Health Alert: Getting therapy for childhood speech disorders

NATIONAL - Every parent looks forward to the day they'll hear their baby's first words, but what if they wait more than two years? That could be the sign of a serious speech disorder.

Brooks Countess, 10, has had to work harder than most kids to communicate. He didn't start talking naturally, the way his big brother did.

"We really took notice when he was about two-years-old, when he just wasn't coming up with any words. It just was a lot of baby nonsense talk," says his father, Jeff Countess.

Brooks has childhood apraxia of speech. That means, for some unknown reason, when the brain tries to tell the speaking muscles what to do, the message doesn't get through. "So, it's difficult for the child to know where to position the muscles and then once they make a sound, how to put that sound with other sounds to form syllables and words," says speech pathologist David Hammer.

As a toddler, Brooks began working with a speech therapist with lots of support from mom and dad. "They require repetition after repetition of these words and sequences for it to get established in their brain, the speech motor patterns," says Hammer.

Hammer never worked with Brooks, but says early intervention can make a big difference. "Children can make remarkable progress with intensive, early therapy."

"He got better as the years went on to the point now where, from a language perspective, he's virtually like everybody else," says his father. Brooks' new challenge is learning to read. Still, there's little doubt, just as he conquered the language battle, he'll win the reading war.

It's important to note that every child is different and some children are just "late talkers." That means they'll start to speak somewhat later than their peers.

But experts say babies should say their first words between 12 and 15 months. And by age two, they should be using word combinations with a vocabulary of 200 words. If you suspect a problem, then have your child tested.

Posted by Chantelle Janelle