Q: My two-year-old daughter has a problem saying anything with a “t”, “d” and “i” sound. Because of this, she’s quite shy around her peers and only talks when prompted by her dad and me or her teachers.
Her lower teeth also have gaps between them. A friend mentioned that I should consider that my daughter may have tongue-tie. I’ve never heard of this before. What is tongue-tie, and how is it fixed?
A: Dr Strachan answers: The frenulum is the cord that attaches the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. Tongue-tie refers to the condition that occurs when the cord restricts the movement of the tongue and this presents as:
• Poor feeding and problems with sucking
• Poor articulation and difficulty with the sounds performed by the tip of the tongue, for example, “t”, “d”, “n”
• Abnormal dentition, with gaps between the incisors
• The inability to push the tongue over the bottom teeth
• Invisibility of the tip of the tongue, which is also heart shaped
I would not expect a two-year-old to be pronouncing all sounds correctly. On average, two year olds say 50 words, are able to name body parts when they are pointed out, and will be saying simple two-word commands. Your two-yearold has no idea that she’s not saying the sounds correctly.
Children of this age have just reached the stage where they are comfortable playing on their own, out of sight of their caregivers, for short periods of time. I think that she should be given the time to develop. Accept that this is a process that will happen at different paces in different children.
She’s probably way ahead of the average for a two-year-old in terms of her vocabulary, but her mistakes in pronunciation may well be completely normal for her age.
The ability to communicate requires the development of speech, which is the ability to say words clearly and correctly, and the development of language, which is the ability to communicate verbally, non-verbally and in writing.
As far as speech is concerned, a twoyear-old is still very much in the phase of acquiring words and learning how to structure understandable sentences. The pronunciation will develop with time. We should not correct the mispronunciations but rather let children speak freely.
As long as a two-year-old is communicating effectively, can hear properly and responds to and understands commands, pronunciation can be dealt with from about three years of age. Gaps between baby teeth are very common and do not reflect the appearance of the permanent teeth.
All that having been said, there are definitely children who battle to speak because of tongue-tie.
Tongue-tie looks different in each child, so if you suspect that your child has tongue-tie, see your doctor.
Tongue-tie is corrected by snipping the cord, and this will release the tongue to work normally. Tongue-tie in newborn babies is usually a temporary problem because the cord lengthens as the jaw and the tongue grow.