FAQ – School Age Speech and Language Topics

FAQ – School Age Speech and Language Topics


How can I tell if my child has signs of a speech or language delay?


A child may need to receive support from a speech-language pathologist if he or she is having difficulty with receptive and/or expressive language, has difficulty with speech sounds, is frustrated in classroom or is having difficulty experiencing academic success.

A receptive language delay may be suspected if your child appears to have difficulty understanding or following directions. Some children with a receptive language delay may follow simple commands but have trouble with more complex information. This may be due to processing issues or delayed vocabulary and concept development, which may affect your child’s ability to fully understand information and general language.

A child may have an expressive language delay if he or she points or gestures to make a need known. Some children may guide an adult by the hand to show them what they want. If your child has a few vocalizations this may also be a sign. Behavioral issues may appear because your child is frustrated that they cannot communicate their message.

Other signs:

  • Uses mostly vowels to communicate
  • Limited vocabulary at 2 years of age
  • Frequent errors with sounds and speech at 2 ½ -3 years of age
  • Will substitute easier sounds for more difficult ones at 4 years of age
  • Frequently uses incorrect grammar at age 5 years of age
  • Does not produce most speech sounds correctly by 5 years of age
  • Will speak with sound, word or phrase repetitions

If you suspect a speech or language concern with your child consult your pediatrician, school district or neighborhood speech language pathologist. They should be able to answer your questions and determine the next appropriate step.


When should my child have understandable speech sounds?


A speech evaluation may be warranted by 3 years of age if your child has frequent errors and their speech is difficult to understand. Certainly by 5 years of age, children should be able to produce the majority of their sounds or at least have their messages understood. There are a few sounds that are difficult for some children to pronounce which are /R/, /S/, and /L/. These sounds require more precise fine motor skills. Children also have difficulty with consonant clusters which are 2 sounds blended together to create one sound such as /tr/ in truck or /st/ in street. Some children in kindergarten may still exhibit difficulty with some scattered sounds which is fine but for the most part, by age 5 children should have most of their sounds with only a few noticeable errors.


What is a typical speech therapy session like at Speech and Voice Enterprises?


A good session will be fun and goal directed. A typical session will be rich with vocabulary development, incorporate reading to promote speech sounds and reading readiness and have direct relevancy to your child’s day by incorporating some of your child’s classroom themes into the sessions. Many of the lessons or done through arts and crafts, cooking or baking or play-based activities. For children who have oral-motor, issues therapeutic exercises are taught. At the end of the session, additional practice and a homework calendar is sent home to promote carryover of newly learned skills.

What makes Speech and Voice Enterprises different is that we contact and involve classroom teachers and other influential people (i.e., coaches, child care providers etc.) so they can reinforce strategies or use the same language provided in the sessions to promote goal achievement. Parents are always encouraged to observe the session to learn how to model speech and language to reinforce growth at home. It is our mission to identify needs and demonstrate progress through functional activities that focus on life and community skills as well as academic curriculum. Call us today to learn about our diverse programs.


My child is being treated by a speech specialist in their school. Is that different from a speech-language pathologist?


Yes! Yes! Yes! Always be certain to ask what are the specific qualifications of the individual treating your child. There has been a national shortage of speech-language pathologists along with budgetary shortfalls in special education for years. In a effort to fill positions, save money and service students, positions for speech aides or speech specialists have been created. Typically these professionals have a 2 year degree and ZERO clinical experience. They DO NOT hold a state license to practice speech language pathology. They have received significantly less training and their role is to offer “support”. CAUTION: The American Speech Language Hearing Association technically uses the term “speech pathologists” so some school districts will use the term “speech therapists”. They will even sign the report as a speech therapist. A legitimate speech language pathologist will include their title and their credentials in their report and be prepared to show you their license and national certification by the National Speech Language Hearing Association. It would be Freud for a non-licensed speech para-professional to refer to themselves as speech-language pathologist, which is the nationally recognized term. When in doubt, ask if a speech-language pathologist is servicing your child. You can always verify licensure through the state.


What are some signs of stuttering and how is it managed in speech therapy?

