Early Intervention: Why It Matters

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This week we talk with one of PTC’s Oral and Speech Pathologists Amelia V. Rivas about early intervention: what it can look like and how it can help your child.

What Does Early Intervention Even Mean?

While most babies develop normally, and can even be late bloomers, it is still important to stay vigilant while watching your child’s development. Especially, says Amelia Rivas SLP, at the most pivotal times for speech and oral development. These times are about the six to nine months, eight to ten months, and the one year mark.

These markers are important because they are generally when babies begin acquiring certain pivotal skills. So noticing when a child is struggling with a skill can help troubleshoot a problem. And again, while all children develop differently, a lack of development or a resistance to normal changes, such as those we explore in the rest of this blog, can be cause for concern.

But the more aware parents are of markers, the more likely they are to bring their children in for early intervention. And the sooner a child is diagnosed and addressed, the sooner the problem can be treated and even completely resolved.


What to Watch for: 


Before Six Months

  • Difficulty feeding from breast

What it Could Mean and What Early Intervention Looks Like:

Often babies who have difficulties feeding from the breast have a problem with range of motion either in their tongue or on one side of their body (usually the left). Issues with the tongue (like problems sucking) can be fixed by working with a speech and oral pathologist. They will help the baby loosen its jaw and tongue and help with its suction motions. Tongue ties are also very common. They are a result of when the lingual frenulum is too tight, short or thick and can be repaired by clipping the tongue (this would happen through a referral to an ENT or dentist.)


Tightness on one side of the body is usually caused by difficult births, breach or quick labor, and sometimes C-sections. To treat these issues a speech and oral pathologist would recommend tummy time, or encouraging a baby to spend time on its stomach. This helps babies develop stronger core muscles and encourages them to lift and move their head side to side better developing the jaw and tongue movements.


Six to Nine Months Old

  • Refuses to accept spoon or eat puree when offered it
  • Baby is not looking, searching, or babbling–trying out words and mimicking sounds you make

What it Could Mean and What Early Intervention Looks Like:

If your child is refusing to make the switch from milk or formula to pureed foods, this could mean they have sensory or oral input difficulties. A speech and oral pathologist would address this by giving the child different kind of input, such as a vibrating spoon, to accustom the child to different textures and sensations.

If your baby isn’t babbling or doesn’t seem interested in what is going on around them at this early of a stage this most likely means there could be vision or hearing impairment. Your pediatrician most likely would solve this quickly by prescribing glasses or hearing aids.


12-18 Months

  • Child understands what you say to them but is not talking
  • Lack of interest, engagement, and verbalization

What it Could Mean and What Early Intervention Looks Like:

Most children who are understanding and not talking only need a boost. This is where early intervention therapy can help by structuring activities that encourage communication,language, and interaction. The activity should be chosenslide-parent by the child—encouraging them to verbalize what they want and also getting them excited about what they are doing. From there, a therapist would work on getting them to engage and speak about exactly what they want.

If a child is not engaged at all a key component is to first get them to notice you. Then you encourage/facilitate them to interact with you. As we outlined before in the “Play” blog, this means following the child’s lead in play and doing something they are interested in doing. Then during the activity a therapist, or parent, might attach sounds to a movement, such as saying “whee” each time the child slides down the slide. This encourages the child to enjoy verbalizing, connect sound to real world application and also helps them get engaged in communication in general.



What You Can Do at Home


  • Stay vigilant
    • Take notice of what, how, and when your child is doing something. If something seems wrong, make an appointment!
  • Play with your childnobody-told-me-that-pic
    • This establishes a good back and forth and allows you to help them associate play and sounds
  • Talk Often and Purposefully
    • Even if they are not talking back, they are absorbing and learning. Plus, no one likes to be talked over, even if you don’t understand what’s going on!
  • Educate yourself
    • You can’t know what is normal if you haven’t learned the marker signs yourself. We recommend Nobody Ever Told Me (or my Mother) That!: Everything from Bottles and Breathing to Healthy Speech Development by Diane Bahr


Summary: Early Intervention is Important, Not Scary

Don’t be afraid to learn markers and watch closely. Not being aware of a problem until it’s too late or hoping it’ll work itself out is only a disservice to your child. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and most issues can be easily and quickly resolved with some simple therapy. So if you feel something is wrong, act! And in no time you’ll have your worries laid to rest.


If you are interested in setting up an evaluation, please contact Pediatric Therapy Center at 713-772-1400 to make an appointment.


Here is a link to buy Nobody Ever Told Me (or my Mother) That!: Everything from Bottles and Breathing to Healthy Speech Development on Amazon

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