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Warning Signs in the Development of Speech, Language, and Communication: When to Refer to a Speech-Language Pathologist

Authors;, with a copy to the Editor:


TOPIC:  Because of the link between communication impairments and psychiatric disorders, it is important for nurses and other healthcare professionals to know the warning signs for the need for a communication/speech/language evaluation for children during infancy through early childhood.

PURPOSE:  This article presents an overview of the role of speech-language pathologists (SLPs); the expected developmental achievements for youngsters from infancy to age 5 in speech, language, and communication; and the clinically significant warning signs that indicate a need for speech/language assessment.

SOURCES:  Sources for this article included published literature on the topic along with the clinical judgment and expertise of the author, a certified SLP.

CONCLUSIONS:  Warning signs for referral to an SLP may be subtle and may present in developmental, academic, behavioral, or social–emotional realms. Collaboration between nurses and communication professionals will allow for early identification and intervention. Early detection of speech and language disabilities is key to maximizing the effects of early intervention, resulting in more positive communication outcomes in later life. It has been found that speech and language delays and disorders, with symptoms left untreated, can cause difficulties in learning and socialization that can last into adolescence and beyond. Early identification of children with developmental delay or developmental disabilities may lead to intervention at a young age when chances for improvement may be best.