Speech is the ability to communicate with others. It develops naturally with other parameters of normal child growth and development. In the initial years, every child lisps or stutters but gradually learns to speak with clarity. Most kids can speak fairly well, communicate and be understood properly by the age of about 3 years.
If, however, a child is not able to communicate or speak properly after he/she crosses a particular age group, it is worth seeking expert advice to understand if the child is a late bloomer or has a speech disorder of any kind. An experienced speech pathologist is the best person to diagnose and give you the right measures to treat your child’s problem.
Some speech disorders happen when a kid has a physical problem such as a cleft lip or palate. This makes it difficult for them to create the speech sound. Others might have speech trouble because of some hearing impairment, neurological problems, Autism, or any developmental delays.
Some common speech disorders in kids are: Stuttering, Articulation disorders, Apraxia, Dysarthria, and Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders, among others. You need to visit to a speech pathologist as soon as you find any type of problems in your kids with speech.
Stuttering (sometimes called stammering) is a serious disfluency where a person repeats or lengthens a sound, word, or phrase. Most kids generally outgrow stuttering. The treatment programs for stuttering are behavioural, designed to teach the individual specific skills for improved verbal communication. Articulation disorders involve problems making sounds. Sounds can be substituted, omitted, added or changed. These errors make communication a bit difficult.
Childhood apraxia of speech or commonly known as CAS is an oral-motor disorder of speech. Kids suffering from CAS face difficulty saying syllables, sounds, and words. In the kids, who suffer from this issue, it has been found that there are problems in the brain to coordinate with the muscle movements of parts of the body, like jaw, lips and tongue that is needed for fluent speech. Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder resulting from impaired movement of the muscles (lips, vocal folds, tongue, and/or diaphragm) used for speech production. Oral facial myofunctional disorders (OMD, tongue thrust) result from abnormal functioning of the oral and facial muscles. OMD is characterized by the tongue moving forward in an exaggerated way while speaking and/or swallowing.
While the milder speech disorders may disappear on their own, Speech therapy may be required for severe cases or speech conditions that do not improve. Speech-language pathologist (SLP, speech-pathologist, speech therapist, speech-language therapists, speech clinician, teacher of the speech and hearing handicapped) or an Audiologist and help in diagnosing and suggesting the speech related disorders and their treatments. A speech-language pathologist is trained to observe and identify the speech and language problems. Audiologists can help if speech disorders arise from some hearing problem.