Below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions.
- My 3-year-old is stuttering. What should I do?
- Many people cannot understand our 5-year-old son. We can understand him because we have become accustomed to how he speaks but family and friends cannot. Should we be intervening?
- We are a little concerned that our 2 ½-year-old is not speaking. We think it’s because her older brothers and sisters are speaking for her. Is this correct?
- My child has difficulty concentrating in a noisy classroom. In addition, he has some difficulty expressing himself when speaking and is falling behind his peers with his school work. What is the best approach to helping him?
Stuttering is common in young children, and the onset typically occurs when children are starting to put words together in short sentences. The stuttering may be mild or severe. The onset may be gradual or sudden.
Some children recover naturally from stuttering, but currently, it cannot be predicted whether a child will recover naturally or will require treatment. It is important to begin treatment of stuttering within 12 months of onset of stuttering, with research indicating that few children will have recovered without treatment by then.
If your three years old is stuttering, and you are concerned, a speech pathology assessment will help to decide whether it is appropriate to begin treatment. A treatment program called the Lidcombe Program is used. This program has been shown by research to be highly effective in the treatment of early childhood stuttering.
Information is taken from the University of Sydney Australian Stuttering Research Centre http://sydney.edu.au/health_sciences/asrc/what_is/index.shtml
The ability to say different sounds correctly develops with age. The following link provides information on the approximate age of sound development in children: ARTICULATION–CONSONANT SOUND DEVELOPMENT
Caroline Bowen, an expert in the field of phonological intervention provides invaluable information on her website on speech development and intervention (http://speech-language-therapy.com). In terms of how well words can be understood by parents and strangers, she states that by:
- 3 years of age a child’s speech is normally 75 – 100% intelligible to parents.
- 4 years of age a child’s speech is normally 100% intelligible to strangers.
Starting school is a critical time for children in both their social development and as they enter a more formal learning environment. If a child is difficult to understand or is having difficulty pronouncing sounds when he starts school this can have an impact on his ability to relate to others, to express his needs and to contribute in group situations. Research studies (for example Nathan et al., 2004; Harrison et al., 2009) have also identified that some children with speech sound disorders may be at greater risk of developing literacy difficulties at school.
Harrison et al., 2009 collected data from 3632 children as part of a ‘ Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC)’ and found that children identified with speech and language impairment at age 4-5 years are at greater risk of poorer achievement in literacy and numeracy and adjustment in their early years of school.
Whilst your child’s speech may develop with age, it is important to see a speech pathologist for assessment and advice. A speech pathologist will assess your child’s speech sound production. Recommendations will be based on the age appropriateness of his speech sound errors, intelligibility and other issues, for example; how easy it is to stimulate the correct sound. Because of the close links between speech sound errors and children’s developing sound awareness an assessment of his phonological (sound) awareness skills may also be recommended. Make sure your child has had a hearing assessment, especially if there is a history of recurrent ear infections.
There may be many reasons why a child is not using language to communicate. Older children can certainly talk for a younger child, which means that the younger child has no need to communicate using language. However there may be other things going on for your child, so it is advisable to seek professional help from a Speech Pathologist.
At the Speech Pathology initial consultation, the therapist will observe several things:
- How your child reacts to being in a new environment – whether he/she is very shy and just wants to sit on mum’s knee or have a cuddle and not look at the therapist, or whether he/she is happy to play and interact with the therapist.
- How the child plays with the toys – is he/she pointing and looking at mum to communicate; is he/she engaged with the toys; how long does the child play with the toys before needing to find something else to play with.
- How your child communicates – by using some single words or gestures or vocalisations (babbling/open vowels)
- How you interact with your child – the length of sentences you use when talking to your child; how fast/slow you talk.
These things give us some insight into how and why your child communicates with others. The Speech Pathologist will also ask you some questions about your child’s understanding and expression of language. This enables the therapist to see whether there are any gaps in the child’s development of language, as well as assessing which level of communication your child is functioning.
Then the Speech Pathologist will suggest some ways to encourage your child use words to communicate:
- Observe what your child is interested in and label the word. Try to say this word clearly at least 3 times to allow your child to hear, understand and perhaps repeat the word.
- Reduce the amount you are saying – if your child is not using single words, then they need to hear single words to help them learn. If you say a 5-word sentence it is hard to make out each individual word in order to learn them.
- Be face-to-face with your child – that way they can see you are interested and can really look at how you produce the words.
- Have fun together and enjoy communicating with each other. Often families are so concerned that their child is not talking, that they put more pressure on the child to talk and that takes the enjoyment out of interacting. Focus on playing and having fun!
4. My child has difficulty concentrating in a noisy classroom. In addition, he has some difficulty expressing himself when speaking and is falling behind his peers with his school work. What is the best approach to helping him?
The first step is to chat with your son’s class teacher to find out more about his learning in the classroom. If you have not had his hearing checked then this would be highly recommended to identify if he has any difficulty with his a hearing. Some children have normal hearing acuity but have difficulty hearing, for example when there is background noise such as the chatter of children doing group work. This may be due to a difficulty interpreting auditory information. An assessment by an educational audiologist will determine whether your child has auditory processing issues.
A speech pathology assessment is also recommended to identify whether your child is having difficulty with his listening comprehension or expressive oral language skills. An underlying language impairment can affect children’s ability to follow instructions in the classroom, understand what the teacher is saying, comprehend vocabulary at an age-appropriate level and follow general discussions in the classroom. An expressive language difficulty can contribute to children’s ability to express themselves clearly, sequence ideas both in talking and in their writing, find the right words to use in conversation and in their descriptive writing. Oral Language difficulties can have a significant impact on children’s overall learning and development of literacy skills.
A speech pathologist can work with your child to develop his listening and speaking skills and establish links between his oral language development and the learning difficulties he is experiencing in the classroom. It is important that clear goals are established in liaison with parents, teachers and other professionals involved to ensure that any support provided is targeted and integrated into an overall educational plan to support your child’s ongoing learning and development.