For many parents hearing your child utter his/her first word is one joyous moment. Although their speech skills don’t stand out on their first few stages of speech development, language acquisition is not a problem for most children.
Every child develops at his/her own pace. For most children, they will outgrow communication challenges like an occasional stutter, but not in some cases. It is estimated that 7-10% of Australian children experience speech and language difficulties and in the US, about 10 percent of all Americans have some speech problem.
What is Speech Disorder?
Speech disorder refers to a condition in which a person has problems creating or forming the speech sounds needed to communicate with others.
A child with a speech disorder may have difficulty with articulation, voice, fluency, or any combination of these.
Speech disorders include:
• Articulation disorders: difficulties producing sounds in syllables or saying words incorrectly to the point that listeners can’t understand what’s being said. (e.g “Race” may sound like “Ways” or “Sick” may sound like “Thick”.)
• Fluency disorders: problems such as stuttering, in which the flow of speech is interrupted by abnormal stoppages, repetitions (st-st-stuttering), or prolonging sounds and syllables (ssssstuttering).
• Resonance or voice disorders: problems with the pitch, volume, or quality of the voice that distract listeners from what’s being said. These types of disorders may also cause pain or discomfort for a child when speaking.
• Dysphagia/oral feeding disorders: these include difficulties with drooling, eating, and swallowing.
So how can you determine if your child’s speech skills is within the normal range or if he/she needs professional help?
It can be really confusing but there should be some signals that should alarm you as a parent. If your child has difficulties expressing him or herself and cannot follow instructions at all, if he/she seems to use fewer words compared to other kids of a similar age group and mispronounces key sounds, then it is best that you should seek the advice of a speech pathologist.
Speech Pathologists and What They Do
A Speech Pathologist also known as a Speech Therapist, specializes in communication disorders. They assess speech, language, cognitive-communication, and oral/feeding/swallowing skills, and identify if your child has a specific communication problem and provides the best way to treat the disorder.
A Speech pathologist creates creative and positive therapy programs for children with speech disorders. They work on creating a positive learning environment by engaging family members to encourage and support kids with communication disorders.
If you suspect your child to be suffering from speech disorder, then it is never too early to seek advice. Ignoring the early signs of communication disorders can impact your child’s confidence, skills and learning. Early intervention can make a big difference to your child’s life.