April 30, 2014

Letter: Identify the signs of communication disorders

— The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has long served as a resource of information and advocacy for children and adults living with disorders of speech, language and hearing.

As part of May’s Better Hearing and Speech Month, ASHA has launched a new nationwide effort to educate the public about communication disorders, “Identify the Signs.” The campaign was specifically designed to help parents and loved ones recognize the early warning signs and to provide guidance into the first steps of intervention.

An estimated 40 million Americans have trouble speaking or hearing due to a communication disorder. These deficits and difficulties can occur throughout the life span and often look very different from person to person.

My professional perspective is that of a school-based speech and language pathologist. I can state with certainty and supportive evidence that early detection of speech, language and hearing issues is absolutely critical to improving academic, social and career outcomes — and improving one’s quality of life at any age.

Unfortunately, many parents and caregivers are unable to identify the warning signs or dismiss them too readily. You can visit www.IdentifytheSigns.org to learn more about the early warning signs of communication disorders, which can include not understanding or responding to questions, unclear speech, limited vocabulary, not interacting socially and ineffective expression of one’s thoughts and ideas. If you notice any of these signs in your child or student, it is important to seek out a professional evaluation. You can also contact your pediatrician for further direction.

Every day, I see in my work that untreated communication disorders often lead to larger academic, social and developmental issues. Early diagnosis is the most powerful way to reduce or even reverse their impact and can give your loved ones the opportunity to lead the fullest lives possible.

Melissa Ralston