Your child may be stuttering if he or she makes partial or entire word repetitions. Also some children many be stuck on a particular sound at the beginning of a word. It is often a struggle for children who stutter to coordinate smooth speech. With children as young as 6 or earlier, the approach to therapy is very indirect for the child. The emphasis is play based and the speech therapy will focus on the habits of speaking with smooth speech. Much of the focus is directed toward the parent(s) and the home environment. Many young children who stutter are unaware of their speech difficulty and continue with their talking uninhibited. It is critical to identify stuttering behavior early and have it addressed before your child becomes older and the speaking behavior becomes reinforced into habit. When a child realizes he or she stutters or is teased children may withdraw from talking and suffer social emotional harm. It is critical to manage stuttering early in life before it becomes debilitating or overwhelming for your child in the pre teen or adolescent years.

There are things you can do when stuttering behavior is observed

    • When your child stutters give him your full attention and show your interest in your child’s topic. Continue with maintaining eye contact and never finish your child’s statements for him. This may cause a miscommunication or have your child feel like he failed.


    • Avoid statements such as, “It’s okay”, while someone is stuttering. This causes frustration and brings attention to the behavior. Continue to show patience and allow your child to finish expressing their thoughts.


    • If there are siblings in the home, schedule special private time for you and your child who stutters to have a pleasant and positive talking experience. Discuss the day or enjoy a book or toy together. This is private time for talking so your child will not feel like he or she has to compete to talk or have fear of being interrupted.


  • Encourage the rule of “No Interrupting” when people are talking at home. Reinforce that everyone is allowed a turn to talk and that it is important to wait patiently and show interest. Many young children who stutter feel they have to compete to talk creating behaviors that cause speech to not be fluent or smooth.


When can I expect my child to sit and enjoy a book?


At 21 months children can identify shapes or familiar objects when given a choice. Vocabulary and language development grows rapidly. At this time many children will have patience to pay attention to a book for a brief period. Some children will begin to point and share with you what they know. Reading is one of the best ways to foster and facilitate language development. The time together should be special and fun.


What age is appropriate for children to play board games?


Usually by 5 years of age. Between the ages of 2 and 3 years, children are possessive of what belongs to them. The concept of taking turns does not begin to develop until 3 years of age. By are 4, children begin to play cooperatively with other children. It is not until age 5 that children understand the concept of “rules”. If your child does not have an understanding of rules and consequences, and is not yet playing cooperatively with other children, then it may be best to wait until your child is older to avoid frustration. Board games should be fun!


When should I consider exposing my child to a second language?


This is a controversial issue and no two language experts will probably report the same information. Much has been written, discussed and debated over this topic. There are many articles and studies available on this subject. Listed below are two general agreements on when to introduce a second language to a child.


Introducing the second language at birth


Studies demonstrate that a child will do best learning a second language at the same time when the primary language is consistently modeled by one parent and the other parent models the second language. With this approach, your child can associate one language with each parent. Both parents switching back and fourth between languages would be confusing for your child to recognize which sounds and vocabulary are associated with which language. Be Aware: When a child is exposed to 2 languages simultaneously there WILL be a delay in both languages at one point during the development. However, MOST children can recover from this delay on their own and return to age expectations in both languages by the early school years.


Learning a second language after 5 years of age


Many studies suggest exposing your child to a second language after age 5 is ideal because by that age most children have good mastery of developing speech sounds, grammar and vocabulary. Studies suggest that the brain is well maturated for learning additional languages up to 12 years of age. After 12 years, it becomes more effortful for the brain to remember the rules of grammar and specific vocabulary. It also becomes more difficult to produce new sounds that do not exists in the first language.


Will exposing my child to sign language accelerate their vocabulary development?


Studies show this is helpful for children who have a language delay but has no effect with children developing language at a normal rate. Exposure to sign language for children with a language delay is helpful because saying a word while providing the sign gives the child a visual image to complement the verbal stimulation. The additional prompt is beneficial because the child is receiving 2 opportunities to process the vocabulary concept through auditory and visual stimulation. Many of the American signs are good meaningful symbols for vocabulary and complement the verbal stimulation as another reinforcement toward concept development.


My child has frequent speech errors, what can I do to help improve his or her speech?


