BEST STARTS FOR KIDS
Is My Child Learning to Speak Normally?
1. Learning to Make Sounds Correctly
Did you know most children learn to produce sounds in roughly the same order of difficulty?
There are many, many parents who wonder if their children are learning to speak 'normally.'
Over my many years of working with children, concerns over speech proved to be the most common one followed closely by behavioural issues.
After working with many different speech therapists over years, I've included some of the information I've learnt below, which may be useful to you:
And if you have any concerns, about if your child's speech is developing normally, the following information may help.
Normal is a very big range and the following is a guide only.
Between the ages 1-2 years you'll begin to hear consonants like: m p b w n t d. These are relatively easy for your child to see you produce and reproduce themselves. M p b w are especially easy to show with your lips. You may even hear these sounds earlier in cooing and babbling.
Between 2- 2 1/2 years: children will continue to develop their abilities but are still relatively limited in the sounds they can accurately produce. You will often hear sound substitutions around this age. Note the inclusion of the softer sounds (k & g) : m p b w n t d h ng k g
Between 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years: in addition to k and g being used you would expect the inclusions of (s & l) to begin to appear: m p b w n t d h ng k g f y s l
Did you know that sounds at the beginning of a word are often easier to make than in the middle or at the end of a word.
For example: If you're targeting a specific sound, say 's' start with 's' at the beginnings of words: e.g. sat, set, sit, sand, salt, etc. When they can do that you could progress to the endings of words: e.g. fuss, bus, class, bass, hiss, etc. Then last of all 's' in the middle of words: e.g.bossy, fussy, classy, messy, etc
Between 3 1/2 years to 4 1/2 years: children became capable of making most simple sounds and use less sound substitutions:
m p b w n t d h ng k g f v y s z l r ch j
Over 4 1/2 years: most children can produce most sounds although 'th' can prove slow for many:
m p b w n t d ng k g f v y s z l r ch j sh zh (as in leisure) th (as in thick) and th as in (the)
This simple check list gives you a guide only of what this sound development might look like in practice, and some indication of if there's a problem.
2. By repeating children's errors correctly, rather than drawing attention to them, you're likely to maintain a positive attitude towards speech.
3. Be positive. Notice any improvement and lay praise on thick whenever they get it right.
Remember you're trying to help your child have a positive attitude towards speaking.
Despite your best efforts however, there are some children, that continue to have some difficulty with articulation and may benefit from a speech assessment. They may even need some intervention via a speech therapy programme or home programme.
From my perspective, because language is the foundation for future speaking, reading and writing, I'm inclined to err on the side of caution rather than let a potential problem persist, until a child enters kindergarten. Because at that point children will be learning to read, learning to speak correctly at the same time may make reading more difficult and they may learn more slowly.
Most children develop their speech over time if they're regularly spoken with and encouraged.
By repeating children's errors correctly, rather than drawing attention to them, you're likely to help them develop a positive attitude towards speech.
'I wanna doody,' you could translate to 'You want a cookie.'
By repeating it correctly, emphasising the correct sound, you're providing a positive model on how to produce the sounds accurately.
'You want a cookie? Well you know cookies are for after lunch. How about we see if your brother might like a cookie after lunch too.'
If in doubt seek professional advice.
Some things to consider when identifying speech concerns:
When more difficult sounds are accurately produced and simpler ones cannot be made, it can indicate an issue, especially if your child is older. You might for example see 't' or 'd' used as a substitute for the softer sounds 'k' and 'g' as illustrated above. If your child has had a history of ear infections, they may benefit from investigating their level of hearing, as they may not be hearing these softer sounds.
Similarly they may substitute vowels 'e' or 'a' for 'i,' or vice versa. If this sounds like your child, I'd discuss this with my doctor to see if it's possible to get a hearing check. Low level hearing is the first thing to eliminate, as a possible cause of sound substitution.
4. Make sure your child has the opportunity to see your face when you speak whenever possible. In addition to encouraging positive social interaction, it allows your child to see how sounds are produced.
How many of your interactions are with your child seeing the back, or side, of your head: driving the car, cleaning up dishes, washing up, etc?
'S' and 'l' can be particularly difficult for some children, and your child may need some intervention to produce these sounds. A simple speech assessment, followed up with therapy or a home programme, if deemed necessary, can help solve these issues. Therapists should also quickly spot any physical component causing the issue, such as being tongue tied for example.
If your child has a general reluctance to speak, or lacks confidence with speaking, trying to improve specific sounds may not be a positive step. If you're concerned, seek professional advice, either by consulting a reputable doctor, a local health centre, or a reputable speech therapist, and discuss any issues somewhere the child can't hear you. Your child doesn't need it reinforced they have a problem. It's likely they're well aware speaking is difficult for them.
5. Children tend to believe what they're told so be positive.
Making excuses for your child by giving them a label such as being 'shy,' may be doing them a disservice.
This 'life script' can continue and become part of the way they see themselves.
Inspire hope: 'When you were little you used to be a bit shy but now you're big. And I can help you...'
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