What is the percentage of kids with speech or language problems? (Question asked by Heather H, mom of a 3 year old boy)

Heather recently took her son to the pediatrician for a routine check up. Prior to the visit, Heather suspected that her son’s speech and language skills were behind his peer group. During the examination, she shared her concerns with the pediatrician.

The pediatrician listened intently and went through a top line screening. After the evaluation, the pediatrician shared the mother’s concerns and suggested that her son get evaluated by a speech language pathologist. Despite Heather’s previous suspicions, she did not expect that answer and was not prepared to ask questions. When Heather got in the car, a flood of questions came to her.

Heather first turned to her friends. She was surprised to learn that her son is not alone. Almost all of her friends knew at least one kid who had some speech issues. Some of her friends had their own kid’s who had to deal with issues.

When Heather came to our office for an evaluation one of the questions she asked was, “What is the percentage of kids who have speech and or language problems?”

The answer is somewhere between 5% to 8% of kids have speech or language problems. There is a range because not all issues get diagnosed or documented.

We applaud Heather for asking the questions and the pediatrician for doing an evaluation and making an immediate referral. Many parents fail to see the signs or ask the right questions. They hope that their kid will outgrow the issue. And according to Pedstest.com, 70% of kids with development, behavioral and social-emotional issues get to school age before the issues are identified despite routine checkups with pediatricians. Furthermore, speech and language issues are not easy to identify, so many pediatricians use the “wait and see” approach.

According to the statistics, the “wait and see” approach works 92% to 95% of the time. The issue is with the 5% to 8% who would benefit greatly from early intervention because the consequences of untreated speech or language problems can be significant. Speech and Language deficiencies can lead to long term behavioral challenges, reading difficulties, self esteem issues and academic problems.

If you have concerns, do what Heather did, ask your pediatrician. If your pediatrician takes a wait and see approach, call a certified speech and language pathologist and schedule an evaluation. In most cases, you do not need a doctor’s referral to see a speech and language specialist.

Pamela Drennen


Director of Clinical Services