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Speech pathologists notice more toddlers with communication problems

This decline in communication skills is related to the pandemic, according to some metro speech pathologists.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Parents of toddlers hoping to see a speech pathologist could be waiting a long time. 

That's because Sydney Brotherton, a speech pathologist at MercyOne, said they are seeing longer waiting lists, with no available appointments for months.

"Right now our waiting list to be seen is five months long," Brotherton said. 

She said part of this problem can be attributed to the pandemic.

During the early days of the pandemic, pivotal interactions for kids, such as playdates, were few to non-existent for some.

RELATED: Literacy rates fell for children during pandemic, study says

"Now we're seeing a huge increase in 2-year-olds or one-and-a-half-year-olds, 3-year-olds that … just kind of missed out on getting in that early intervention time," Brotherton said.

Katie Price, a mother of a 2-year-old toddler, said she noticed her son was not communicating the way his sister was at that same age.

"So he was meeting pretty much all of the developmental milestones aside from not talking," Price said. "He would be trying to communicate but he couldn't really form words."

Price said since he wasn't forming many words, he would grunt a lot. This concerned her, so she brought it up during a doctor's visit.

"They did say he needed speech therapy," Price said.

Since getting that diagnosis, he has been getting speech therapy and has improved.

Price noted she is glad to have trusted her gut and brought up her concerns to a doctor.

Brotherton said what Price did was the right move. 

When a parent notices something that feels wrong about childhood communication development, it's important to get kids evaluated by a speech pathologist. 

Some ways to help children grow stronger communication skills are scheduling more playdates, taking the kids out in public more and potentially starting therapy. 

Brotherton said if parents don't get their kids' oral issues addressed "it can definitely affect their learning in school and their social skills."

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