Monday, February 3, 2014

Identify the Signs - Words are Not Understood (18 months to 2 years)

Speech sound development is one area that stumps many parents. When should your child be able to correctly say "f" or "g" or "m." Is it ok for your child to say "wawa" for water, and if yes, for how long is that ok? Or if he uses a silly word like "keekee" for your pet cat but at other times can say "cat" just fine, do you need to worry?  Here is some information on typical speech sound development, things you can do at home and some red flags to watch out for.

Typical Development of Speech Sounds

As an infant your child should begin babbling and making sounds with his tongue and lips for the purpose of interacting with you as well as just the fun of making sounds! You will likely notice a variety of consonants and a few different vowels. The combinations at first will be simple "dadadada" or "guh-guh-guh." Then the combinations get more complicated and he will vary the vowel or the consonant "mami" or "daga." About half way to his first birthday, he should be making a few consonant sounds like "p" "b" and "m." By his first birthday, he should have one or two words (some common first words are "dada" and "byebye") along with lots of babbling.

Between the ages of 1 and 2, your child should be increasingly saying more words. You should frequently think "wow! He knows that word?!!" Towards his second birthday he should be combining words (more on that in my next post).  He should be saying more and more consonants at the beginning of words. You should hear b, d, h, m, n and p with a variety of vowels. At this point you should understand about 25% of what your child says when the context is known. For example, you are talking about an airplane and your child says "ay-pay sigh!"  and you can guess that he said "airplane sky" All the sounds don't need to be correct, but you should be able to figure it out at least some of the time.

From 2 until 3, your child will be saying more sounds, words and  2-3 word phrases. He should also now be able to say w, f, g, k and t. You should understand your child most of the time (about 50% of the time) and unfamiliar listeners should understand him some of the time, too. Parents have a natural ability to translate what a child says without even realizing we are doing it. Pay attention to how often you translate your child's speech to others. By the time he turns 3, he should be consistently putting the endings on words (so "cat" instead of "ca").

You'll notice that your 3-4 year old has a word for almost everything in his environment and wants to talk about everything! He should be able to say kw (q). You should understand him 75% of the time even if there are some sound errors. For example, "I wuv puhsketti" is fine for a 4 year old who wants to tell you how much he loves spaghetti!

Between the ages of 4-5, your child will continue to develop speech sounds like ng (at the ends of words), j, sh, l, s, ch, y and bl. While sometime these sounds will be correct you may notice some errors during conversation. You'll want to hear fewer and fewer errors as he ages. You should understand him almost 100% of the time (again, all of the sounds do not have to be correct, but you should be able to understand what he is trying to tell you).

Between 5 and 6 years old, he should start saying r, v, br, fl, fr, gl, dr, gr, kl, kr, pl, st and tr.

Finally, by the time your child is 7 and 1/2 he should be able to say all of the sounds including th, z, sp, sw and sl.

What You Can Do at Home

Honestly, one of the best things you can do to help your child develop his speech sounds is to model the correct production in your own speech. It's cute to say things like "wuv you!" but it won't be so cute when your 7 year old is still doing it. However, it is very good to do silly sounds with your infant - to blow raspberries and say "buh buh buh" to your baby is very appropriate. But you want to be modeling one (or two) step ahead of where your child is currently communicating when you are talking.

For infants and babies, making animal sounds, environmental sounds and silly sounds are great ways to encourage early speech production.

For your 1 year old, keep making those sounds but draw more attention to the fact that you are doing it. You may say something like "oh, I hear the clock. "t - t - t" and encourage him to say it too. Or if you are playing with a toy car you can tap on the car and say "beep! beep!" and ask him to say it while he taps on the top of his car.

For your 2 year old, encourage him to try new sounds. I like to talk about what my face and mouth are doing. "Look my lips go together and I can go mmmmm!" This is good for working on body parts too!

For your 3 year old, I would encourage him to try to say his sounds correctly not just in words but in simple phrases too. So if he can say "milk" when it's just the word, but says "I want ilk please" have him repeat it with a good "m" in a simple phrase "Milk please!" Also, if he can say a sound in one word, like a "k" in "car" but says "tat" for cat, you can encourage him to try a "k" in cat. Again, I would talk about what my tongue is doing when correcting errors.

For your 4 year old, you can start introducing letters and the sounds that they represent. So, if he is struggling with "s" you can show him the letter S and talk about how it represents the sound "sssssss."  I like to find things that make that sound and practice. Some things that make the "s" might be a snake or some kind of bug or the air coming out of a balloon and then act that out while you make the sound.

For your 5 year old (and older), you can demonstrate the differences in correct and incorrect production. I might say something like "you said 'sree'. Try to say it with a 't' at the beginning like this  'Tree" and really emphasize the sound that was in error.

Red Flags
Infant: not making any sounds
Toddler: making very few consonants and vowels, or uses mostly gestures and grunts
Preschooler: making many errors on most sounds or is very difficult to understand
School Age Child: making errors on sounds, spelling like he speaks, or is difficult to understand

A few things I'd like to add here at the end. If your child seems especially frustrated when he is not understood, it may be time to seek out help. Also, if while you are working on it, if he is not making progress, you may want to talk with a certified speech language pathologist. Finally, if your child has sounds that sound really slushy (a lateral lisp), you should seek help for that as soon as possible. A lateral lisp is never a typical speech pattern.

To get a copy of the sounds and at what ages they should be produced correctly, check out one of my earlier blog posts for a printable page (click here!)

If you are concerned with your child's speech sound development and you have questions, talk with your pediatrician and seek out a certified speech language pathologist in your area. If you are in the central Florida area, feel free to contact me. If you are not, or you would like more resources, check out the American Speech-Language Hearing Association's pro-search (here).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for being a part of the conversation!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...