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Thursday, 14 September 2000

Commonly Asked Questions: Early Childhood Speech and Language Problems

Written by  Esther Boylan Wolfson

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This series was written in consultation with Rachel Bromberg, MACCSLP - Speech and Language Therapist

The Speech and Language Therapist Recommends Therapy For My Child, But I'm Not Sure If I Want To Have Any Sort Of Therapy At Such a Young Age. Maybe It's Best to Wait and See If His Skills Improve on Their Own and, If Not, To Start Speech and Language Therapy When He Is Older?

NO. If a child requires speech and language therapy, then the best time to receive it is in early childhood. In fact, the sooner the better. Firstly, young children usually respond quickly to therapy. The same problem that might take a five-year-old a year to work on, might be resolved by a three-year-old in half the time.

Secondly, one should work on potential developmental difficulties before a child enters first grade. While children with language difficulties may need special help in academic subjects, come what may, the earlier therapy begins, the better prepared the child will be for the challenge of academic work. When language therapy begins in early childhood, then a child can already learn strategies to "compensate" (methods to help work on her difficulties) when learning to read and write.

While speech difficulties do not necessarily lead to academic difficulty, it is still in a child's best interest to resolve any speech difficulties before entering elementary school. As a child grows older the social pressures to "fit in" are greater and peers are more aware of people who "sound different." In addition, if a child's speech is hard to understand, he may have difficulty functioning well in a classroom.

If you are uncertain whether or not your child needs therapy, then get a second opinion and review all the information with the professionals I discussed in, "What To Do If Your Child May Have A Speech or Language Problem". If everyone involved agrees that therapy is necessary, waiting will not help and it can only hurt.

All The Professionals Assure Me That My Child's Language Dvelopment Is Fine, But I Am Still Concerned. What Should I Do?

If you have gone to all the professionals I mentioned above, including a speech and language therapist and everyone agrees that there is no cause for concern, stop worrying. Your child may be developing at his or her own pace, but that pace falls within acceptable norms. Enjoy the time you spend with your child and sit back and watch her continued development. If in six months time you are still concerned, then have her skills re-evaluated.

Should I Correct My Child If He or She Makes a Speech or Language Errors?

DO NOT actively correct your child if he makes speech or language errors. If a child is constantly being corrected when he speaks then the child may start to feel self-conscious and hesitate before speaking.

DO "model" the appropriate language for your child. In simpler words -- repeat his sentence correctly, without the error.

Example #1: Your child says, "I want some tandy," instead of "I want some candy."

* DO NOT say, "It's not tandy, it's candy, say candy."
* DO say, "You want some candy. After lunch I will give you a piece of candy.

Example #2: Your child says "Mommy now store go."

* DO NOT say, "Don't say it that way, say 'Mommy I want to go the store now.'"
* DO say, "You want to go to the store now. I'm glad you told me 'Mommy, I want to go to the store now.'"

When you repeat or say the sound correctly, you can emphasize the sound or phrase that your child says incorrectly. In this way, he will hear how the sentence should sound, without being given the feeling of "making a mistake."

How Long Does It Take For Speech and Language Theraopy To Work?

Unfortunately this is a question that does not have a clear answer. Each child's difficulties are individual and each child responds differently to therapy. Sometimes, improvement can be seen within a few weeks. More likely though, it can take months to get clear results. Often, a therapist will prepare a progress report after the first three months of therapy. If you are concerned about your child's progress, you can ask your therapist if she is preparing a report or if she can give you an update. Sometimes a therapist is able to see progress that is not easily observed by parents.

I would say, overall, that after six months you should see significant improvement. I know that is a long (and expensive) time to wait, but unfortunately language problems are not an exact science and it is unrealistic to expect immediate results.

If after six months you see no improvement, then I would suggest discussing your concerns with the therapist. If you are still concerned, you might want to get a second opinion. No one therapist is good for every child. It might be that your child needs a therapist with a different approach.

Next Week:

Activities You Can Do With Your Child In Order To Encourage His or Her Language Development.

Last modified on Thursday, 04 April 2013 15:02
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Esther Boylan Wolfson

Esther Boylan Wolfson

Esther Wolfson , director of our Early Childhood Development Center is an Early Childhood Specialist, who received her BA in English Communications from Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University and an MA in Early Childhood Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, both in New York City. Esther worked as a pre-school special education teacher for seven years. Three of those years were spent working in a school for language delayed pre-schoolers, which is her area of specialty. Another special love of hers is cooking with young children. One of her most enjoyable projects was developing a program for cooking with pre-school children for three special education programs. Esther and her husband Myles have three boys aged eight, five and two-years-old. While her three lively boys and her work at WholeFamily, keep her quite busy, in her spare time (if she ever has any!) she is an avid reader who also enjoys creative writing, exercising and swimming.

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