Baby talk, speech delays, therapy, stuttering… moms and dads can worry themselves into a tizzy when it come to language development in their kids.
Lucky for you we were able to interview a local expert to ask some questions many parents have about language and speech development. Traci Ingram is a speech-language pathologist and the owner of Effective Communication, Inc. Traci has over 15 years of speech therapy experience. She is skilled in both evaluating and treating adults with voice disorders, swallowing difficulties, traumatic brain injuries, aphasia, and apraxia. Over the years, she has also become an expert at treating preschool and early elementary school children with childhood apraxia of speech, autism and language processing disorders.
Is My Child Shy or Is There a Problem?
My almost 3-year old is very quiet and, when he does talk, we have difficulty understanding him. I know I shouldn’t compare, but when we are playing on the playground, I hear his peers talking so much more. He seems very smart and is able to do everything I ask him to do. His understanding doesn’t seem to be a problem. Do you think it’s his personality or should I be concerned?
Personality could be a factor in your child’s communication, though the quietness may be a symptom of a struggle to communicate. The fact that you have difficulty understanding him is an additional red flag. Typically by 24-36 months of age, a child is understood by family and friends in most situations. At that age, a child often has a word for almost everything. Your child should have a vocabulary of 300+ words and use 2-3 words to talk about and ask for things. Around 30 months, you ordinarily see a language explosion with a child’s vocabulary increasing by as many as 2 words per day.
It is a comforting to know that your child seems to understand what is spoken to him and that he follows through when you ask him to do something. A child his age should follow 2 step directions, and even understand differences in meanings of words, such as in/out, go/stop, up/down, and big/little.
You might consider having a Speech Language Pathologist take a look at your child. You might also consider having his hearing tested to rule out any hearing issues. This is a critical point in your child’s speech and language development. If there are problems, it is always best to target them early. Keep in mind that certain sound errors are developmentally appropriate and personality can play a big part in a child communicating, especially in new and overwhelming situations. These are general milestones and children vary in their overall development. Speech and language development is certainly no different. It is important to keep in mind that a child who can effectively communicate is much happier and more successful in his/her daily environment, whether that’s school or home.
Is It Too Late for Speech Therapy?
When my son was younger, he had some ENT issues that affected his speech development. He is now 5 years old and I’m worried we should have provided speech therapy – how do I know if I need a speech therapist or just more time for him to develop on his own? He’s doing better since we’ve treated his allergy/sinus issues, but he still has a problem with sounds like: f, t, d,n, l and r.
ENT issues early in development can certainly cause speech sound errors to occur. By age 5, most sounds should be articulated clearly except a few like l, s, r,v, z, ch, sh and th. All of the sounds you mentioned, with the exception of l and r, are typically mastered by 2-3 years of age. I am curious if there are any other sound error patterns present. Does he clearly articulate the end sounds on words? What is the mobility of his tongue like? Does he continue to be a mouth breather? Can he drink from a straw? Has his hearing been retested? These are questions I would seek to answer during a screening or articulation evaluation.
At what point should a parent correct cute words – right away? How long should a small child be able to use baby language? Certain words are so cute, but at what age should I correct them?
As a mom, not just a therapist, this question is hard to answer. There are cute words that I never corrected with my own children. Frankly, I was sad when they disappeared, especially with my youngest. Losing those words signified that I was saying good-bye to the baby phase in our household. It is important to think more in terms of developmentally correct sounds, rather than just a few cute words. B, P and M are the earliest developing sounds, as they are present in babbling. Not far behind, are n, w, and h and then k, g, t, d and f. The later developing sounds, l, r, s, y, sh, ch, z, j, v, and th, typically are mastered in the 3-6 year range, with some taking up to 7-8 years of age to master in certain situations.
Patterns of sound production are also important to look into. A speech-language pathologist can look deeper into the patterns your child produces. Does he leave off beginning or end sounds? Does he have an adequate sound repertoire? Are his vowels clear and concise? These sound patterns and distortions are of more concern to an SLP than the presence of a few cute words. It is important to always model appropriate language to your child. You should simplify your language, but never baby talk. It is also important to expand on what your child says. For example if your child says “my car” you can respond by saying “Yes, that’s your big blue car.” This technique can help to move your child past the 1-2 words per utterance phase into a more mature language pattern.
Getting Started With Speech Therapy
It’s important to discuss early speech and language development, as well as other developmental concerns, with your doctor at every routine well-child visit. It can be difficult to tell whether a child is just immature in his or her ability to communicate, or has a problem that requires professional attention.
Rocket City Mom is a website about raising children in and around Huntsville, Alabama. Started in late 2010 by a local mom and newcomer to Huntsville, Rocket City Mom has grown into a thriving community of local parents and now boasts a staff of four, thirteen regular contributors, and tens of thousands of Tennessee Valley readers making it the #1 Parenting Resource in North Alabama.