Your child is talking, but can’t seem to produce speech sounds properly. He or she stumbles with particular letters or letter combinations, such as s’s and th’s. Your child may also be omitting certain sounds when speaking, e.g. saying “I wah to ee donuhs” instead of “I want to eat donuts.” And on some occasions, your child simply gives up trying to say certain words.
Your child has trouble articulating.
Articulation refers to act of producing sounds. The clarity and accuracy of how you pronounce your letters and words represent successful articulation. Articulation is both a physiological and psychological process. If your child is having problems with articulation, the best thing to do is to consult a speech therapist or a speech pathologist as soon as possible.
What are the possible causes of articulation problems in children? Consider the following:
Your Child’s Developmental Stage
Some degree of articulation difficulty is normal in young children — hence, the baby talk. Toddlers 12 to 18 months, for example, have a marked preference for vowels and tend to drop consonants in their speech. It’s also not unusual for younger kids to have trouble producing sounds that require vibration in the throat such as r’s, or the deliberate control of their tongue such as s’s. Unless there’s an underlying medical or psychological impairment that will keep them from doing so, kids will naturally outgrow these articulation problems. Parents should be concerned only when their child skips the typical language development milestones.
If your child’s articulation difficulty persists beyond what is expected from kids their age, then consider the possibility of a physical impairment. Hearing problems can cause poor articulation; kids, after all, learn language by imitating the sounds they hear from other people. Cleft palate, problems in the vocal cords, nasal allergies, gaps in the tooth and poor control of the muscles of the tongue can also cause articulation difficulty. There are also neurological issues that affect speech. A condition called Oral Apraxia, for example, results in the difficulty managing oral movements, and thus results to poor articulation.
Articulation problems may also be caused by learning disabilities. Dyslexia, for example, can cause articulation problems in children, not because of any physical impairment, but because their letter recognition issues result in hesitancy when speaking.
There are also emotional issues that can cause articulation problems in children. When a child is nervous or self-conscious, he or she may have trouble producing particular speech sounds. It is not unusual, for example, for some kids to have trouble articulating during a speech or class presentation. Sadness, anger, and fear may also cause speech difficulty in children. If your child is having articulation problems during a particularly stressful transition, then consider the speech problem as a sign of hidden anxiety.
What to Do About It
You can obtain an accurate diagnosis of your child’s speech issue by arranging a consultation with a speech and language therapist. If the therapist feels that the child will simply outgrow his or her challenges, she’ll let you know. If the therapist feels that some remedial treatment is in order, she’ll let you know that as well. Sometimes school boards or community hospitals provide speech treatment free of cost but private services are also available.