Questions About Speech Language Disorders & The SLP

Here are a few tips to assist you with communication:

  • Talk naturally to your child. Talk about what your child is doing, and what your child sees.
  • Take time to listen to your child. Respond to what is said so your child knows you have been listening.
  • Don't push your child to learn to talk. Accept some speech mistakes as your child develops. Don't ask your child to slow down or repeat.
  • Have your child's hearing tested if you find you have to repeat a lot or have to talk loudly to get your child's attention.
  • Seek professional help from an ASHA-certified audiologist or ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist if you're unsure. Never wait to get help for your child if you suspect a problem. You or your family members know more about your child than anyone.
  • Early intervention and treatment of hearing, speech, and language disorders can prevent problems with behavior, learning, reading, and social interactions.

Review the Developmental Milestone Charts for children ages birth to 5 to see if your child is understanding and talking at an age appropriate level.

Questions About Child Language

Language is a code that we learn to use in order to communicate ideas and express our wants and needs. Reading, writing, speaking, and some gesture systems are all forms of language.

Language is made up of a series of rules for:

  • Creating words or signs from smaller units like sounds, letters, or body movements
  • Modifying the meaning of root words (e.g., girl + -s = girls, walk + ed = walked, teach + -er = teacher, quick + -ly = quickly, dis- + obey = disobey)
  • Combining words together (the grammar of the language) * Attaching meaning to words
  • Holding a conversation; telling a story; and using different forms of language for different listeners, purposes, and situations.

Speech is the spoken form of language.

Children learn language and speech by listening to the language around them and practicing what they hear. In this way, they figure out the rules of the language code. It is not learned all at once but in stages over time.

Talk to the child. Read to the child. Encourage the child to talk, but don't demand speech. Make talking fun.

There are expected language behaviors for different ages. For example, by 1 year of age, a child should use one or two words, follow simple requests ("Come here"), and understand simple questions ("Where's your shoe?"). By 2-3 years of age, the child should be using two or three word sentences to talk about and ask for things and following two requests ("Get the ball and put it on the table"). Parents should also understand their child's speech most of the time. Children are individuals and do develop at slower or faster rates than expected. What is most important is that the child shows continuous language growth.

When you become concerned. Don't delay. No child is too young to be helped. If there is a problem, early attention is important. If there is no problem, you will be relieved of worry.

Yes. The first years of life are particularly important for learning speech and language. Even mild hearing losses may cause children to miss much of the speech and language around them and result in critical developmental delays. Parents should make sure that their children receive a regular hearing evaluation from an audiologist certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), particularly if there is a history of ear infections, frequent colds or other upper respiratory infections, or allergies.

There are, but most often language disability exists without any known physical cause.

Sometimes children are not exposed to enough language to learn the rules. Sometimes the child has no need to talk because parents respond to pointing and gestures instead of speech. But most language disabilities occur without an identifiable cause.

A speech-language pathologist with experience in child development can evaluate the child's language development, design an organized plan of language learning, and carry out the plan in individual or small group sessions. Educated at the master's or doctoral level, certified by ASHA, and licensed in almost all states, this professional will also help you help your child.

Questions About Articulation

Articulation is the process by which sounds, syllables, and words are formed when your tongue, jaw, teeth, lips, and palate alter the air stream coming from the vocal folds.

A person has an articulation problem when he or she produces sounds, syllables, or words incorrectly so that listeners do not understand what is being said or pay more attention to the way the words sound than to what they mean.

An articulation problem sometimes sounds like baby talk because many very young children do mispronounce sounds, syllables and words. But words that sound cute when mispronounced by young children interfere with the communication of older children or adults. Older children and adults have so many severe errors that their articulation problems are very different from "baby talk".

Most errors fall into one of three categories – omissions, substitutions, or distortions. An example of an omission is "at" for "hat" or "oo" for "shoe." An example of a substitution is the use of /w/ for /r/, which makes "rabbit" sound like "wabbit," or the substitution of /th/ for /s/ so that "sun" is pronounced "thun." When the sound is said inaccurately, but sounds something like the intended sound, it is called a distortion.

