In2great Pediatric Therapy

What Did You Say?

Determining the need for Speech and Language Intervention

“Voomin’ Oomigai!” and “Minnick!” are two declarations that we heard regularly in my house. Very cute, I know, but the more I had to say, “What did you say?”, the more frustrated my toddler became. Identifying speech problems, and distinguishing them from typical toddler-speak can be difficult and frustrating for families. Since speech disorders can impact your child’s social interactions and academic skills, consulting with a Speech and Language Pathologist can help families identify communication issues. Language is made up of Receptive Language (what we understand), Expressive Language (how we speak), and Pragmatic Language (social language). Articulation is one of the big challenges that children have when they are beginning to speak. Briefly, articulation is a child’s ability to correctly formulate and produce different phonemes (sounds).

According to Martie Krol, MS, CCC-SLP, BCBA in Houston, Texas, Children’s speech should be about 75% intelligible by three years of age. This means that you, and more importantly unfamiliar listeners, should understand almost everything your three-year-old says. If your child has trouble with a few sounds at this point, but people unfamiliar can easily understand him/her, your child is likely developing speech sounds typically.

Pediatric speech-language pathologists are often asked by parents “Should my child’s speech be clear?” or “When should my child be talking?” Unfortunately, speech and language development and milestones vary significantly by age, so these questions can be difficult to answer. It is often important to understand how the child is communicating (i.e., asking for things, pointing out interesting objects), eating and drinking, and even playing. This is because speech and language development is more than just talking. We use the same systems in our body to produce speech as we use to breathe and eat. Play is an essential part of learning language. If there is a delay or difference in these areas, there is most likely a delay or difference in a child’s speech and language skills.

According to the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA), parents should expect first words between 12 and 18 months. There will probably be a “spurt” of language development before 2 years. You may hear 4-5 word sentences, most simple grammar should be correct, and most unfamiliar listeners will understand your child by four years of age. Also, there are a few red flags to recognize:

Stuttering is not a normal part of learning to talk (though a LITTLE “normal nonfluency” is);

Children’s voices should not be hoarse unless they have an upper respiratory tract infection such as a cold;

If children are disinterested in communicating with other people, have poor eyecontact and are aloof with people outside the family, or usually respond to what you say by echoing all or part of it back to you word-for-word, their communication skills should be assessed. Expect your child, even if he or she is sometimes shy, to be communicative and sociable.

You can support your child’s growth and development with professional guidance and attention. If you feel like your child is not communicating like their peers, talk to your pediatrician about a Speech and Language Pathology evaluation. The SLP professionals at In2Great have excellent evaluation, interpretation and treatment planning skills to support your child and your whole family through your communication journey. Whether you are zooming through the sky (Voomin Oomigai) or needing music (minnick), our kids will all travel their own path to language.

What Did You Say?
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