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What Did You Say?

Written by Dorothy P, Dougherty,
MA, CCC-SLP, Speech/Language Pathologist

May, Better Hearing and Speech Month, is a great time to take a close look at your child's ability to speak clearly. Learning to say all sounds correctly is a gradual process and often a young child's pronunciation of sounds is endearing and not a cause for concern. However, if your child's speech sounds significantly different from his age peers, or he frequently avoids talking because he is hard to understand, he may have a speech sound disorder.

Articulation disorders, difficulty saying speech sounds correctly, is identified in approximately one million preschool children each year. Research suggests that problems with articulation, if left unchecked, can lead to reading and spelling difficulties, social challenges, and self-esteem problems.

What Did You Say?

Below you will find guidelines or the predictable order that many children develop their ability to speak clearly. You should be able to answer yes to the questions listed below that pertain to your child's
age level.

1. Do you understand approximately 25 percent of what your
eighteen-month-old child is saying?

2. Do you understand approximately 60 -75 percent of what your two-year-old child is saying?

3. Do family members and caregivers understand your three-year-old child's speech? Does he correctly produce vowels and such sounds as: p/, /b/, /m/, and /w/ in words. Does he repeat, when not understood, without becoming frustrated?

4. Do people with whom you do not associate with regularly understand your four-year-old child when he speaks? Does he correctly produce the /t/, /d/, /k/, /g/ and /f/ sounds?

5. Is your five-year-old child's speech understood my most listeners in all situations?

6. Is your child, who is eight to nine years of age, able to make all the
sounds of his language correctly, including /r/, /s/, /z/, and consonantal
blends (For example: /pl/, /tr/, /st/, and /sk/).

Are you Helping Your Child Learn to Talk?

The strongest resource any child can have is a well-informed parent
who knows which speech sounds are normal, which are not, and
how to help a child say speech sounds when they are developmentally ready. Review the following questions and answers, and take a close look at how you interact with your child.


1. Do you speak clearly, naturally, and most of all, correctly?
Yes No

2. Do you ask your child to repeat a word she has said incorrectly?
Yes No

3. Do you praise your child often?
Yes No

4. Do you pretend to understand your child even when you don't?
Yes No

5. Do you educate others about your child's speech difficulties?
Yes No

6. Do you prepare your child for new situations?
Yes No


Finding Help

As most children mature, their overall speech patterns usually become more understandable. However, some children need speech therapy. A speech/language pathologist is trained to assess, treat, and help prevent speech and language problems in children (beginning at birth) and adults. This professional may work in a variety of settings, including colleges or universities, hospitals or medical clinics, local public schools, and private offices. It is certainly not necessary or wise to wait until you child is in kindergarten to seek help. If your child meets state requirements, your local school district or county health department is required to provide appropriate free services for children from birth to five years of age.

To find a private speech/language pathologist close to your home, you can look in the yellow pages, call the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (1-800-638-8255), or go to the ASHA website www.asha.org and click on "Find a Professional." This will certainly set your mind at ease if you learn your child is developing as he should, or getting help, at an early age, will make treatment easier. You can relax and have fun helping your child reach his true potential.

This book teaches the parents of children with articulation problems how speech sounds develop, how to recognize developing speech problems, and how to help children make the most out of speech therapy. It also provides parents with activities to increase their child's language and articulation skills.

About the Author

Dorothy P. Dougherty, MA, CCC-SLP is a speech/language pathologist who has worked with children and adults in school, clinical and private settings for over 25 years.

She is the author of How to Talk to Your Baby: A Guide to
Maximizing Your Child's Language and Learning Skills (Perigee/Putnam, 2001) and Teach Me How to Say it Right: Helping Your Child with Articulation Problems to be released June, 2005, by New Harbinger Publications.

Other Articles by Dorothy P. Doughertys

Encouraging a Child
to Read
Children's Learning Styles: From Crib to Classroom Understanding Preschool Child Development


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By Dorothy P. Dougherty

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Dorothy P. Dougherty
May 17, 2005

Click here to read a transcript
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May Is Better
Hearing And Speech Month

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