Thousands of young children in Santa Cruz are heading back to school now after the holiday break. The new year can serve another marker to prompt us to pay attention to our students’ development and academic progress, where the ability to communicate ranks quite high on the list of skills need for classroom success. With 20 years of experience working in the field of communication disorders, I have seen the debilitating effects that these issues can have when left untreated. Too often, people of all ages struggle with these challenges and fail to seek proper, timely treatment because they cannot recognize the early warning signs. Early detection of speech, language and hearingissues is absolutely critical to improving academic, social and career outcomes. For people with communication disorders, those
closest to them are often their biggest asset. Unfortunately, many parents and caregivers are unable to identify theearly warning signs of these issues or dismiss them too readily. A recent poll of the speech-language pathologists and audiologists of the American Speech LanguageHearing Association(ASHA)—a professional association of which I am a member—reported significant parental delays in getting help for children with communication difficulties. To remedy that, ASHA has launched a national campaign, Identify The Signs. This multimedia effort addresses the importance of early detection, helps the public identify the early warning signs of communication disorders, and encourages people to seek the best professional help through a series of TV, radio, print and digital public service announcements and a media outreach push. I encourage you to visit www.IdentifyTheSigns.org for information and resources, and to share it in your community. Above all, though, I hope you will seek help if you suspect that you or a loved one shows signs of having a disorder. Every day, I see in my work that untreated, communication disorders often lead tolarger academic, social and developmental issues. Please visit ww.IdentifyTheSigns.organd learn more about the early signs of speech, language and hearing disorders. Early diagnosis is the most powerful way to reduce or even reverse their impact andcan give your loved ones the opportunity to lead the fullest lives possible.