One of the most frequent questions I’m asked by other parents is when to get help for their child’s articulation problems. Before I touch on that, I wanted to make sure I separate “speech” and “language” in your mind. A child who is having difficulty with language is often having trouble using or understanding words like their peers (2-word combinations by age 2, picking up correct grammar, following directions, understanding or retelling stories, etc.)
A child with speech sound difficulties (“articulation”) is having trouble pronouncing speech sounds (saying sounds like “th” correctly, sequencing sounds together, moving their tongue/lips/mouth precisely enough to be understood). There are numerous causes for these speech difficulties, and the severity also dictates the course of action. But, some general rules for seeking out help:
- If your child is frustrated by not being understood, get a professional opinion. Frustration leads to acting out or withdrawal from communicative situations, neither of which are beneficial to your child.
- If your child is not as intelligible (easily understood) as his/her peers, and the trend continues for several months, get a professional opinion.
- If your child is in first grade and continues to struggle with speech sounds, talk to the Speech-Language Pathologist at school or a private SLP.
- If you feel like something else is going on, and your gut is telling you to get help, do it. At best, an SLP can rule out a diagnosis.