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Language Delay

A language delay can mean that your child struggles to understand what is said to them or that they can find it difficult to make their needs and wants known. Children can also have delays in both language comprehension and expression.

Parents of children who are late to talk are often told not not worry and that their child will talk “when they are ready”. However, up to a third of late talkers will not improve without treatment and we have no way of knowing which children will catch up with their peers before school and which children will continue to struggle.

If your child has a language delay it doesn’t mean you have done anything wrong but it means that you, as the parent and caregiver, can be the key agent of change for your child. Talk to a speech pathologist sooner rather than later about fun, family centred ways to promote your child’s language development.

Speech Sound delays and disorders

It’s important that we look at our children individually but sometimes we need to know what ‘typical’ development is to work out when to seek help with something.

Most children can say the following sounds:

    • b,d,h,m,n,p,f,g,k,t,w  by 3 years
    • l,y,                               by 4 years
    • s,z,sh,ch,j and             by 4 ½  years
    • consonant clusters
    • (eg. ‘sp’ in ‘speak’)
    • r,v                                by 6 years
    • th                                 by 7 years

Ideally, a 3-year-old child should be understood by unfamiliar people about 75% of the time. It’s not about being hung up on ‘typical’ development, however, but rather thinking about how speech errors may be impacting on our child’s ability to communicate, their social interactions and their self-esteem.

If your child is difficult to understand or sounds younger than their chronological age, a speech sound assessment will determine whether their speech development is appropriate for their age and if treatment is required. A thorough assessment will also help in figuring out if there is an underlying cause contributing to your child’s speech delay.

Second visit

Stuttering

It can be very distressing to a parent when they realise their child is struggling to speak fluently. Also known as stammering, stuttering can present as repetitions, blocks, prolongations or as any combination of these features.

    • Repetitions are when a sound, syllable, word or phrase is repeated. Eg. “a-a-a-and I said…”, “and-and-and I said….”, “and I- and I- and I- said….”.
    • Blocks occur when a child is trying to make a sound, typically at the start of a word, and nothing comes out.
    • Prolongations occur when a sound, vowel or consonant, is lengthened. Eg. “I caught a ffffffish”.

Children can also develop secondary characteristics such as facial grimacing and head movements.

We now know that stuttering is a speech problem and although it may cause distress in children, it is not caused by emotional or psychological problems. Parent most definitely do not cause stuttering but it does have a strong genetic link.

Early intervention is vital in the treatment of stuttering and ignoring it will not make it go away. The Lidcombe Program, developed by Mark Onslow in Sydney, is recognised internationally as best practise in the management of earl childhood stuttering. Parents play a vital role in administering treatment in the child’s home environment and are trained and closely guided through the treatment process by a speech pathologist.

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Literacy Difficulties

Is your child struggling to learn to read and spell?

Many people who have reading and spelling difficulties have poor phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is a set of listening skills that includes the ability to identify, break-up and move sounds within spoken words. These skills are often not explicitly taught in school but are necessary for reading and spelling success and without a strong foundation in phonological awareness it can be difficult to develop strong letter- sound relationships. Difficulties in this area can be identified in Prep and Grade 1, and even before children start school.

Assessment by a speech pathologist can determine if a phonological awareness deficit is contributing to your child’s difficulties in learning to read and spell and an individualised treatment program can be devised to ensure your child can make gains in their reading and spelling as quickly as possible.