Speech problems

Young boy talking to teacher

At a glance

  • Children develop their talking and listening skills at different rates.
  • Most kids have the skills needed for talking in their first language by the time they're five years old.
  • If you are worried about your child's speech talk to their teacher or your doctor.
  • If your child needs a speech pathologist, working in partnership with them will give your child the best support.
  • Share any results your child's speech pathologist gives you with your child's teacher.

All kids learn how to talk and listen at different rates but there is a general pattern to children's language development. If you're worried about your child's speech development or their teacher has concerns, the best thing you can do is get it checked out professionally.

Problems in talking and listening (see box below)

  • Difficulty producing sounds in words and sentences.
  • Not being able to express words meaningfully.
  • Difficulty in using socially acceptable ways of interacting.
  • Lack of fluency, such as stuttering.
  • Problems with the voice such as a harsh rasping sound.

If your child is yet to start school, a good first step is to have a chat with your child's preschool teacher or with your doctor. Ask them if your child's speech or language skills are appropriate for their age and developmental progress. Take with you to the consultation your child's Personal Health Record (known as the Blue Book). This record of your child's health and development will provide a lot of relevant information.

If your child is at school, talk with their teacher about how your child is coping in the classroom, and whether they have any concerns about your child's speech or language skills. This could be followed up with a visit to the doctor.

Help for speech problems

Your child's teacher is a good source of information and help for you and your child. Schools can help with many language difficulties that kids experience. In some cases they may suggest you talk with your doctor.

Your doctor may recommend a hearing test. Children learn language by hearing speech, so any problems with hearing need to be identified. This may be followed by a referral to a speech pathologist for an assessment of your child's speech and language or a referral to another relevant specialist.

Speech pathologists are professionals trained in communication, its development and disorders. They work with children individually, in pairs or in groups, in Community Health Centres and in private practice. By assessing children's speech and language skills, they can identify types of communication problems and the best way to treat them.

Children with speech problems

Working with the speech pathologist will provide the best support for your child. Your speech pathologist can:

  • help you to identify times in your daily routine to help your child's speech and language development
  • give you activities you can do with your child at home
  • provide recommendations and strategies for the class teacher
  • provide regular feedback on your child's progress.

Sharing your speech pathologist's assessment results and recommendations with your child's teacher will ensure that everyone is working together to support your child's learning needs. Talking regularly with your child's school is an important part of your child's support.

Communication

What is it?

Problems

Speech

 

The physical production of sounds

Difficulty in producing sounds in words and sentences

 

Problems controlling the muscles used in speech

Language

 

Language is the way we make and express meaning, such as:

  • understanding the meaning of words
  • putting words and sentences together orally
  • writing using correct grammar

A limited vocabulary with difficulty learning new words and their meanings and using known words well

 

Difficulty understanding and following instructions

 

Difficulty sequencing words and sentences to make meaningful conversation

Pragmatics

 

Socially acceptable ways in which we interact with each other

Difficulty starting or joining a conversation

 

Difficulty using appropriate physical space and physical contacts

 

Poor use of eye contact (where culturally appropriate)

Fluency

 

The smooth rhythm and pattern of talking

Stuttering

Voice

 

The production of sound

A harsh raspy voice due to vocal nodules


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