First Words Ottawa and Renfrew County Preschool Speech and Language Program
About 1 in 10 children are at risk of a speech and/or language delay.
First Words Ottawa and Renfrew County is a free speech and language program for available to children from birth until Senior Kindergarten (SK).
Visit our full website at www.firstwords.ca to find information about our services, speech and language milestones, and our many resources.
Children Talk by 2 & Beyond!
Children want to communicate with the world around them. Getting help early on is important for the development of speech, language and communication skills needed to start school.
What we offer:
- Information, resources, and webinars on preschool speech and language development
- The First Words Communication Checkup online screening where you can check your child’s global development and get recommendations of where to go for help, if needed
- Speech-language assessment and therapy services for children 0-5 years of age
- Education, workshops and training for parents, health care providers and professionals in Early Learning and Care
- Participation in community events and various media (television, Facebook, etc.)
Our services are available in English and French. Services may also available in other languages through a cultural interpreter.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I find more information about my child’s speech and language development?
- Visit our website to find information on milestones, strategies to help communication development, learning more than one language, webinars and more.
- Call 613-PARENTS (613-580-6744) to have an Ottawa Public Health nurse answer questions about your child's development.
What should I do if I am worried that my child is not talking enough?
- Complete the First Words Communication Checkup online screening (optional)
- Confidential screening takes 15-30 minutes to complete with quick results and next steps specific to your child’s development and needs. You can also start your referral to our services.
- You can refer to the Communication Milestones listed on our website.
- Call the CHEO Access Team at 613-737-2757 to refer your child to our services. You do not need a referral from a doctor/primary health care provider.
How long will it take to get an appointment?
Our wait times vary but most children receive an assessment within six months. We will discuss your child's next steps with our program at the end of your child’s assessment.
Can I use a private speech-language pathologist while I wait for First Words services?
Yes! We offer a Private Practice list on our website. Make sure that your choice is a good fit for your family and that they are willing to work with our program.
Can I use First Words services if I don’t live in Ottawa?
First Words services are offered to families living in Ottawa and Renfrew County.
- Families living in other areas in Ontario can contact their local Preschool Speech and Language program to access services in their region.
- Families living in Québec must contact the Centre intégré de santé et des services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSS) to access preschool speech and language services.
I have moved. How do I update my information, change or cancel my appointment?
Please contact the First Words Intake Team at 613-737-7600 x2500.
CHEO Access Team - 613-737-2757
- A referral from a doctor is not needed to refer a child for a speech-language assessment.
- Parents can refer by using the First Words Communication Checkup online screening tool.
Contact the First Words Intake Office at 613-737-7600 x2500 to:
- Update your child’s personal information in our file
- Reschedule or cancel an appointment
- Check the status of your referral with First Words
Contact Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 or 613-PARENTS to:
- Discuss any questions about your child’s development with a Public Health Nurse
- Ask questions about First Words services.
- Choose from 176 available languages
First Words Ottawa - Health Promotion - 613-688-3979
- Service providers can request:
- Workshops and playgroup visits to support parents in their programs
- Staff training on preschool speech and language development and strategies to support communication
- First Words Health Promotion at your event
- Technical support for the First Words Communication Checkup
First Words Ottawa and Renfrew County Preschool Speech and Language Program
Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre
1365 Richmond Road, 2nd Floor
Ottawa, ON K2B 6R7
First Words Success Story
Her Silent Son
“From the very beginning, he was silent. He didn’t make any noises,” said Katie Clarke about her son, Cameron. “At six months he wasn’t babbling. At 12 months I brought it up to our family doctor.”
The doctor was on the fence about whether there was an issue. Katie felt sure. She spoke with a friend who is a speech-language pathologist. The friend validated Katie’s concerns. Katie then contacted First Words.
A parent or caregiver completes the First Words screening on-line and does not need a medical professional’s referral. “There are no hoops,” said Katie. “You can go on-line and self-refer.”
Within 2-3 months Katie received a phone call confirming their application had been received. Six months later they started the First Words program.
It wasn’t quite what Katie had expected. The first intervention program was for parents and it was in the evening. She’d expected the program to be engaging with Cameron from the start. Instead, Katie learned strategies for teaching and speaking with Cameron herself. Part-way through, as she was using the techniques at home, Cameron's language started improving. “They were teaching me the strategies to use in Cameron’s comfort zone,” said Katie.
On playdates, Cameron’s friends were speaking in short sentences, but he was still using sign language and gestures because he wasn’t yet speaking.
“It was really hard in the beginning,” said Katie. “I spent a lot of time wondering, ‘What did I do? Did I cause this?’ I had a hard time for a long time.”
Ongoing evaluations showed that Cameron understood what was being said, but wasn’t speaking. Toddler Talk was the next recommended therapy—a parent and child play-based program. A speech-language pathologist and communicative disorders assistant were on the floor, fully immersed in working with Cameron and Katie, as they interacted in play and routine-based activities together. Cameron then progressed to individual sessions.
It worked. “When we started all this, there was nothing. He didn’t make babbles, let alone words. We learned he had a language delay. But now, two years later, he’s three years old and making full sentences. He no longer has a language delay.”
With his language now in place, developing his speech comes next. “Things are not always clear when he speaks,” said Katie.
Cameron starts Kindergarten in September and will turn four in November.
“Sylvie, our speech-language pathologist, has helped me feel that it’s going to be ok. Cameron has improved so much. With some support, he is going to be ok.”
Katie is grateful to the staff who are “Wonderful, all of them. Amazing, encouraging, supportive. And reassuring.” She appreciates how they interact with Cameron and also how supported she feels as a parent.
Katie encourages parents to reach out to First Words if they have concerns about their child’s language development. Instead of wondering if their child will or won’t just grow out of it, go ahead and apply to First Words.
The earlier, the better, but it's also never too late.
Call: 613-737-7600 ext. 2500