The steps you should take if you suspect your child has a speech, language, hearing or listening problem depend on your child’s age. If you notice any hearing difficulty in a new born or infant, such as your child not startling or looking for a loud noise, or if your child failed Universal Hearing Screening at birth, have a hearing test performed immediately by a pediatric audiologist. A hearing test is the first evaluation that can be performed on an infant who may be exhibiting signs that listening will be a challenge in the future.  Your pediatrician, early intervention service provider (located through your local health department) or local school district can refer you to a qualified audiologist.

If hearing loss is ruled out your next step is to arrange a speech and language screening. If your child is under 3 years of age he or she is automatically eligible for a speech and language screening by your local early intervention services.  If the screening indicates that there may be a disability or a significant delay in speech and language (i.e., the ability to listen), your child will then qualify for a speech and language evaluation. Each state has different criteria for qualification for intervention services, type of services, and the frequency and length of time that services will be provided. The results and recommendations will be discussed with you by the service coordinator your state assigns.

If your child is 3 years of age or more your local school district is responsible for screening, evaluating, and providing speech, language and listening intervention. Your child must meet your district’s specific criteria and requirements to receive therapy and other special services. The specific department within your school district may be called “The Committee on Special Education” or the “Child Study Team” or “Pupil Personnel”. Contacting your school district office will lead you to the appropriate resources.

For children younger than 7, after hearing loss is ruled out, a speech and language pathologist can evaluate auditory skills and assess if auditory weakness is hindering or slowing your child’s development of speech , language, social and academic skills. If weakness is found, intervention can be initiated to strengthen areas of auditory weakness, even if your child is too young to be diagnosed with an APD.

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