Red Flags

Know the signs! Act early!

The first months and years of life are crucial to a child’s speech and language development. Physicians and other health professionals must be watchful for the red flags that indicate communication issues. If caught early enough, our services can make a huge difference in the child’s life.

Children from 0 to eligibility for Senior Kindergarten who may be experiencing a speech and/or language delay should be referred to First Words for immediate screening. For information on our Communication Checkup online screening tool and direct referrals, click here.

Children in this age range experiencing a speech and/or language delay as well as developmental concerns (i.e. play, socializing, motor skills) should be directed to the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre (OCTC) by calling 613-737-0871  ext. 4425 or fax a request to 613-738-4841 or download and complete the OCTC Intake Referral Form.

Refer families to First Words or Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre services for their child if:

  • Parents  have concerns regarding their child’s speech and language development
  • A child does not meet communicaton milestones
  • A child shows a high-risk indicator/a red flag

If a child presents with one or more of these red flags at any age, REFER IMMEDIATELY:

  • Lack or limited eye gaze with others
  • Lack of shared interest and enjoyment in others
  • Lack of response to sounds and/or name
  • Lack of showing or pointing gestures
  • Limited number of communicative gestures
  • Has been stuttering for more than 6 months
  • Has repeated ear infections
  • Limited play skills and/or pretend play
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Is difficult to understand
  • Acts frustrated when trying to communicate
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing food
  • Voice problems (rough or raspy voice; too much air coming out of nose)
  • Repetitive use of objects or body movements
  • ANY loss of LANGUAGE and/or SOCIAL SKILLS at ANY age.

A SINGLE red flag or “NO” response on the First Words communication milestones tool should trigger a referral to First Words or other community agencies as these milestones are set AFTER the time of normal milestone acquisition. Absence of any item is considered a high-risk indicator indicating further assessment is required.  These norms are designed to directly address the “wait and see approach.”

red flags speech development guide ottawa cover

For a more detailed guide to developmental red flags for early child educators, check out Red Flags – A Quick Reference Guide for Early Years Professionals in Ottawa.