As children are developing language skills and speech sounds normal errors will occur along the way. During this time of development a child may say,”I ranned after him” or “I like dat tuck”. Avoid pointing out the error by saying, “That’s not how you say it.” or “You said that wrong.” Statements this direct can cause a child to feel badly about their mistake and not feel comfortable experimenting with their new speech and language. Another approach is to model the correct form in a way that is natural and not obvious that an error was made. Simply give a reply by modeling, You ran after him? Good for you or “That is the truck you like?” In both cases modeling the correct forms of speech and language made the correction. Studies demonstrate that modeling is an effective method for fostering speech and language development.


Thumb sucking seems like an innocent habit. Why is there so much concern?


Thumb sucking looks cute and innocent but is actually a harmful habit with serious consequences affecting the oral structures resulting in expensive orthodontic work and significant issues affecting speech production. When an object is inside the mouth there is no place for the tongue to properly rest. As a result the tongue will push against the teeth or the roof of the mouth. The result of this behavior is teeth spreading or developing in angles. The roof of the mouth may become narrow or too wide creating a poorly formed arch. Speech, chewing and swallowing are almost always affected because these structures in the mouth have changed and are not in the proper alignment. Often children who suck on their thumb or fingers or any type of object will be unable to pronounce many sounds resulting in unclear speech and communication. In addition, there may be issues with managing foods and liquids affecting eating, drinking and swallowing. When the habit continues into school many children experience social and emotional harm from teasing.

Good News for Parents! Children can easily discontinue thumb sucking behavior in as fast as one day! Fun positive approaches have been developed which gives children the power to stop. When the program is completed, children feel empowered and their self-esteem is boosted since they accomplished their goal and no longer has their thumb in their mouth.


What is tongue thrusting?


The term “tongue thrusting” is outdated and not currently used by professionals such as dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons and speech therapists. The current term used to describe a child who is considered to be a “tongue thruster” is oral myofunctional or orofacial mycology impaired. WOW, What a mouthful!!! These terms were chosen because they better describe the functional relationship of the muscles in the mouth, face and neck that assist with talking, chewing and swallowing. The old term suggests that the tongue moves forward in the mouth, thrusting against the teeth. The relationship among the structures is more complex than that. There are many reasons why children may have weakness in these structures. When children receive help in this area, the most current term used is oral myofunctional therapy or oral facial myology therapy. These are fancy words for describing treatment of the structures in the face, head and neck involved in improving speech and eating. Call us today if you feel your child has weakness with their oral or facial muscles.


What are the signs and symptoms that my child may have weakness with their facial, mouth and neck muscles?


Some signs may include low or soft muscle tone in the face. The lips may look weak or soft without tone. Some lips may project a wider shape or project outward. Drooling or a frequent wet lip may be observed. Many children with oral facial weakness or low tone have “cute puffy cheeks”. The tongue may rest on the lips instead of the proper tongue resting position. A puffy, tired allergic look may also be a sign of oral facial weakness.

Some children who have weak oral structures will struggle with food textures and choose not to eat them resulting in a limited diet and frustrated parents. Eating becomes hard work and there is no pleasure experienced from the meal. Children are not motivated to eat. Examples of difficult textures are: rice, pasta, mashed potatoes, meat, hard cookies, big pretzels or food that has more than one texture such as cereal and milk or vegetable soup. They also can be perceived as having bad table manners by having their fingers in their mouth to move food around or by making smacking and slurping sounds while eating.

Good News! These signs and symptoms may sound very concerning however; all of these issues can be managed with fun play-based exercises that are designed to improve strength and coordination of the oral facial structures and speech sounds. If you have concern, consult your dentist, orthodontist or neighborhood speech therapist for recommendations. We will be happy to answer any questions for you.


Why is speech affected when there are weaknesses with oral facial muscles?


Speech production is a fine motor skill that uses muscles from the respiratory system, throat, jaw, lips, tongue and facial muscles. Where there is weakness, the muscles may not have enough strength and coordination to accurately make the correct sound. When a child has weak oral and facial muscles there may be errors with several speech sounds. They may also omit the beginning and final sounds of words, omit syllables in a word or compensate for their errors by inventing their own sound system. If your child has speech that is difficult to understand at 2 ½ – 3 years of age, you may want to consider a consultation with a speech-language pathologist for recommendations.