Does My Child Need a Fort Myers Speech Therapist if His Speech is Hard to Understand?
When your child is hard to understand, it can be stressful for you, your family, friends, educators – and perhaps most especially, your child. Of course, nobody enters this world speaking perfectly, and each child has their own timeline for proper pronunciation. However, it’s also important not to wait too long if you notice your child is more difficult to understand than his or her peers. The sooner a Fort Myers speech therapist can intervene, the faster your child can catch up to where they need to be. That can be critical to ensuring they don’t fall too behind socially and academically. Speaking skills mastered before pre-K and kindergarten can significantly impact the ease with which your child will be able to read and write.
Although every child develops at their own rate, knowing what key milestones to watch for is a good idea. In general, as noted in a recent Parents.com article, you should understand:
- At least 50 percent of what your child says by age 2.
- At least 75 percent of what your child says by age 3.
- About 100 percent of what your child says by age 4, even if all the sounds aren’t perfect.
By the time your child is about 6 or 7, he or she should produce all sounds correctly most of the time. If you can’t, it is well past time to reach out to a Fort Myers speech therapist. Ideally, we like to start treatment of children with speech and language delays and disorders as soon as possible – the earlier the better. At FOCUS, we are big proponents of “early intervention,” which starts between ages 2 and 5.
Many children who have delays in speech and language development will eventually catch up, but they may need some help from a speech therapist to do so. For lots of our kids who graduate our Southwest Florida speech therapy program, as they grow older, their speech is so clear you would never know they once needed speech therapy.
What is a Speech Sound Disorder?
Kids who are hard to understand (outside the bounds of what is considered normal child development) may have what is known as a speech sound disorder. For most kids, we don’t have a clear cause, though they’re sometimes (not always) linked to problems with teeth, hearing loss, a cleft palate, or trouble controlling mouth movements.
Of course, some children may say some sounds incorrectly when they’re first learning to speak. Some sounds, such as w, p and m, are generally learned earlier. Others, like th, v and z, can take a bit longer. For the most part, though, the majority of kids can say almost all sounds correctly by age 4. A child who struggles to say sounds as expected by the time they are 4- or 5-years-old may be diagnosed with a speech sound disorder.
Obtain a Referral to a Fort Myers Speech Therapist
As previously mentioned, early intervention is important for kids with communication disorders. The best time to start treatment is during the toddler years and before preschool, if possible. The reason is that these years are a critical window of language development and learning. In fact, some of the early skills needed for typical speech and language development can even be tested in infancy.
If your child is becoming frustrated or self-conscious about their speech skills, this could also be another indicator that speech therapy might help.
Concerns should be discussed with your physician, who can issue a referral to a speech therapist. They may also refer your child to an audiologist to have their hearing checked.
In the meantime, we encourage parents to practice stimulating speech and language development while at home. Talk to your child as much as possible. Narrate your day together. Model the sounds for them. Frequently point out and name important people, places and things. Offer opportunities for your child to ask questions, listen to them, repeat their words back to them and answer them. Listen to music and sings songs together.
Your FOCUS speech therapist can offer additional suggestions!
FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.
Early Intervention, American Speech-Language Hearing Association
More Blog Entries:
That Tricky “TH” Sound – When Should You Be Concerned? Pediatric Speech Therapists Weigh In. May 1, 2021, Fort Myers Speech Therapy Blog