Toddlers often have trouble with pronunciation and difficulties putting sentences together. A child between the ages of 18 months and three years will mispronounce many words., It’s perfectly normal to have to play a guessing game to figure out what your child is saying, and at times you may have no clue what she’s getting at. That’s okay!
If the problem is not pronunciation but rather that your child isn’t talking or is talking very little, you should act a little more quickly.
Most of the major speech defects are found within five main categories:
• Speech sound disorders including articulation problems (difficulty producing specific sounds) and phonemic (difficulty with sound distinctions of language) disorders.
• Fluency problems such as stammering and cluttering (rapid, slurred speech).
• Voice disorders, including problems of pitch, voice quality and volume.
• Delayed receptive (understanding) or expressive language, characterized by a child’s slow language development.
• Aphasia, the partial or total loss of the ability to speak or understand language.
Your child may have language concerns in one or more of these categories, such as delayed speech with articulation problems. It is important to have your child monitored for developmental milestones and diagnosed early and accurately if you notice any speech delays or other communication problems.
The goal of speech therapy for children is to improve skills that will allow your child to communicate more effectively. There are other benefits as well. These can include:
• Improvement in the ability to understand and express thoughts, ideas and feelings
• Intelligible speech so your child is understood by others
• Increased ability to problem-solve in an independent environment
• Achievement of school readiness skills
• Development of pre-literacy skills
• Development of practical social skills
• Greater self-esteem
• Increased independence
A speech-language pathologist (SLPs), also known as a speech therapist, is a professional trained to evaluate and diagnose speech and communication problems. Speech therapists, often work as part of a team, which may include teachers, physicians, audiologists, psychologists, social workers, rehabilitation counselors and others.
If a child has difficulty saying words that begin with “b,” the therapist may suggest daily practice with a list of “b” words, increasing their difficulty as each list is mastered. Other kinds of exercises help children master the social skills involved in communicating by teaching them to keep their head up, maintain eye contact, and repeat themselves when they are misunderstood.
Speech interventions often use a child’s family members and friends to reinforce the lessons learned in a therapeutic setting. This kind of indirect therapy encourages people who are in close daily contact with a child to create opportunities for him or her to use their new skills in conversation.
Your child’s work with a speech therapist may last for months or even for a few years. It depends on your child’s needs. You will probably see improvement in your child’s issues. Remember, though, that therapy can’t “cure” your child. The underlying speech or language issue will still be there.
The therapist should give you and your child strategies to deal with obstacles more effectively. She will likely give you activities to practice at home to reinforce the skills your child is learning. Kids who make the most progress tend to be those whose get involved in their treatment.
It’s important that the speech therapist and your child are a good match. The speech therapist should have experience working with kids with your child’s specific issue. Speech therapy is just one way to help a child with learning issues related to language and speech.