WGMC holds free children’s speech, hearing screenings
LaGRANGE — The Speech Pathology Department at WellStar West Georgia Medical Center will offer free children’s speech and hearing screenings during May.
“Many times parents or other caregivers may not be sure if their child has a speech-language delay,” said Mark McCloud, a certified speech-language pathologist and manager of the Speech Pathology Department. “And if their child does have a delay, they aren’t sure where to turn to begin therapy or at what age they should start.
“May is Better Speech and Hearing Month, so we felt it was a natural time to give parents the opportunity to have a free professional screening and give them a ‘roadmap’ of sorts of what to do next if their child needs a little extra help.”
WellStar West Georgia Medical Center’s speech pathologists help infants, toddlers, preschoolers and school-age children work through speech-language disorders and delays, including articulation — pronunciation problems — voice, language, stuttering and other communicative problems that may originate from mental disabilities, hearing loss, cerebral palsy or cleft palate. McCloud also works with children who have autism to help them learn strategies for communicating more effectively.
McCloud has been a speech pathologist at the hospital for more than 31 years and said he knows how important it is for children’s wellbeing to express their needs or emotions in a way that can be understood by those around them.
“It’s very important to work with children early if they have a speech-language issue,” he said. “If it’s detected when they’re young, many problems can be partially or completely resolved before a child reaches kindergarten age, potentially eliminating the need for long-term therapy during crucial development years.”
Not addressing speech-language problems early can lead to issues with a child’s normal learning, psychological development and social development.
“Many parents sometimes will ‘wait it out’ until around age 3 and see if the issue will resolve by itself,” McCloud said. “But a child may have a problem if at age 2, he hasn’t begun combining words into sentences or is difficult to understand at the age of 3. It’s better to try to resolve it earlier than later.”
Parents can usually tell if their child is delayed by comparing their child to same-age peers, he said.
“If there’s a big difference in language behavior, it’s best for a parent to start taking steps early to diagnose and treat the problem.”
Appointments are required for the free screenings, which will be available on Mondays through Thursdays during May. The free appointments can be made by calling 706-845-3862. Each appointment will last 5 to 10 minutes per child.
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