By Roxane Bélanger, SLP-C, Reg. CALSPO
Speech Language Pathologist
First Words Preschool Speech and Language Program of Ottawa
Katie Bourada, RN, BScN
Public Health Nurse
Ottawa Public Health
As a parent, you may find yourself asking questions related to your child’s speech development. For example: “My child is not talking… should I be concerned?” “How many words should my child know by now?” and “Where can I get help?” Luckily, First Words and Ottawa Public Health are here to help!
Know the signs. Get Help Early
You can give your child the best start in life by knowing the signs of a speech and language delay and getting help early. “Up to 10-12% of Canadian children have speech and language problems. Language skills predict a child’s later success at school and in life. When it comes to language, earlier is better,” says Marika Holmes, manager and speech language pathologist for the First Words program.
The First Words Communication Checkup
The First Words Communication Checkup is a new online screening tool for children aged 6 months to 5 years living in the city of Ottawa. You can use it to check your child’s speech, language, social communication, fine and gross motor skills. And the best part – it’s free!
In just 15-20 minutes, the First Words Communication Checkup provides instant results and next steps for you and your child. It connects families to the most suitable agency to support their child’s developmental needs. It also allows families to get help quicker, by starting the referral process online or by phone. If a child needs speech and language therapy, parents are directed to a program to support their family’s needs. Assessment, therapy, and parent education are just some of the services offered by First Words.
“Since being online, the number of families who have screened their child (compared to previous years) has doubled. Nearly 75-per-cent of children screened were referred for evaluation,” says Holmes. Screening is the first step in getting the help you need.
You can complete the First Words Communication Checkup by visiting Firstwords.ca/Communication-Checkup.
Parenting in Ottawa – where parents go to get in the know!
Want to learn more about your child’s speech and language development? Connect with an Ottawa Public Health nurse and other parents on the Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page. You can ask questions related to your child’s development, share ideas with other parents, and get connected with local health services. Nurses will often share tips to support your child’s speech and language development. You may even catch a speech language pathologist from First Words hosting a livestream chat session!
You can join the conversation by visiting Facebook.com/ParentinginOttawa.
The Ottawa Public Health Information Line is also a great way for parents to talk to a nurse about their child’s development, and get answers to their questions. You can speak with a nurse by calling 613-PARENTS [613-727-3687].
If you prefer to meet with a nurse in person, visit a Parenting in Ottawa Drop-in, where nurses offer growth and development assessments. Visit ParentinginOttawa.ca to find your nearest drop-in.
And remember …
You know your child best. “Quick access to speech and language services in the community is crucial. As a parent, trust yourself and seek out the information,” says Holmes. “If you’re worried, use the First Words Communication Checkup. It will either reassure you or give you the next steps.”