How should I deal with my son’s speech is­sues?

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - PARENTING -

I am seek­ing your ad­vice re­gard­ing my 10-year-old boy. When he was younger, he had is­sues with the use of the mus­cle in his tongue with cer­tain sounds and words. We took him to speech and lan­guage

BE­FORE I re­ply to the sub­stance of your query I want to be clear, I am not an ex­pert in chil­dren’s speech, ei­ther in di­ag­nos­ing speech and lan­guage dif­fi­cul­ties, or in of­fer­ing in­ter­ven­tion strate­gies. So, please do take my com­ments be­low in the con­text of psy­cho­log­i­cal rather than speech and lan­guage ad­vice.

As I un­der­stand your en­quiry, you are wor­ried that pre­vi­ous speech and lan­guage dif­fi­cul­ties your son had — re­lat­ing to the mus­cles in his tongue — may be re-sur­fac­ing? You are notic­ing dif­fi­cul­ties with his pro­nun­ci­a­tion of words and with the qual­ity of his ex­pres­sion of those words.

It may be the case that he sim­ply doesn’t pay enough con­scious at­ten­tion to his speech, such that he muf­fles his words, or speaks too quickly to be in­tel­li­gi­ble. The fact that you have al­ready no­ticed that when you bring his at­ten­tion to how he is speak­ing, then he can suc­cess­fully ad­just his speech such that he speaks more slowly and clearly, does sug­gest he may not be at­tend­ing to his speech enough.

This is a com­mon enough classes for a while un­til the is­sue was re­solved. Presently he is not pro­nounc­ing his words with ‘ing’ a lot of the time and some­times he has a ten­dency to speak muf­fled or too fast. When I ask him to re­peat what he has just said or slow down he re­peats it com­pletely clear. Should I con­tinue cor­rect­ing him or get a third party in­volved again? prob­lem, and not just for chil­dren. Many of us form habits in our pro­nun­ci­a­tion or the flu­ency of our speech that can make it hard for oth­ers to un­der­stand us. Nat­u­rally, our own speech habits tend to be quite sub­con­scious, as we are as likely to be at­tend­ing to the thought we are try­ing to ex­press, as­muchas­the­way­in­which­weare ex­press­ing it.

For ex­am­ple, when I be­gan to do more pub­lic speak­ing I be­came aware that I had some po­ten­tially an­noy­ing speech habits (such as reg­u­larly re­peat­ing the words “d’you know?” in ev­ery sen­tence or ev­ery sec­ond sen­tence). This never both­ered me, but was quite an­noy­ing for oth­ers to have to lis­ten to, as the words had no func­tion other than be­ing a kind of “filler”, like the equiv­a­lent to an “emm…”

It was only when I lis­tened to my­self speak on cam­era, or on ra­dio, that I even no­ticed I was do­ing it. At­tend­ing a voice coach helped me to sus­tain my aware­ness of what I was say­ing and I was able to cor­rect and avoid say­ing it. Tak­ing my habit out of my sub­con­scious and mak­ing it con­scious was key.

For your son, you al­ready see that mak­ing him con­scious of how he is speak­ing al­lows him to cor­rect it, such that he be­comes eas­ier to un­der­stand. They key in draw­ing his aware­ness to how he speaks is to be very clear that you are not crit­i­cis­ing his speech, just notic­ing it.

In the re­minders you might give him, it is the im­plied crit­i­cism, that may come from a cross or crit­i­cal tone of voice that you might use, that could af­fect his self-es­teem or his self-con­fi­dence. Sim­ply giv­ing him in­for­ma­tion to help him to ex­press him­self more clearly, shouldn’t be an is­sue.

I pre­sume when you men­tion get­ting a “third party in­volved again” that you are won­der­ing if you should bring him back to meet a Speech and Lan­guage Ther­a­pist (SLT) again?

If that is in­deed what you mean, then I think it would make good sense to bring him back to an SLT to get an up­dated opin­ion on his speech flu­ency and ex­pres­sive lan­guage.

Nat­u­rally you can’t pre­dict the out­come of the as­sess­ment that the SLT will carry out. It may be that your son has no real lan­guage difficulty per se, or, al­ter­na­tively, that there are is­sues with his pro­duc­tion of speech, ei­ther in terms of pro­nun­ci­a­tion or rush­ing to ex­press him­self.

No mat­ter the out­come, how­ever, you’ll be in a much bet­ter po­si­tion to know how best to help him. So, in an­swer to your ques­tion I think you should do both.

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