Many parents notice their children have trouble speaking clearly as they progress to school age. All three of my children experienced what is termed “slushy speech” throughout their primary years. When I lived in New Jersey, we were identified by the school as a family needing speech classes in early elementary. In New York, however, after moving, we did not qualify for state funded help in the school system. In fact, the speech therapist almost laughed at me when I inquired why my son wasn’t chosen for their speech program. Apparently, the system provides for only those who really have more severe problems in our particular district. But what if your child, like mine, falls into this mild-to-moderate range of speech problems? Should you act or wait it out to see if your child’s speech improves with time? Here is a quick guide for parents if they are concerned about the progress of their child’s speech in the primary years.
Determine Severity of Your Child’s Speech Issue
My children all definitely had “baby talk” sounding speech into even the third and fourth grades, but it was nothing that was too severe. If your child falls into a category beyond this, certainly take steps to find out why your child is speaking the way he or she is and seek assistance if the problem seems out of your realm of problem solving. Certainly, severe speech problems should be addressed by healthcare and educational assessment professionals to rule out things from more complicated issues to common problems such as those listed on Kidshealth.org. Because speech problems can indicate the presence of other conditions, such as hearing problems, understanding problems or even physical problems, suggested by articles Speech Impediments in Children and Does My Child Need Speech Therapy?, it is important to give speech issues due attention without overreacting to what may be only normal lags in speech refinement.
Consult Healthcare Professionals About Speech Issues
The first step if you have concerns about your growing child’s speech would be to ask your pediatrician if he or she thinks there is need for action. They will be able to give you a good idea about the root cause and degree of your child’s issue. My child’s doctor was surprised that the speech pathologist at our school had even approached me to begin with. It was his opinion that my child would grow out of his problem on his own. I also spoke with my children’s pediatric dentist about their speech and he enlightened me as to the effect an overbite or underbite can have on a child’s speech. With further dental treatment down the road, it was my dentist’s opinion that my child’s speech difficulty would resolve. Turned out, he was right. Additionally, you can rely on your child’s teacher to alert you if your child has a problem that warrants further investigation. They can refer you to the district’s speech professional to screen your child for speech issues that can be treated in the school’s speech therapy program or inform you if you need to seek additional intervention.
Work on Your Child’s Speech Problems at Home
If your child is rather young, begin addressing their speech issue in the home if it is of concern to you or if other people seem to react to your child’s inability to clearly communicate at his or her age level. Consult the following website for strategies on how to get your child to improve word formation at howkidsdevelop.com.
When and How to Take the Extra Step Toward Speech Pathology Intervention
Although children with little lisps may sound cute as small children, it is really no laughing matter as your child progresses to higher grades. Not wanting to have a child that is teased for his speech, or worse, one who suffers from a less than optimal ability to communicate through speaking, hearing or processing, you may want to seek the expertise of a children’s speech pathology center. Sites like Boomerang Health, for example, detail speech language pathology services which specialize in speech problems as well as take a scientific approach to speech therapy. The American Speech-Language Hearing Association can help you to find such treatment centers in your area as well as board certified professionals that specialize in audiology and speech pathology.
Don’t Overreact, Don’t Underreact to Speech Problems
I remember, as a child, taking speech classes in Rochester, New York, because I could not say my “r”‘s. However, subsequently, I moved to Boston, Massachusetts, ironically rendering my speech correction unnecessary. No one there cared about “parrrking their carrrs in the Harrrvard yarrrd.” Speech therapy, for children who are mildly plagued by speech difficulties remains a choice for parents. Keep in mind that your child may simply grow out of their speech problem, so unless the problem is acutely noticeable, you may want to table your concerns for a year or so. However, if your child suffers from a speech impediment that is undeniably becoming a problem for them either scholastically, socially, or in areas of self confidence or self-esteem, definitely give this early childhood concern priority so as to avoid the development of more serious problems in the future.