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Early Warning Signs Your Child May Need Speech Therapy

by: Guest Writer
Speech, with its communicative prominence for us, as a species and a society, is often a key barometer for how your child is developing. Socialising, education, and emotional expressions – all these are tied to being able to communicate effectively. Most parents have high expectations of themselves and their children. However, the emphasis on “being able to talk” as a make-or-break skill, as ‘being normal’ is misplaced. There are many other ways to talk to each other, display and discuss what’s necessary and unnecessary. However, for those who can speak, or are at least capable, speech and language difficulties can indicate or create other issues for your child. Therefore, the need for speech therapy becomes a mental and physical health-related solution, as much as a means of helping your child communicate, so that processes can be put in place to help.
Recognizing signs that your child may be struggling with development in this area as early as possible will give them the best chance at solving these problems and helping them avoid further complications in the future. When they are a toddler, it is especially important to keep an eye out, as this is both the period that speech and language difficulties should become more noticeable as development continues, milestones begin to focus on comprehension and complete sounds, and the accuracy of testing improves. Putting in the time to research what speech therapy for childrenis and understanding how experts could help you and your child is necessary after recognizing the signs of speech or language impairment.
Before we begin detailing those signs…
What is the difference between speech and language impairment?
There’s a subtle but notable difference: a child or adult who has a speech impairment (or disorder) finds it challenging to produce sounds correctly; a child or adult who has a language impairment (or disorder) struggles to understand or express language.
Below are the signs you should look for.
Speech Impairment:
The signs for speech impairment will be aural. You will be able to hear them.
Stuttering: stuttering, also known as diffluent speech or stammering, is when your child struggles to complete a sound without repeating or elongating a syllable, a word, or a sound. Usually presenting from the ages of 2-5, experts believe thatstuttering has a number of possible causes. This speech disorder received considerable attention during the American presidential elections in 2020 whenJoe Biden described how he had practiced endlessly to improve his stammer, inspiring confidence in many children and adults who are on their own journey with stutters.
Lisps, rhotacism, and lambdacism: popular media and discourse often focus on frontal lisps, which means the speaker thrusts their tongue too far forward. Lateral, lisps, palatal lisps, and dental lisps round out the types that experts will be looking for. Commonly, ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds are inaccurately formed. However, ‘ch’, ‘sh’, and ‘j’ sounds are dealt with too. Rhotacism (difficulty with ‘r’ sounds) and lambdacism (difficult with ‘l’ sounds) are not lisps but are speech impediments you should look out for, with lambdacism understood to be the most common. Not all of these impediments will have the same severity,but timely diagnosis and treatment of lambdacism, rhotacism and sigmatism in preschool children is vital.
Mispronunciation: this isn’t a tomato-tomato-potato-potato problem. It’s more along the line of leaving phonetic sounds and/or syllables out of words, abbreviating words (beyond the remit of slang), or changing sounds. While these ‘mistakes’ may indicate a child who is simply learning to talk, if it persists with scholastic intervention then it might be a sign of other issues.
Language Impairment:
Language impairment may require some perspective, as comprehension is developmental. Mistakes will be made when your child is learning how to talk. However, certain milestones should make signs more visible. For instance, responding to simple commands show basic comprehension. Beyond this, however, the following are signs of potential language impairment.
Limited vocabulary: you may notice your child uses the same words over and over again, using the same sentence sizes. This limited vocabulary and creation might indicate that they have trouble remembering or understanding more complex words or structures.
Repeating questions: children will repeat themselves and you. Repetition is part of the learning process. However, some will repeat questions to a recognizably different extent. They will echo what someone or they’ve said almost immediately or after a few hours or days, frequently. Those with autism do this. Also, those who can’t think of another way to continue the conversation or to answer your question will do it too.
Syntax issues: constructing sentences with words out of order is another sign that your child may be contending with language impairment. There is no common disordering to look out for – as in, a verb will be here, or a noun will be after that. However, it should be perceptible. They may even be missing out on words in a sentence, making it difficult for you to ascertain the subject or object.
Speakers have idiosyncrasies. Language allows and forgives us for this. It’s a complicated topic. However, should you notice any of the above signs, as well as your child having any strong emotional reactions while trying to talk, or outright avoiding talking, then it will be worth seeking expert help.