by Udita Saklani
A lot of mothers have a similar question regarding their toddlers’ speech disturbance. Here is how to investigate and manage the child who is slow to speak
As a child crosses various development milestones, there is a lot to monitor in terms of growth apart from the usual physical development as well. While most parents continue to concentrate on early childhood physical developments like fine motor skills, pincer grasp, holding and catching ability, they sometimes tend to miss a major milestone – speech development.
While most kids start speaking in well-formatted words when they reach three years of age, others can suffer from speech delays and disturbances. In as many as 90% of the cases, the speech disturbance goes to four-years-of-age, as children start going to school and start conversing more frequently with people around them at home and with other children at school.
Speech disturbance happens when a child is not able to form certain words or sounds properly, and hence faces difficulty in communication. People often confuse speech disturbance with understanding issues. But that is not the case. On the contrary, the child understands everything very clearly, it is just that he is not able to speak with the correct sound and enunciation, hence the communication is not very clear.
There are two major reasons as to why your child might not still be clearly speaking yet:
(i) Majority of the times it is just a delay in the speech, and the child learns how to talk on their own with time
(ii) Other times there might be a problem, which might require treatment and consultation from a Speech Language Pathologist.
It is important to understand that speech is just the acoustic or the sound of the language. It involves the movement of the oral articulators- the tongue and the lips. Thus, speech can be correctly referred to as the ‘Vocal Component’ of language. TCT highlights some of the most common speech disorders:
1. Struggling with Super Sounds:
When a child struggles with certain kinds of sounds or tends to replace one sound with another, then the correct speech production becomes strenuous. Many times children are still learning the correct usage of sounds in the formation of words and sentences, and hence this is a common thing which is observed in them during the initial years of growing up.
It is important to observe until what age the child continues to talk like that. If the developmental age is crossed, in which case, parents need to consider a Speech Therapist. One of the most common occurrences of this kind of disorder is called a ‘LISP’- here the child is not able to pronounce the sound of the alphabet ‘S’ and ‘Z’ correctly.
For e.g. Pronunciation of “wun” instead of “sun” or “doe” instead of “so.
A child’s formative years involves a lot of learning – which includes the addition of new words to his vocabulary, and the correct usage of words in the right places. A child may still go slow in sentence formation while conversing, but if there is regular hesitation, repetition, or frequent pauses at certain words, then it is referred to as stuttering.
Doctors are still not sure, as to what exactly leads to this kind of speech disturbance. But it is assumed that it happens when there is a lag between messages which are transmitted from the brain to the muscles and nerves which help in speech.
Just like articulation, stuttering also goes mostly by 4-5 years of age, but if it still persists and there are signs such as a change in facial expressions and muscles, then a speech-language therapy is recommended.
Apraxia is not a very common disorder, which is why most people fail to recognize its initial signs and symptoms. The brain and the nervous system work in coordination, and in apraxia, the brain is not able to communicate properly and instruct the muscles of the jaw and tongue whose movement decides the formation of words and sentences.
Giving stress at the wrong places in a word – for e.g. pronouncing BUH-nah-uh instead of buh-NAH-uh.
Vowel errors and distortion is also a common occurrence in Apraxia.
These are some of the most commonly occurring symptoms of speech disturbances in children. Thus, as a parent, it is important to take note of these. Early detection is always good, as it gives ample time for discussion of the apt treatment with a pediatrician or a Speech Language Specialist.
Here are some of the steps, which you can incorporate as a parent and help your child in overcoming speech difficulties:
- Being calm in such a situation is very important. In fact, it is the sole factor which will help your child feel comfortable in helping to counter speech disorders
- Patience is the key – Remember your child has been facing difficulties with words and sounds for a certain amount of time now. It is practically impossible for him to unlearn that in one day. Give them time and do not show any levels of impatience
- Avoid interruptions in between when your child is speaking. They can become conscious and hence might even refuse to co-operate during the speech sessions
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