week program is over the Speech-Language Therapist provides parents with a progress report and may suggest more group therapy, or individual therapy only if necessary.