Kids and Speech Problems

Smiling boyAs young children learn language skills, it’s normal for them to have some difficulty saying words correctly. There is a wide range of what’s normal. But if you think your child is having trouble communicating, don’t ignore your concerns. It’s important for children to develop an early understanding and expression of language so that other developmental skills, such as play and social interaction skills, aren’t delayed.

“Language learning can easily be incorporated into daily activities. Children are constantly learning language receptively and expressively in all environments,” said Melissa Gran, speech and language pathologist at CHOC. “It is so important to talk to your children throughout the day, such as when getting them dressed, meal time and bath time.”

Knowing what’s “normal” and what’s not in speech and language development can help you figure out if your child is developing on schedule. It’s important to discuss any concerns with your child’s doctor at every routine well-child visit.

Speech Milestones by Age

Birth to 3 months:
Your baby reacts to loud sounds; calms down or smiles when spoken to; recognizes your voice and calms down if crying; when feeding, starts or stops sucking in response to sound; coos and makes pleasure sounds; has a special way of crying for different needs.

4 to 6 Months
Your baby follows sounds with his or her eyes; responds to changes in the tone of your voice; notices toys that make sounds; pays attention to music; babbles when excited or unhappy; makes gurgling sounds when alone or playing with you

7 Months to 1 Year
Your baby enjoys playing peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake; babbles using long and short groups of sounds (tata, upup, bibibi); babbles to get and keep attention; communicates using gestures such as waving or holding up arms; imitates different speech sounds; has one or two words (hi, dog, dada, mama) by first birthday; turns and looks in the direction of sounds; listens when spoken to; understands words for common items such as cup, shoe or juice; responds to requests (“Come here”).

1 to 2 Years
Your child knows a few parts of the body and can point to them when asked; follows simple commands “(“Roll the ball”) and understands simple questions (“where’s your shoe?”); enjoys simple stories, songs and rhymes; points to pictures, when named, in books; acquires new words on a regular basis; uses some one- or two-word questions (“Where kitty?); puts two words together (“More cookie”); uses many different consonant sounds at the beginning of words.

2 to 3 Years
Your child has a word for almost everything; uses two- or three-word phrases to talk about and ask for things; uses k,g,f,t,d, and n sounds; speaks in a way that is understood by family members and friends; names objects to ask for them or to direct attention to them

3 to 4 Years
Hears you when you call from another room, Talks about activities at daycare, preschool or friends’ homes; speaks easily without having to repeat syllables; uses sentences with four or more words.

4 to 5 Years
Pays attention to a short story and answers simple questions about it; uses sentences that give many details; tells stories that stay on topic; communicates easily with other children and adults; says most sounds correct (l,s,r,v,z,ch,sh and th).

What to do if you suspect your child has a speech disorder

Always talk to your child’s doctor about any developmental concerns at every well-visit.

First, your child’s hearing should be checked. This is to make sure that he or she isn’t simply hearing words and sounds incorrectly.

If hearing loss is ruled out, your child’s doctor may refer you to a speech-language pathologist. This is a speech expert who evaluates and treats children who are having problems with speech-language and communication.

Close-up toddler boy

Frequently Asked questions About Motor Speech Disorders

Siblings smiling together

A motor speech disorder is present when a child struggles to produce speech because of problems with motor planning or muscle tone needed to speak. Speech motor planning is the ability to come up with an idea, plan how to say or express that idea and then finally say it. Muscle tone refers to the muscles and strength needed to move the jaw, tongue and other muscles needed to speak. There are two major types of motor speech disorders: dysarthria and apraxia.

Reasons to Refer for Speech or Language Therapy

There are many reasons a child should be referred for speech or language therapy. Many families are surprised to find out their child needs speech or language therapy, as they often chalk up their child’s speech-related problems to not listening or just a cute “quirk.” It is also common for parents to be so focused on a child’s other medical conditions or therapy needs that they overlook those that require speech and language therapy.

Young blond girl blowing bubbles

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