Insights from a Speech and Language Therapist
As parents, we eagerly anticipate our children's developmental milestones, including their first words. However, it's important to remember that each child progresses at their own pace, and occasionally, we may notice unusual speech patterns in our little ones. While it's natural to feel concerned, it's essential to understand that many of these patterns are normal during early childhood. As a speech and language therapist, I have encountered numerous cases where children exhibit unique speech patterns below the age of five. In this blog, we will explore some of these unusual speech patterns, shed light on their underlying causes, and provide guidance on when to seek professional assistance.
Stuttering, characterised by disruptions in fluency, is one of the most common speech patterns observed in young children. It often emerges between the ages of 2 and 5, as their language skills rapidly develop. Stuttering can manifest as repetitions of sounds, syllables, or words, prolonged sounds, or involuntary pauses. In most cases, stuttering diminishes with time as the child's language abilities mature. However, if the stuttering persists or causes distress, consulting a speech and language therapist is recommended.
Articulation disorders involve difficulties in producing certain sounds or sound combinations. These issues can result in speech that is difficult to understand, leading to frustration for both the child and those trying to communicate with them. An articulation difficulty is due to the child mislearning how to make the sound. This can include having a lisped S, or a lateralised S - sometimes informally called a ‘slushy S’ by teachers, and the famous Jonathan Ross R - which is in between an R and W, as the lips are not in the correct position. While some articulation errors, such as lisps can be typical during early language development, if they persist or have an unusual quality such as the ‘slushy S’ intervention from a speech and language therapist will be necessary.
Phonological disorders refer to patterns of sound errors that affect the child's overall speech intelligibility. Unlike articulation disorders, which focus on individual sounds, phonological disorders involve patterns of errors that impact the child's ability to form meaningful words and sentences. For instance, a child may consistently substitute or delete entire classes of sounds. These patterns can significantly hinder the child's ability to express themselves effectively. If you notice persistent phonological errors in your child's speech, a speech and language therapist can help boost your child’s speech system.
Apraxia of Speech:
Apraxia of speech is a motor speech disorder that affects the planning and coordination of the movements required for speech production. Children with apraxia struggle to execute the precise movements necessary to produce sounds, syllables, and words. As a result, their speech may appear inconsistent and effortful. Apraxia of speech requires specialised intervention from a speech and language therapist to improve speech intelligibility and develop effective communication strategies.
Echolalia is a speech pattern characterised by repetitive and involuntary echoing or repeating of words or phrases. It often occurs in young children as they learn to navigate and imitate language. While echolalia can be a normal part of language development, its persistence or excessive occurrence may indicate an underlying communication disorder, such as autism spectrum disorder. If you have concerns about your child's echolalic speech patterns, please contact us for a free consultation.
Unusual Speech Patterns - Summary:
Understanding unusual speech patterns in children below the age of five is crucial for parents and caregivers. While some speech patterns are typical during early language development, others may require professional intervention. As a speech and language therapist, I encourage you to observe your child's speech patterns, trust your instincts, and seek assistance if you have concerns. Remember, early identification and intervention can significantly impact a child's speech and language development, setting them on a path toward effective communication and successful interactions in the future.