BEST STARTS FOR KIDS
Is My Child Learning to Speak Normally?
Do you have a 2, 3 or 4 year old who is a late talker or not speaking at all?
There are many parents who worry if their children are learning to speak 'normally.'
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:
When should you, as a parent, be concerned if your child is not talking, or is not talking properly?
Most children learn to produce sounds in roughly the same order of difficulty
Talk to your child's face as much as possible so they learn pragmatic language
Repeat children's errors correctly, rather than draw attention to them. Being positive builds confidence
More difficult sounds are often easier to produce at the beginnings of words than at the ends or middle of words
Sound substitution can indicate an issue (read more below for norms)
If in doubt seek professional advice. Early interventions usually produce better long term outcomes
1. Learning to Make Sounds Correctly
Normal is a very big range and the following is a guide only. If you're concerned about a language delay or speech disorder seek professional advice.
Between the ages 1-2 years you'll likely begin to hear consonants like: m p b w n t d. (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: You may 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
Between 3 1/2 years to 4 1/2 years: children generally become 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 difficult 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)
Did you know that sounds at the beginning of a word are often easier for a child to make than in the middle or at the end of a word.
For example: If you're targeting a specific sound, e.g. '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
2. By repeating children's errors correctly, rather than drawing attention to them, you're likely to maintain their positive attitude towards speech.
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 specifically, 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.'
3. Be positive. Notice any improvement in speech and lay praise on thick whenever they get it right.
Remember you're trying to help your child have a positive attitude towards speaking and language in general.
Despite your best efforts however, there will be some children, that continue to have some difficulty with articulation, fluency & confidence. These children may benefit from a speech assessment. They may even need some intervention via a speech therapy program or home program.
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 language delay or speech disorder 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 much more difficult and they may learn more slowly.
If in doubt seek professional advice.
A child's ability to accurately hear & reproduce sounds accurately provides the foundation for future reading and writing. If your child isn't following norms, get professional advice. Early intervention usually results in better outcomes.
Some things that can indicate a speech disorder or language delay:
When more difficult sounds are accurately produced and simpler ones cannot be made, it can indicate a language delay, 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 soft sound substitution.
'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 speech is difficult for them.
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?
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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