Speech and Language Development - When to Seek Help

The following post is taken from an article for Families South West Magazine's November 2012 issue, written by Marianne Brown...

Two boys playing outside

 Speech and Language Development – when to seek help

As a parent it’s often difficult to know when a child’s development falls within the ‘normal’ range and when there is cause for concern.  Just like learning to walk or to use a potty, children develop the ability to communicate at different speeds, and some children will encounter difficulties along the way.

What is the difference between speech and language?

 Speech is how we produce or articulate the sounds that form words.  Language encompasses much more than speech and refers to the way we receive, understand and express information through all forms of communication – verbal and non-verbal.

Although speech problems and language problems are different, they often overlap. A child with a language problem for example, may be good at pronouncing words but be unable to join more than two words together.  A child whose speech may be difficult to understand may still use words and phrases to express ideas. And another child may speak clearly but have difficulty understanding instructions.

Signs there might be a problem

As a very rough guide, and remembering that each child is different, your toddler should have an expressive vocabulary of around 50 words by the time they are 2 years old, and their parent or main carer should be able to understand about half of what they say.  If your little one only uses certain sounds or words repeatedly, and is unable to use spoken language to communicate more than their immediate needs by this age, he or she might have speech or language problems, or a combination of both.

Stammering and lisps

Stammers and lisps are two common speech difficulties that we see here at Children’s Therapies.  Many parents are correct in thinking that some children do naturally grow out of these speech difficulties, but unfortunately it is impossible to predict which ones.  What we do know is that the earlier parents seek help, the more successful speech therapy is likely to be.

To help a child with a lisp, a therapist will model the correct production of the ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds, highlighting to the child how the tongue is hiding behind the teeth.  The child is given lots of opportunities to listen to the production of the correct sounds, and then helped to produce ‘s’ and ‘z’ correctly using visual cues such as diagrams and letters.

If you are at all concerned, do contact us here at Children's Therapies – we will either be able to reassure you that everything is fine, or a speech and language therapist will be able to assess your child and work with you on strategies and techniques to encourage your child’s communication. 

Lizz Summers

Voice & Presentation Skills Coach