Do you have a child in your life with a complete understanding of language, but whose speech is almost impossible to understand? Does your child become frustrated when trying to speak? Struggling to communicate is not only frustrating for your child, it’s also a frustrating and painful experience for parents as they struggle to understand their child. They often ask, “What more can I do to help my child?” Below is a list of communication milestones, resources and red flags to look for as you determine the best course of action for your child.
44 Speech Sounds to Master
It typically takes around eight years for children to master the 44 different speech sounds in the English language. That’s much more time than it takes to learn our 26-letter alphabet! Speaking isn’t always easy for young children as they learn to master so many sounds. There are late bloomers. Others might have a stutter. But for some children, it can be a painful challenge to form the words they so desperately wish to communicate.
Sadly, some children still have high levels of unintelligibility when entering elementary school. The reasons for these delays can range from dyspraxia to childhood apraxia of speech to cerebral palsy. For children suffering from a speech-delaying condition, not being understood is a frustration that affects every realm of their lives, from explaining what hurts when they’re feeling sick, to building friendships and asking for help if needed. Children who feel incapable of being understood may initiate very little communication or interaction with their peers. This can adversely affect their confidence and the development of speech even further.
Children with significant speech difficulties are also at greater risk of developing reading and writing difficulties in school. Behavioral challenges, such as aggression, withdrawal, and even toileting challenges are not uncommon.
What is Articulation?
The 44 sounds of the English language fall into three categories: consonants, vowels and digraphs, the latter being two letter blends like “ch” and “sh”. Articulation refers to the production and use of these speech sounds. In order to make these sounds we use our ‘articulators’ which are our lips, teeth, tongue, palate and vocal cords. This is generally an easy task for a typical child to master. For a child with a communication disorder such as Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS), however, speech therapy is needed.
What is Childhood Apraxia of Speech?
Imagine knowing exactly what words you want to say, but then hearing them come out garbled when trying to communicate. This is a daily reality for some children.
Childhood apraxia of speech is a motor planning disorder which makes it difficult for children to produce sounds and words. This means that children with CAS know what they want to say, but there is a disconnect in the brain’s ability to make the articulators move correctly to form the desired sounds. Children with CAS can be very hard to understand and may appear to struggle in their attempts to speak and be understood. The resulting frustration and anxiety can be overwhelming for a young child.
How do you, as a parent, know when it is time to see a specialist?
Don’t wait to take action if you suspect your child has a speech delay or disorder. Identify the red flags and be your child’s best advocate.
Click on an age link below for information regarding typical speech and language milestones and red flags to look for. You’ll also find ideas and free educational resources to help your child.
Communication Milestones and Red Flags
Birth through Pre-Kindergarten