Does My Child Need To See A Speech Pathologist?

Worried about how your baby is feeding? Is your toddler missing sounds? Is your child having trouble communicating at school? It might be time for them to see a speech pathologist. In this article, we speak to Rachel Hampshire from Word of Mouth Speech Pathology about when to seek professional help.

A father and daughter lying on the floor reading

When most people think about what a speech pathologist does, they envision someone helping a child find missing sounds or overcome a stutter or lisp.

In reality, a speech pathologist does so much more.

In this article, we’ll go over:

  • What a speech pathologist does
  • Communication & feeding milestones by age
  • When your child may need to see a speech pathologist
  • Toys that help encourage language & literacy skills

Scroll down to learn more.


What A Speech Pathologist Does

A speech pathologist is a trained professional who helps babies, children and adults with their ability to communicate, feed and swallow.

By conducting physical assessments such as examining bite and tongue placement, referring clients to an audiologist for hearing tests as well as looking into family history, a speech pathologist can help determine what is causing issues with someone’s inability to make particular sounds, aversion to food, difficulty swallowing or trouble engaging in conversation.

Common causes for speech and feeding problems include:

  • Being on a feeding tube as a baby or young child
  • Tongue-tie
  • Blocked eustachian tubes
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Low muscle tone
  • Dyslexia

Depending on a person’s diagnosis, a speech pathologist may recommend further observation by an Ear Nose & Throat Specialist who might suggest a small operation such as implanting grommets to open up eustachian tubes or a small cut to fix a tongue-tie.

Alternatively, regular therapy sessions may be required for one to gain the muscle strength needed to form certain sounds, swallow safely or communicate effectively.


Communication & Feeding Milestones By Age

Below is an outline of developmental milestones by age.


Birth – 6 Months


  • Cooing
  • Babbling
  • Being startled by a loud noise
  • Turning towards a sound
  • Feeding either by breast or bottle


6 – 12 Months


  • Repeated babbling
  • Understands simple commands such as, ‘No’
  • Can drink out of a straw bottle or sippy cup
  • Can maintain eye contact
  • Smiles and shows excitement
  • Trying and eating new foods (even if it takes 10 – 20 exposures before accepting)


12 – 24 Months


  • Has 50 words
  • Can follow single-step directions
  • Holds extended eye contact
  • Responds to their name
  • Accepts some solid and finger foods
  • Can drink from a lidded cup


2 Years


  • Accepts a wide range of solid and finger foods
  • Can drink out of a cup and straw with ease
  • Has 200 – 300 words
  • Is understood 50% of the time by a non-familiar listener
  • Consonant sounds: P


3 Years


  • Has 250 – 500 words
  • Can string three or four words together
  • Can follow multi-step instructions
  • Is understood 75% of the time by a non-familiar listener
  • Consonant sounds: B, D, G, N, F, Y, T, K, M, NG, H, W


4 Years


  • Has 1000+ words
  • Tells stories
  • Asks questions
  • Basic phonological awareness skills (the ability to hear, identify and manipulate units of sounds in spoken language)
  • Is understood 90% of the time by a non-familiar listener
  • Consonant sounds: V, S, Z, CH, SH, I, J


5 Years


  • Strong phonological awareness skills
  • Displays reading comprehension
  • Can sound out and spell words
  • Is understood 100% of the time by a non-familiar listener
  • Consonant sounds: TH (voiced), ZH, R


6 Years +


  • Knows how to seek clarification
  • Can sequence a story or event
  • Can predict an outcome
  • Can read between the lines
  • Understands humor
  • Can make ‘small talk’
  • Consonant sounds: TH (voiceless)



When Your Child May Need To See A Speech Pathologist

When it comes to intervention, it’s better to be early than late.


“If you’re concerned at all, seek advice early. We know that there is no support for the ‘Wait and See’ approach anymore and that early intervention is what we need to be providing because the prognosis is much better.” – Rachel Hampshire, Word of Mouth Speech Pathology


Speak to your doctor about seeing a speech pathologist:


  • If your baby or child is displaying difficulty feeding, an unwillingness to eat solid foods, or a constant gag reflex when swallowing.
  • If your baby is unable to maintain eye contact, doesn’t show emotion, doesn’t respond to loud noises or display awareness to changes in light.
  • If your toddler is unable or unwilling to eat solid foods, drink from a cup, respond to simple directions, form words or engage in play.
  • If your child is unable to make age-appropriate consonant sounds, tell a story, follow multi-step directions, or confidently eat or drink.
  • If your big kid has difficulty engaging in conversation, forming friendships, asking for help, maintaining eye-contact or trouble eating and drinking.



Toys That Help Encourage Language & Literacy Skills

At The Tot, we never use or recommend anything that hasn’t passed The Tot Safety Test. This means that every product on our site has been reviewed by a non-toxic living expert who looks deep into third-party testing, certifications and ingredients.

The below products are all free from: BPA + BPS, Harmful Phthalates, PVC, Formaldehyde, Heavy Metals & dangerous dyes/inks. Click here to learn more about the full list of ingredients we avoid and why.


Zephyrs Nest Wooden Kids Letter Board


Zephyr’s Nest Learning Letters Set







Zephyrs Nest Play & Learn Tray


Zephyr’s Nest Play & Learn Tray Bundle







PlanToys Alphabet A-Z Learning Toy


PlanToys Alphabet A-Z







Tender Leaf What's Up


Tender Leaf Toys What’s Up Emotions Set








The Tot Play & Learn Set 4- 5 years


The Tot Play & Learn Set 4 – 5 Years







The Tot Play & Learn Set 5 - 6 years


The Tot Play & Learn Set 5 – 6 Years







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