My child is not talking … should I be concerned?

By Roxane Bélanger, M.O.A., SLP-C, Reg. CALSPO Speech Language Pathologist, First Words Preschool Speech and Language Program of Ottawa and Renfrew County October 13, 2022

My child is not talking … should I be concerned?

By Roxane Bélanger, M.O.A., SLP-C, Reg. CALSPO
Speech Language Pathologist, First Words Preschool Speech and Language Program of Ottawa and Renfrew County

First Words Preschool Speech and Language Program

As a parent, you may find yourself asking questions related to your child’s speech development. For example: “My child is not talking… should I be concerned?” “How many words should my child know by now?” and “Where can I get help?” Luckily, First Words and Ottawa Public Health are here to help!

Know the Signs. Get Help Early

Give your child the best start in life by knowing the signs of a speech and language delay and by getting help early. “Up to 10-12% of Canadian children have speech and language problems. Language skills predict a child’s later success at school and in life. When it comes to language, earlier is better,” says Marika Holmes, manager and speech language pathologist for the First Words program. Parents, families, childcare providers and educators can find much information on the First Word website to help them identify any cause for concern.

The First Words Communication Checkup

The First Words Communication Checkup is an online screening tool for children aged 6 months to 5 years living in the city of Ottawa. You can use it to check your child’s speech, language, social communication, and fine and gross motor skills. And the best part is, it’s free!

In just 15-20 minutes, the First Words Communication Checkup (FWCCU) provides instant results and the next steps for the family and their child. The FWCCU immediately connects families to the most suitable agency to support their child’s developmental needs. The FWCCU also allows families to get help quicker, by completing the referral process online or by phone. If a child needs speech and language therapy, parents are directed to the program to best support their family’s needs. Assessment, therapy, and parent education are just some of the services offered by First Words.

“Since being online, the number of families who have screened their child (compared to previous years) has soared. In the last year, nearly 91% of children referred to our program came through the FWCCU screening,” says Holmes. Screening is the first step for families to get a quick insight into their child’s communication skills and the next steps. The is easily completed at your convenience.

Where Parents go to get in the Know!

Want to learn more about your child’s speech and language development? There are many things you can do as parents to further their knowledge and reduce any concerns.

  • Review the communication milestones on the First Words website. Access the Speech and Language Milestones to see how a child is doing.
  • Complete our First Words Communication Checkup, our online screening tool. When you use the First Words Communication Checkup, you get immediate results. If you need services, you can complete the referral online in one single visit. It’s easy to use and free.
  • The Ottawa Public Health Information Line is also a great way for parents to talk to a nurse about their child’s development, and get answers to their questions. You can speak with a nurse by calling 613-PARENTS.
  • If you prefer to meet with a nurse in person, visit a Parenting in Ottawa Drop-in, where nurses offer growth and development assessments. Visit to find additional information or join the
  • Sign-up for interesting Instagram accounts: @firstwords.psl, @parentinginottawa @inclusionottawa for more information about services and get tips to support a child’s communication and overall development.
  • You can also consult the Looksee Checklist by ndds. The LookSee Checklist is a quick checklist is a 'developmental checklist' that can help assess your child's progress. This tool looks at the key skills most children should master at a specific age (from 1 month to 6 years of age). It will help to determine if there are any areas where your child might need extra help.

And remember …You know your child best. “As a parent, trust yourself and seek out the information,” says Holmes. “If you’re worried, use the First Words Communication Checkup. It will either reassure you or give you the next steps.”

Learn more:

Recognizing speech and language problems early on is the best approach! Check out our First Words Communication Checkup tool to know if your child is meeting communication milestones. Refer online if necessary. For more information, visit or call Ottawa Public Health at (613) PARENTS.