Help, my child's speech is unclear!
I often have parents come to me, concerned that their child's pronunciation is not as clear as their peers'.
When should I be concerned?
Children's speech can develop at different rates, depending on a range of factors such as hearing, attention and listening levels and developmental level. Typical speech sound development tends to follow a pattern.
Adapted from Grunwell's 1987 Chronology of Phonological Processes
Why is it important that my child has clear speech?
Developing clear speech is important for maintaining interactions. Children find it difficult to get their message across can become frustrated, and not want to communicate as much with others.
Children with speech sound difficulties often present with literacy problems. In order to read children need to link the letter with the sound it make, segment the word and then blend it. This can be extremely difficult for a child who has speech sound difficulties.
My top tips for supporting early speech sound development
Make sure they can hear!
Since before your child was born, he/she will have been listening to the sounds around them, processing them and trying to imitate. As he/she gets older these imitations become more sophisticated and refined.
It's super important that children have regular hearing assessments in order to make sure that they are able to hear all the sounds that they need to in order to develop clear speech.
The majority of children will experience glue ear before the age 10years old. Glue ear is a build up of fluid in the middle ear which can impact on hearing. Ensure that your child is hearing adequately, and if they are not, discuss with their audiologist the best way to manage their difficulties.
Speak clearly and slowly and face your child at their level when speaking. This ensures that they are able to focus on you, watch your mouth moving and learn how to make the sounds.
Make use of symbolic noises such as animal and vehicle noises. These sounds encourage vocalisation and imitation which is essential for speech sound development.
Don't worry about correcting!
If your child says a word or sentence incorrectly, rather than correct them or ask them to repeat it, just say the word / sentence back to them correctly to show you have understood. This way your child always hears the correct version.
If you are worried that your child is not meeting the milestones above, or that others are really not able to understand them, then do reach out to a qualified Speech and Language Therapist for support.