Late Talkers

My Toddler Didn’t Qualify for Speech Therapy…Now What?

November 28, 2022

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toddler with speech delay

Early Childhood Intervention (ECI)

Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) is defined as services and supports that are available to babies and young children (0-3) with developmental delays and disabilities and their families. Services include speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other types of services based on the needs of the child and family. Eligibility is determined by an evaluation of a child’s skills and abilities.

If you have concerns about your child’s speech, it’s a wonderful place to start.

It’s important to understand how ECI works though. Remember that eligibility is determined by skills and abilities. This is done through standardized testing. A child will qualify if they have at least a 25% delay in one or more areas of development. This included social, emotional, communication, motor, or cognition.

toddler playing with a puzzle

Expressive Language Delay

However, if the area of concern is expressive language only (aka words your child is using), the child must demonstrate an even greater delay. This criteria is specific to each state’s ECI program. For example, in Texas, a child must show at least a 33% delay if expressive language is the only area of concern.  In other states, a child must show as much as a delay of 50% delay in expressive language to qualify.

This is where Late-Talkers (children with expressive language delays only) can get missed.  They may really benefit from speech therapy, they just aren’t delayed enough to qualify.  Parents in this group are often told to “wait and see” or that their child will “grow out of it” since all other areas of development are on track, but research tells us that 20-30% of children will not grow out of it and will continue to struggle with language such as reading, writing, grammar, executives functioning (planning, organizing, etc.) and even social skills. Language is the foundation for all areas of learning so it’s important to have a strong foundation for speech and language.

puzzle pieces

So what do you do?

It’s helpful to know the risk factors associated with continued language delay.  If a child isn’t using as many words as we expect for their age and has any of the risk factors, they are more at risk for continued language difficulty and we may want to prioritize a consult with a Speech Pathologist.

There may be Speech Pathologists in your community that specialize in working with young children. Private Practices do not have to adhere to the same guidelines at ECI and they can recommend therapy based on other factors such as how frustrated a child is getting, how it’s impacting a family’s daily life, and a percentage of delay that doesn’t need to be quite as significant.

We also know that parents can play a huge role in increasing their child’s expressive language skills. Research shows that when parents learn strategies to help their late talking toddler, it is as effective – and often more effective – than when Speech Pathologists deliver the therapy (Roberts & Kaiser, 2011). Think about how much more time you spend with your child and opportunities there are for learning The Late Talker Toolkit Digital Course provides you with strategies to help your little one start talking at home.

Another great thing about this day and age is the virtual options available. You now have access to therapists all over the country and many offer virtual parent coaching. This model allows more 1:1 support for your family. Learn more about our virtual coaching here

In summary, it’s important to trust your gut if you have concerns about your child’s speech and language skills.  Early Childhood Intervention is a wonderful resource to have.  However, the model can miss late-talkers who may benefit from intervention. It’s important to know all the options available so you can best help your child.

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