[Overton]Recognizing Speech and Language Disorders in Young Children

What are speech and language disorders?
Why are speech and language disorders serious?
What causes speech and language disorders?
What should I do if I think my child has a speech or language disorder?
How can the speech-language pathologist help children with speech and language disorders?
What is an articulation disorder?
What is language?
How can I tell if my child's voice is normal?
Is my child stuttering?
How can I tell if my child has a hearing loss?

What are speech and language disorders? Speech and language disorders are inabilities to understand or appropriately use society's speech and language systems. These disorders may range from simple sound repetitions or occasional misarticulations to the complete inability to communicate.

Why are speech and language disorders serious? The ability to communicate is our most human characteristic. When a person cannot communicate properly, problems nearly always result. For example, adults with speech and language disorders may find it difficult to gain employment or may be forced into less satisfying jobs because of their inability to communicate effectively. Children may experience difficulties in learning or suffer from ridicule and teasing by friends because of a speech or language problem.

What causes speech and language disorders? Speech and language disorders may be related to hearing loss, short memory span, cerebral palsy and other neuromuscular disorders, severe head injuries, viral diseases, certain drugs, or physical impairments such as cleft lip or palate. However, in most cases the cause of a speech or language disorder cannot be determined.

What should I do if I think my child has a speech or language disorder? Seek a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified speech-language pathologist as soon as you suspect there is a problem. Ignoring the symptoms of poor speech and language could allow a disorder to go unrecognized and become more difficult to treat in later years.

How can the speech-language pathologist help children with speech and language disorders? The methods used will vary depending upon the nature and severity of the problem, the child's age, and the child's awareness of the problem. Speech-language pathologists provide many specialized services that include:

What is an articulation disorder? The basic problem shown by a child with an articulation disorder is that he has failed to master the sounds of his language. This may be characterized by one or more of the following:

Most young children show all of these errors at one time or another. However, by age 3, a child should be easily understood by unfamiliar listeners 90% of the time.

The development of correct articulation is a gradual process during which the speech sounds emerge in a few words and progress toward the mastery level. Following is a chart which indicates the ages at which 50% of children are able to produce the various speech sounds in some contexts. The sounds within each age are listed in the order that they typically emerge.

Click here to go to the main articulation page.

What is language? Language is used for talking to and with others, to signal needs, intentions, feelings, and thoughts. Language is also used for self-talking (thinking), and for controlling and directing one's own behavior as well as for controlling and directing the behavior of others. It involves the understanding and use of words and word combinations. A language disorder is characterized by an inability to do one or more of these:

Following are some language abilities a child should have at certain ages:

Birth - 6 months

6-12 months

12-18 months

18-24 months

2-3 years

3-4 years

4-5 years

Click here to go to the main language page.

How can I tell if my child's voice is normal? A good voice should have the following characteristics:

A normal voice should be able to communicate reliably the feelings and thoughts the speaker wishes to convey to the listener. It should take place without any apparent effort or strain. No voice should call attention to itself because of the manner in which it is produced or because of any undesirable characteristics.

Is my child stuttering? Between the ages of 2 and 6 a child may begin to have noticeable difficulties in speaking smoothly and freely, especially when starting to use sentences. In varying degrees, all children repeat words and phrases, hesitate often, and have occasional difficulty with the smooth flow of words.

No one has speech that is perfectly smooth. We all hesitate, insert noises or words, get syllables mixed up, go back and revise sentences, or try to say two words at the same time, getting confused or stuck for an instant. The young child who is still struggling to master speech will naturally stumble more often than do adults and older children.

Following are signs which show that a child has moved beyond the type of interruptions that are normal for his age.

Click here to go to the main stuttering page.

How can I tell if my child has a hearing loss? Hearing loss is a hidden handicap. It cannot be seen and cannot always be detected by simple observation. However, there are some signs that are frequently indicators of hearing loss. A child may have a hearing loss if he:

If a child demonstrates such symptoms he should have his hearing tested. Since even mild hearing loss can cause delays in speech, language and educational development, it is important that the loss be detected and treated at as early an age as possible.

If you have questions or need more information you can contact me at:

Overton Speech & Language Center, Inc.
Fort Worth, TX
(817) 294-8408

info@overtonspeech.net

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Copyright 1983, 2001 Overton Speech & Language Center, Inc.
webmaster@overtonspeech.net
Last revised: February 25, 2001