speech mile­stones

Watch out for signs that sig­nal a hic­cup in speech devel­op­ment in your young child.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - R.AGE - By PAMELA TJ n De­tails of this work­shop can be found on www.peo­ple­fac­tora­sia.com and www.speechelp.com.

Watch out for signs that sig­nal a hic­cup in speech devel­op­ment in your young child.

SPEECH is such an im­por­tant thing. We com­mu­ni­cate us­ing it and find our­selves of­ten judged by its clar­ity.

Par­ents beam with pride when they hear af­fir­ma­tions such as: “Oh, she speaks so well”; “Wow, his pro­nun­ci­a­tion is so pre­cise” and “How ma­ture his speech sounds!” when their chil­dren are ar­tic­u­late.

We fre­quently for­get that there are many chil­dren on the other end of the spec­trum – the ones who sit in the shad­ows, con­tent to be seen and not heard (or made fun of). I am talk­ing about our lit­tle ones – the less ar­tic­u­late or ver­bal ones.

More of­ten than not, these chil­dren and their par­ents are at the re­ceiv­ing end of stares, fur­rowed brows and a con­fused look.

In re­sponse, chil­dren avoid sit­u­a­tions which make them feel un­com­fort­able. For ex­am­ple, they may run away when Un­cle Cle­ment comes to visit be­cause he or she can only ut­ter “Un­cle Temen”. Some­times they be­come pas­sive or act naughty, busy or tired to es­cape the sit­u­a­tion.

Sadly, most par­ents shrug it off, be­liev­ing that the child is still young and learn­ing to talk.

The study and re­search of chil­dren’s speech devel­op­ment of­fer mile­stones of what is typ­i­cal or not typ­i­cal at any given age.

There are sig­nif­i­cant signs in early child­hood devel­op­ment that mark dif­fi­cul­ties with pro­duc­ing speech clearly. Some com­monly un­thought of ex­am­ples: the fre­quently ill child with coughs and colds, pos­si­ble mid­dle ear in­fec­tions, or dif­fi­culty feed­ing as an in­fant and eat­ing as a baby.

I am a speech pathol­o­gist and a par­ent of two young chil­dren who strug­gled with speech sound dis­or­ders.

Both are beau­ti­ful girls with a zest for learn­ing. My first child spoke af­ter the age of two, and her first words were all words be­gin­ning with the sound /b/ – bear, book, bub­ber­bai (but­ter­fly) and bup­perpo (buf­falo).

Her speech flowed through the nose and al­though she was in­tel­li­gent and so­cia­ble, we had to act as her trans­la­tor most times. This is not typ­i­cal devel­op­ment.

Her speech was tainted with dif­fi­cul­ties from hear­ing chal­lenges and mus­cu­lar weak­nesses. With some as­sis­tance in as­cer­tain­ing her dif­fi­culty and lov­ing sup­port from her fam­ily mem­bers through sim­ple ac­tiv­i­ties with grad­u­ated and care­fully se­lected speech goals at home, she now speaks like a young pres­i­dent.

My sec­ond daugh­ter breast­fed with dif­fi­culty, caus­ing mas­ti­tis due to her poor suck­ing and had a tongue tie that needed to be re­leased. (A tongue tie refers to a tight frenu­lum – the lit­tle band of mus­cle un­der the tongue that lim­its move­ment and af­fects feed­ing and speech).

Thank­fully, all this was at­tended to early, and she sub­se­quently breast­fed suc­cess­fully, and now speaks well be­yond her age.

I take pride in hear­ing them re­late, with grow­ing con­fi­dence, their day’s ac­tiv­i­ties to their grand­par­ents.

There are typ­i­cal ways of de­vel­op­ing speech. Par­ents should also look out for non-typ­i­cal speech de­velop- ment in their young ones.

Speech sounds bloom grad­u­ally in our chil­dren’s speech sys­tems. Chil­dren ac­quire them one at a time, for in­stance /m/, /p/, /b/, /t/, /d/ words (e.g. mama, papa, bird, toy, doll) be­fore /z/ and /s/ words (e.g. zoo, sun) from the age of nine months on­wards.

A speech sound dis­or­der oc­curs when mis­takes oc­cur past a cer­tain age. Yes, young chil­dren of­ten make speech er­rors when de­vel­op­ing speech. For in­stance, many young chil­dren sound like they are mak­ing a “w” sound for an “r” sound (e.g. “wab­bit” for “rab­bit”) or may leave sounds out of words, such as “nana” for “ba­nana.”

If these con­tinue to per­sist be­yond the ex­pected age when it should dis­ap­pear, seek help.

A child is also call­ing out for help if he has trou­ble form­ing words, mov­ing his tongue and lips, or ap­pears to be strug­gling to speak.

If you have a grow­ing bite in your tummy or lar­ynx read­ing this, do con­sider at­tend­ing the up­com­ing Par­ent-Teacher & Med­i­cal Pro­fes­sional work­shop by Dr Caro­line Bowen on Nov 27 in Kuala Lumpur.

This work­shop will ad­dress red flags to help you un­der­stand your child’s needs and learn strate­gies to help her/him at home. It is also suit­able for teach­ers and med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als in learn­ing skills and meth­ods to be used within teach­ing or

di­ag­nos­tic set-ups.

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