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This is the second post in our UF Health Wildlight series. Throughout this series, we’ll be interviewing various UF Health professionals about services and wellness practices that can help our residents live their healthiest lives.

In our last UF Health Series blog post, we learned from Pediatric Physical Therapist Jessie Walczak about how the UF Health Rehabilitation – Wildlight team helps children move more confidently. Today, we’re introducing Ashley Parker, a pediatric speech-language pathologist whose focus is empowering children with speech delays to unlock their inner voice.

Does Your Child Need Speech Therapy?

Every night for the last three years, a local mom put her son to bed and said, “Love you, love you, love you.” He was old enough to speak, but wasn’t able to respond. After a month of speech therapy, he looked at his mom and said, “Love you, love you, love you” right back.

For Ashley Parker, a pediatric speech-language pathologist at UF Health Rehabilitation – Wildlight, stories such as these remind her that her career is more than science — it’s work that comes from the heart.

“When I hear things like that, not just as a therapist, but also as a mom, it keeps me going,” Parker said.

Parker works with children with speech difficulties. They might have trouble speaking, deciding which words to say or understanding the meaning of some words. Parker also helps children with feeding, swallowing and behavior difficulties.

One of the early signs of a speech disorder in children is not babbling by the time they are 6 months old. Examples of babble sounds are “bababa,” “ahhh,” “uhhh” and “ehhh.” By the time a baby is 12 to 13 months old, they should have at least one word they use consistently for an item, even if it isn’t the correct word, such as saying “baba” for bottle. They should also be able to understand a one-step direction and point to things they see or want.

By 18 months, toddlers should have a minimum of 10 words in their vocabulary, with the average child having around 50 words. Parents should look for their child to be learning new words consistently, both receptively and expressively, and talk to their pediatrician for a speech therapy referral if they have concerns about their child’s development.

Children 3 years and older should have appropriate speech articulation, or how well their words are understood. Some speech sound errors are age appropriate at age 3, like saying /w/ for /r/ as in “wace” for “race.” Consulting with a speech-language pathologist can give a parent a good idea of whether or not their child’s speech clarity is appropriate for their age.

In addition to speech therapy, UF Health Rehabilitation – Wildlight offers occupational and physical therapy. Many kids who have significant developmental delays benefit from two, and sometimes all three, disciplines. The specialists work together to give patients and families a customized treatment plan to help meet their needs.

To learn more about pediatric physical therapy services at UF Health Rehabilitation–Wildlight, please visit their website at wildlight.ufhealthjax.org or call 904.427.8300.

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