Articulation problems may result from physical cause, such as cerebral palsy, cleft palate, or hearing loss, or may be related to other problems in the mouth such as dental problems. However, most articulation problems occur in the absence any obvious physical disability. The cause of these so called functional articulation problems may be faulty learning of speech sounds.

It can be for some persons. We all have accents – Southern, Eastern, Northern, Western, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Brooklyn, or Boston. An accent may be a problem if it interferes with a person's goals in life.

Children learn their speech sounds by listening to the speech around them. This learning begins very early in life. If children have frequent ear problems during this important listening period, they may fail to learn some specific sounds.

A child's overall speech pattern will usually become more understandable as he or she matures, but some children will need direct training to eliminate all articulation errors. The exact speech pattern of the individual child will determine the answer to this question.

Sounds are learned in an orderly sequence. Some sounds, such as /p/, /m/, and /b/, are learned as early as 3 years of age. Other sounds, like /s/, /r/, and /l/, often are not completely mastered until the early school years.

Children should make all the sounds of English by 8 years of age. Many children learn these sounds much earlier.

By setting a good example. Don't interrupt or constantly correct the child. Don't let anyone tease or mock (including friends and relatives). Instead, present a good model. Use the misarticulated word correctly with emphasis. If the child says, "That's a big wabbit," you say, "Yes, that is a big rabbit. A big white rabbit. Would you like to have a rabbit?"

Most articulation problems can be helped regardless of a person's age, but the longer the problem persists, the harder it is to change. Some problems, such as those relating to nerve impulses to the muscles of articulation (dysarthria), are particularly difficult and generally will require a longer period of help than a functional disorder. Other conditions that may influence progress in a child or adult include hearing ability, condition of the oral structures such as the teeth, frequency of help obtained, motivation, intelligence, and cooperation.

When you consider the possible impact an articulation problem may have on one's social, emotional, educational, and/or vocational status, the answer becomes obvious. Our speech is an important part of us. The quality of our lives is affected by the adequacy of our speech.

Questions About Stuttering

Stuttering is the condition in which the flow of speech is broken by abnormal stoppages (no sound), repetitions (st-st-stuttering), or prolongations (ssssstuttering) of sounds and syllables. There may also be unusual facial and body movements associated with the effort to speak.

Yes. Almost all children go through a stage of frequent nonfluency in early speech development. Adults may interject syllables ("uh") and occasionally repeat words, phrases and sounds, but these nonfluencies are accepted as normal and usually are not a cause for concern.

Most people use the terms interchangeably.

We still do not know for a fact what causes stuttering. It may have different causes in different people, or it may occur only when a combination of factors comes together. It is also quite possible that what causes stuttering is quite different from what makes it continue or get worse. Possible influences include incoordination of the speech muscles; rate of language development; the way parents and others talk to the child; and other forms of communication and life stress.

Children who stutter are no more likely to have psychological problems than children who do not stutter. In general, there is no reason to believe that emotional trauma causes stuttering.

Stuttering typically begins at a very early age (usually between 2 and 5 years), but will occasionally appear for the first time in a school-age child and, more rarely, in an adult.

You should seek a professional evaluation as soon as you become concerned. Most children outgrow their nonfluency, but others will not. The problem of stuttering may be prevented from developing if treated early enough.

Yes, there are a variety of successful approaches for treating both children and adults. There are no published scientific data that indicate the general superiority of any one of these approaches.

It is best to avoid thinking in terms of an absolute "cure" for stuttering. Stuttering is not a disease. The goal should be to progress toward improved fluency and success in communicating.

Children may be unaware that they are speaking nonfluently. Do not call attention to the nonfluent speech pattern. Do not say "stop and start over," "Think before you talk," "Talk slower," or "Cat got your tongue?" Listen patiently and carefully to what the child is saying, and do not focus on how it is being said.

Adults who stutter need the same patience and attention to their ideas as speakers who do not stutter. Don't look away and don't hurry them or fill in words. This attempt to help can create anxiety and self-consciousness and make the problem worse.