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Q – My child has a difficult time expressing his/herself using words. His/her speech is delayed compared to his/her peers, but does this mean that s/he has a speech disorder or is my child just slow in his/her speech development?

A – Speech disorders are defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as an impairment in the ability to send, receive, process and comprehend verbal, non-verbal and graphic symbol systems.

The ability to communicate in the education setting is essential for a child to access and succeed in school. In order for speech disorder to be considered a learning disability, it must demonstrate an adverse effect on the child's educational performance.


Children ages 0-3 – Early Intervention Services

Early intervention services are available for children ages 0-3 with communication or swallowing disorders or delays. IDEA states that early intervention services are mandated and are designed to meet the developmental needs of an infant or toddler with a special disorder in one or more of the following areas – physical, cognitive, communicative, emotional or adaptive.

Parents and medical practitioners use the speech and language milestones as guidelines to determine whether the child has a speech disorder. This milestone guideline can be found in

If you feel your child has a communication disorder or delay, as an attorney, I can assist parents request for further evaluation with your county regional center in order to determine if early intervention services are appropriate for your child.

K-12 Public School Students

If you feel that your child's speech is hindering his/her learning abilities, for example, because s/he stutters, or has a difficult time expressing his feelings, you need to request for a speech and language assessment in writing to the school. Then a speech and language pathologist will evaluate your child's overall communication skills. If the results indicate that your child is eligible for special education for speech and language therapy, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will take place and it will lay out the therapy plan for your child.

Just because a child's speech is delayed compared to his/her peers doesn't automatically mean that s/he has a speech disorder. Each individual child is unique, and they learn, speak and play at different levels. However, if you feel that his/her speech delay can possibly be a speech disorder, I can assist parents request for a comprehensive educational assessment to determine whether the child needs speech therapy services.

The contents of this article are intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice or opinions. The contents of this article, and the posting and viewing of the information on this article, should not be construed as, and should not be relied upon for, legal advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation, as there is no attorney-client relationship.