No parent wants to believe that their child has a speech disorder, and it’s easy enough to live in denial for a long time. Even kids who aren’t suffering from a disorder will say words wrong all the time. It’s tempting to believe that your child’s struggles with language are just an extension of that.
And they might be. However, early detection is important when it comes to treating a speech disorder. The sooner you know, the sooner you will be able to help your child work through the issue.
In this article, we take a look at common early signs that indicate your child may have a speech disorder. We also go over some ways you can help them work through it at home.
Signs that Your Child May Have a Speech Disorder
You will notice that many of these indicators could just as easily be innocuous. While that is true, it’s still a good idea to consult a speech professional if you fear the indications point toward your child having a disorder. They will be able to help you understand what is typical, and what is atypical. Signs of a speech problem include:
If your child seems to avoid group play and other social situations, it may be an indication that they are struggling to express themselves. Children with speech disorders will often avoid speaking altogether, particularly in front of people that they don’t know well.
Children on the autism spectrum often also exhibit this quality. Social isolation can cause speech problems on its own since it keeps children from developing and honing their language skills in social situations.
Stuttering is a bit of a toss-up when it comes to identifying speech disorders. Most children will stutter a little bit— usually around the ages of 2-3. It can be a sign that your child is leveling up in their speech skills— thinking up larger sentences faster than their lips are prepared to send them out into the world.
Speech disorder stuttering can sound slightly different than what is typical. Kids suffering from disordered speech may get stuck on a single word, which they will repeat over and over again. They will also experience stuttering more often than their peers, sometimes to the point that it makes it difficult to speak at all.
Your Child is Hard to Understand
Again, this one is a toss-up. Children can be hard to understand well into grade school. However, there are limits to what is normal. Most experts agree that by the time a child is two years old, you should be able to understand about half of what they are trying to say. By their next birthday, comprehension should be up to 75%.
Of course, that’s not a fool-proof litmus test. Parents can be very good at meeting their kids where they are at when it comes to language. If you are concerned that your child’s language development skills are behind their peers, it may be a strong indication that they are struggling with a disorder.
You may also get a better understanding of your child’s language skills by speaking with trusted friends and family members. People who aren’t with your child every day may have a more objective idea of how clearly they speak.
Usually, when you are worried enough to start doing your research, it’s a sign that you should speak with a professional. They will be able to give you a much clearer understanding of where your child is at. Keep in mind that speech disorders can create major learning and social delays. It’s better to explore the issue thoroughly than to wait and hope things straighten out on their own.
Helping Your Child Work Through Their Speech Disorder
While having the prospect of helping your child through their speech disorder may feel very daunting, there is good news. Most speech disorders are very treatable and will get better with work and time. If your child is school-aged, they should be receiving help every day from a speech professional.
However, supplementary support is usually required, both in the form of additional professional assistance and at-home intervention. Below, we highlight a few steps you can take at home to help your child work through their speech disorder.
Explore Electronic Resources
eLearning resources for speech disorder treatment are a powerful way to grab your child’s attention and help them work out their difficulties with a stimulating tool. Speak with language professionals to determine what electronic resources would be a good fit for your family.
Model Good Speech at Home
Many families develop their own shorthand around the house. Words and phrases that, while not universally understood are a serviceable and quite personal way of communicating with loved ones. Children’s mispronunciations are often preserved amongst these colloquialisms. Sometimes it is cute when a child says something the wrong way, so you keep the phrase around for a while. Unfortunately, doing so can have serious consequences for how well your child can expand their language skills.
Be Gentle in Your Corrections
If your child is corrected every time they try to speak, they may eventually clam up. There are ways to teach them without being discouraging. Instead of calling out every mistake, try using the word they said wrong in a sentence. “Oh, you’re right, that dog is short.” Not only will this keep their spirits up, but it will also reinforce context— an important component of learning speech skills.
Practice Words They are Good At
It’s important to toss your kid the occasional layup. They will spend a lot of time struggling with their language skills. Having the opportunity to get words right provides momentum to their practice sessions and just makes them feel good as well.
Helping your child work through their speech problems is hard work. However, with careful persistence, you can make a big difference in their lives.