Signs your child may have a speech or language disorder

Barb LeDucHealthy Living

Speech and language disorders are evaluated and treated by speech-language pathologists. Island Hospital currently has two pediatric speech-language pathologists accepting new clients – Dr. Linda Newman-Kennedy and Traci Cruz.  Speech is the ability to produce speech sounds using the mouth, lips, and tongue. A child may say sounds the wrong way, repeat sounds and words, or be otherwise difficult to understand. Language is the ability to use and put words together—and to understand others’ words. A child may have trouble understanding questions, following directions, or naming objects. Early speech and language treatment sets a child up for future school and social success.

Island Hospital pediatric speech-language pathologists share some of the following warning signs for parents to watch for in young children:

  • Does not babble (4–7 months)
  • Makes only a few sounds or gestures, like pointing (7–12 months)
  • Does not understand what others say (7 months–2 years)
  • Says only a few words (12–18 months)
  • Says p, b, m, h, and w incorrectly in words (1–2 years)
  • Words are not easily understood (18 months–2 years)
  • Does not put words together to make sentences (1.5–3 years)
  • Says k, g, f, t, d, and n incorrectly in words (2–3 years)
  • Produces speech that is unclear, even to familiar people (2–3 years)
  • Repeating the first sounds of words, like “b-b-b-ball” for “ball” (any age)
  • Stretching sounds out, like “fffffarm” for “farm” (any age)

For school-age children, warning signs may include the following:

  • Has trouble following directions
  • Has problems reading and writing
  • Does not always understand what others say
  • Is not understood by others
  • Has trouble talking about thoughts or feelings

Island Hospital pediatric speech-language pathologists offer parents these tips to encourage a child’s communication development:

For young children:

  • Talk, read, and play with your child.
  • Listen and respond to what your child says.
  • Talk with your child in the language that you are most comfortable using.
  • Teach your child to speak another language, if you speak one.
  • Talk about what you do and what your child does during the day.
  • Use a lot of different words with your child.
  • Use longer sentences as your child gets older.
  • Have your child play with other children.

For elementary-age children:

  • Have your child retell stories and talk about their day.
  • Talk with your child about what you do during the day. Give them directions to follow.
  • Talk about how things are the same and how things are different.
  • Give your child chances to write.
  • Read every day. Find books or magazines that interest your child.

Although treatment ideally begins early—in the toddler years—it is never too late to get treatment. The large majority of parents report significant improvement after treatment. Families can learn more and find help at http://IdentifytheSigns.org and www.asha.org/public.

Island Hospital’s Physical, Occupational & Speech Therapy is located in the Medical Arts Pavilion at 1015 25th Street, Anacortes, WA. Our offices can be reached by calling (360) 299-1328.