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Know about the early signs of speech and hearing issues in children

An Apeejay Panchsheel Park alumna, who is a speech pathologist and audiologist, talks about some of the commonly seen hearing and speech problems

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Speech pathologist and audiologist Sunita Minocha has been treating patients for over three decades now. At one point, the Apeejay Panchsheel Park alumna also worked on Apeejay founder Dr Stya Paul’s vocal cord after he lost his speech. Minocha believes that while the awareness about speech and hearing issues has improved over time, parents need to be a lot more cautious and open to addressing these problems early on. Read on to know more:

Sunita Minocha

What are the early signs in children that parents should watch out for?

The first prerequisite is that the child has to look at you. Before speech comes their ability to communicate for which eye contact is important, something that babies are geared for. Social smile and eye contact are their way of communication, and these are the signs that parents need to look out for. Other signs include unusual crankiness, and not attending to any stimuli for a long duration. If parents notice these signs, there is some reason to worry. 

Normally, children learn to speak some meaningful words by the age of one; by two years of age, they are able to join two words or make small sentences.

More importantly, I think the parenting style needs to change. I always tell parents that they need therapy more than their child. You have to let your child be without burdening them with unrealistic expectations.

What are some of the most common speech/hearing issues?

Presently, we most commonly see speech issues in people who are autistic. There are also a lot more cases of attention deficit disorder (ADD) as well, apart from the more common issues like delayed speech, stuttering, etc.

But is there a certain shame attached to speech issues in children?

Absolutely! The battle of acceptance is a huge one and takes a long time. Some of them are fighting it forever.

Would you say the awareness among people has somewhat increased?

The situation has improved a lot more today from the time I started my career in 1985. One of the reasons is that family sizes have become very small which helps parents focus a lot more on their child and their requirements. Earlier, people would have three-four kids, so the attention was not that centered.

Do we have enough professionals today in India to look into speech and hearing issues?

When I pursued my degree, there was only one institute in the country which was the All India Institute of Speech and Hearing in Mysore. There were only 20 people for the first three years of the course and only 10 of them qualified for the next two years of the course. While the numbers were low, the quality of people who came out was extremely good. Today, a lot more institutes have mushroomed. So, yes, the number of professionals has relatively increased, but the quality has decreased.

According to you, how would the situation improve?

I think people’s awareness is the key. When you go to a professional, you need to ask for their qualification. Parents should be more aware.

What memories do you have of Apeejay Panchsheel Park?

Those were the best years of my life. I studied there between 1977-82. I was part of the school’s first batch in class 10. I remember the school’s beautiful and sprawling playground. I was the Games captain throughout. Our physical training teacher was very good. With great staff and students, it was a lovely place to be in. Dr Stya Paul was also my patient at one point in time when he lost his voice. Overall, I had a lovely journey at Apeejay. 

Disha Roy Choudhury is a Senior Correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. She has worked as a journalist at different media organisations. She is also passionate about music and has participated in reality shows.

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