Cameron’s First Words

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 May 15, 2024

When Emily’s son Cameron reached eighteen months of age, he had not said his first word. At that age, the recommended milestone is twenty words. Concerned that there might be a communication difficulty, Emily brought him to their family doctor. The doctor recommended First Words, the Preschool Speech and Language Program of Ottawa and Renfrew County.

The First Words program offers free and bilingual services to families of preschool children (from birth to entry to junior kindergarten) in Ottawa and Renfrew County. First Words also offers services in other languages through interpreters.

Families can access the First Words program with the online screening and intake tool called the First Words Communication Checkup (FWCCU). After completing the FWCCU, parents get instant results and know if they need to refer.

Families can then refer online via the FWCCU to access speech and language pathology services. First Words has an integrated partnership with CHEO for clinical services but offers services in six community sites, including CHEO. The Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre is the lead agency for the First Words program.

For Cameron’s family, intervention started right with the initial assessment. The Speech Language Pathologist provided the family strategies to help him develop communication. Thus began Cameron’s journey to learn how to make new sounds, use them in words and be understood more easily.

Through his experience, Cameron and his family learned that he was presenting with many characteristics of Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS), a motor-speech disorder. Knowing the name of Cameron’s difficulty made a world of difference for his family. “It helped us understand what the troubles were and how to support him. The First Words report was super helpful for us to give to the school to help support him,” Emily said.

First Words also played an essential role in connecting Emily and Cameron to different hospital and school-based services across Ottawa. For example, they accessed Audiology at CHEO and discovered some wax buildup, affecting Cameron’s hearing.

Cameron has since become more confident and his vocabulary has grown significantly. He recently started senior kindergarten and is thriving with his friends. “I would never have known where to start or how to help without the support of First Words,” praises Emily. “They showed us what we needed to do and how to support him with lots of online resources.”

Recognizing speech and language problems early on is the best approach! Use the First Words Communication Checkup tool to know if your child is meeting communication milestones. Refer online if necessary. For more information, visit the First Words website or call the Access Team at CHEO: 613-737-2757  

Learn more:

  • Visit the First Words website at
  • Follow us on Instagram at @firstwords_psl
  • If you are concerned about your child's communication development, complete our First Words Communication Checkup online screening tool. It is free, quick and easy to use. You can screen, get results and refer if needed in one single activity.
  • Call the Ottawa Public Health Information Line at (613) 580-6744.