Listen to your Children's Speech
by Jennifer Carson
With April nearly half over and May just around the corner, homeschool moms everywhere are eagerly awaiting their favorite season, summer break. Now I know you are nearly giddy with excitement at the thought of long, relaxing days with nothing more to do than read that stack of books sitting beside your bed, but there's one more thing you should consider doing before letting the kids loose for the summer: listen closely to your children's speech and decide if they should have their speech evaluated by a speech and language pathologist. As a homeschool mom who is also a licensed SLP, I'm often asked by friends and acquaintances how to know if their child is behind in his or her speech development.
First of all, many people don't realize that "speech" is only the verbal part of communicating--language is the other half of the equation (which we'll discuss next month). Speech production has three main areas:
1. Articulation--producing the sounds by moving the lips, tongue, teeth, jaw and roof of the mouth
2. Voice--using the vocal folds and breath to create vibration/sound
3. Fluency--the rate and rhythm of verbalizing; dysfluency is often called stuttering.
Articulation errors consist of three main errors: substitutions (using one sound for another, i.e. tar/car), omissions (leaving out a sound i.e. store/tore), and distortions (when the sound doesn't sound quite like the targeted sound). Some kids may have more than one type of error with the sound depending on where the sound is located within the word. There are also phonological disorders where the child may leave off the beginning or ending sound of most words, or reduce all consonant blends (like bl or str) down to only one sound. Another common speech disorder is childhood apraxia of speech which has these characteristics: very difficult for anyone to understand your child, he or she was a "late-talker" and you notice inconsistent errors, more errors with longer words, groping for the how to place their tongue and lips, along with a high2understanding of language (such as being able to follow directions or point to objects when you name them).
Here are some general rules, though, to help you decide if your child is on target for speech development. You may want to ask a supportive friend or relative to help you listen to your child because it's easy to miss the errors when you are used to your child's speech.
Most children use p, b, t, d, n, m, k, g, and w sounds by 3 years of age
Most children use s, z, f, v, sh, ch, dg, th, l and r correctly by 6 years of age
Most children don't sound "nasally" or have too much air leaking through the nose when talking
Most children can be understood at least 90% of the time by 5 years of age by someone who is not familiar with their speech (i.e. a grandparent who only sees them once a month; a clerk at a store)
Anytime a family is concerned about their child's communication development, a consultation with a speech-language pathologist is recommended. Most SLPs are willing to "screen" your child for free and let you know if they have any concerns and an in-depth evaluation is needed.
So, before you stock up on sunscreen and popsicles, take a couple minutes now to really listen to your child's speech and decide if further action is needed. Because we all know that despite all of our good intentions to accomplish the hundreds of items on our to-do list this summer, by the time we spend hours searching for next year's curriculum, refereeing squabbles between the kids over the last popsicle and carpooling to camps, sports and swimming, summer will be over in a flash.
You can find a local speech-language pathologist certified by the American Speech Hearing Language Association here: http://www.asha.org/proserv/
You can find out more about Childhood Apraxia of Speech here: http://www.apraxia-kids.org/
Jennifer is a licensed speech-language pathologist and a home schooling mom of three. Two of her children had Childhood Apraxia of Speech.