Developing Speech in Children
by Nikki Broghammer, MA, CCC-SLP
What exactly is a “speech therapist or SLP?” A speech therapist not only works with speech sound errors, our scope of practice covers a wide range of difficulties from infancy to elderly. Some of the areas we can help include: Fluency (stuttering/cluttering), language, social skills, swallowing, and voice.
Speech and language skills develop in varying rates from child to child, so it can be hard to determine if your child’s speech is within typical limits. You may notice that as your child grows and begins speaking in longer sentences, their speech becomes unclear. They may have said certain sounds previously, but now aren’t able to say them correctly. So how do you know if your kiddo is on track? According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), your child should be understood by both familiar and unfamiliar listeners in all situations by five years of age. However, this does not mean that your child should be correctly pronouncing all speech sounds. Generally, children produce ‘easier’ speech sounds first (such as "p, b, t, d, m or n") and as their brain and muscles grow, they begin producing more complex sounds (such as "r, l, s"). You may also notice that your child’s "sentences" or utterance length may be shorter or more simple than peers or other siblings when they were younger. According to ASHA, your child should be speaking in three to four word sentences around age three. By age five, your child should be using more than five words in a sentence and should be asking complex questions using the words "who, what, where, and why?"
What can you do if you believe your child is falling behind? Talk to your family health provider about having an evaluation with a speech therapist. In the meantime, there are many things you can do at home. One simple thing you can do is READ. It’s never too early to start reading to your child! Reading should be a priority every single day. Try to make it a habitual task in your bedtime routine. Research has shown that children who are read to on a regular basis are more likely to have a higher vocabulary and are more likely to say their first words earlier! Read in a way that’s comfortable for you, while keeping your child engaged.
If you’re interested in determining if your child has a speech and/or language problem, and would like specific tips for you and your child, talk to your family health provider and ask for an evaluation by a Speech Therapist. An evaluation typically consists of informal interview with the parents and time to play and look at pictures with the child. The speech therapist will give you ideas of things to do at home with your child before going home that day, and will develop a treatment plan prior to the next session. Early intervention is key for your child’s success, so it's important to discuss your concerns with your provider as soon as possible.