Children’s speech and language skills develop and change rapidly from birth until about 8 years of age. If speech or language skills are behind during this critical time, children may struggle to keep up in the classroom. Speech or language delays may interfere with learning academic skills.
In the classroom, children with articulation disorders may have difficulty being understood by others. This may make them fearful of being called on by their teacher and hesitant to speak up when they know an answer.
Some children with articulation disorders struggle with the phonological awareness skills that are needed when they learn to read.
Children with language disorders may have difficulty with comprehending verbal or written instruction from their teacher, following multi-step directions, combining words to form grammatically correct sentences, answering questions and relating to others socially (pragmatics).
A Decision for Therapy
If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language development, then you might consider having him/her evaluated by a certified speech-language pathologist (SLP). If the SLP determines that your child’s speech and/or language skills are below expected range, speech therapy will most likely be recommended.
Speech therapy will address specific delays and facilitate improved communication through various therapy techniques. Therapy may be provided individually (therapist and student) or in a small group setting.
Speech therapy is not a magic cure but a tool that can be effective in increasing communication skills. Therapy is most effective when parents take an active role in the therapy process by practicing with their child at home and learning techniques to help their child carryover what is learned in therapy. Therapy is usually continued as long as the child is making progress or until speech and language skills are age-appropriate.
Speech Sound Acquisition
Although children develop at different rates, there is a developmental sequence to sound acquisition. This is why it is common to hear substitutions of sounds in young chi1dren’s speech. For example, it is often considered “cute” when a two or three year old says, ‘wabbit’ for ‘rabbit’, but it is not typical for an eight year old to make these errors. A 3 year old’s speech should be about 75% intelligible. From 5 to 8 years, a child’s speech should be very intelligible to people outside the family. The ages at which 90% of children master sounds are as follows:
Resources for Parents and Educators:
Terminology of Communication Disorders, Lucille Nicolosi, Elizabeth Harryman, and Janet Kresheck
Late-Talking Children, Thomas Sowell
Beyond Baby Talk: From Sounds to Sentences: A Parent’s Guide to Language Development, Masterson and Apel