Frequently Asked Question

How do I know if my child needs Speech & Language Therapy?

It is important to have regular checkups with developmental and hearing specialists to ensure your child’s development is progressing appropriately. Concerns may be raised by your family doctor, professionals who work with your child, e.g. teachers and support staff, or from your friends and family regarding your child’s ability to; understand/follow instructions, communicate their thoughts/feelings/wants/needs or their ability to interact with their peers (social communication).

As parents you may also seek speech and language therapy for your child if you have concerns that your child is not reaching their language and communication milestones in the way that their siblings, friends and peers do. If you have any concerns, our clinicians will be able to perform an initial assessment to determine whether speech and language therapy may be beneficial for your child.

How much therapy will my child need?

Amount and frequency of therapy varies greatly between each child and can last from weeks to many years. It is rarely possible to give an exact time frame for intervention as this changes due to the cause of communication difficulties, the child’s ability to build new skills and the severity of the delay or disorder.

Following the initial assessment, the therapist will plan both long and short term goals for your child. They will also seek your input for these goals. The therapist will then work with the child on achieving these goals which will be reviewed when necessary. This way, both the therapist and the family can monitor the child’s development in a meaningful way, ensuring all skills are achieved before moving to the next stage of communication.

What is the difference between language and speech?

Quite often parents and teachers will report concerns about a “speech delay”. However, during assessment it may become clear that the child has a language delay. Are they not the same thing? No. Speech and language are very different.

Language is made up of socially shared rules that include the following:

  • What words mean (e.g., “star” can refer to a bright object in the night sky or a celebrity)
  • How to make new words (e.g., friend, friendly, unfriendly)
  • How to put words together (e.g., “Peg walked to the new store” rather than “Peg walk store new”)
  • What word combinations are best in what situations (“Would you mind moving your foot?” could quickly change to “Get off my foot, please!” if the first request did not produce results)

Speech consists of the following:

  1. Articulation
    How speech sounds are made (e.g., children must learn how to produce the “r” sound in order to say “rabbit” instead of “wabbit”).
  2. Voice
    Use of the vocal folds and breathing to produce sound (e.g., the voice can be abused from overuse or misuse and can lead to hoarseness or loss of voice).
  3. Fluency
    The rhythm of speech (e.g., hesitations or stuttering can affect fluency).

What is the best way to raise a bilingual child?

There is no single right way to raise a bilingual child. Sometimes parents are advised to separate the two languages when talking to their children. For example, when parents talk with their children, one parent speaks one language and the other speaks in another. Although children can learn more than one language in this way, this is not the only option. It is also recommended that when speaking to a child that the parent/carer does not “code switch”. This means that you complete your conversation/sentence in one language and do not change mid conversation. This allows the child to build up a mental dictionary of words specific to the language but also to learn the grammar and sentence structures for this language. What really helps is to surround your child with a rich and valuable language.

What are the Hanen Programs It Takes Two to Talk and More Than Words?

Both Hanen programs are delivered by a Hanen Certified Speech-Language Therapist. They can be delivered in individual therapy sessions or in group sessions. Both programs focus on communication in the everyday environment and using daily routines and activities to support communication.

The “It Takes Two to Talk” Program is designed specifically for parents/caregivers of young children (birth to 5 years of age) who have been identified as having a language delay. Parents/caregivers are supported to interact in ways that support the development of their child’s language and interaction.

The “More Than Words” Program is designed specifically for parents of children ages 5 years and under on the autism spectrum. The program provides parents/caregivers with tools, strategies and support to help their children reach their full communication potential. The program does this by teaching strategies to help improved social communication and back-and-forth interactions, improved play skills and improved imitation skills.

What are pragmatics?

Pragmatics or the rules for social language is another area in which speech and language therapists may work with children. Pragmatics involve using language for specific purposes, such as greeting, informing, demanding, promising, or requesting; changing language according to the needs of the listener or situation, such as talking differently to a peer than to an adult or giving context to an unfamiliar listener; following rules for conversations and storytelling, such as taking turns in conversation, introducing topics, or rephrasing when misunderstood, using appropriate verbal and non verbal gestures, facial expressions and eye-contact.

A child with pragmatic difficulties/disorders may use complex language but still have a communication difficulties such as saying inappropriate or unrelated things during conversations, telling stories in a disorganized way or have little variety in their language use and topics.

When to seek help for speech sound disorders?

Speech is the ability to use your lips, tongue and other parts of your mouth to produce sounds. To produce clear speech children need to be able to produce the different sounds of speech, as well as understand the rules for putting those sounds together in their language.

Most children have mastered the following sounds by the following ages:

  • around 3 years: b, p, m, n, h, d, k, g, ng (sing), t, w, f, y
  • around 4-5 years: f, sh, zh, ch, j, s
  • around 6 years: l, r, v
  • around 7-8 years: th, z

Most children make mistakes in their speech during the first few years of speech development. But by about three years, most children can be understood by their main caregivers.

If you’re worried that your child might have a speech disorder, think about how often people who don’t know your child have trouble understanding your child.

  • around 2 years about 50% of your child’s speech should be understood by a stranger
  • around 3 years about 75% of your child’s speech should be understood by a stranger
  • around 4 years about 100% of your child’s speech should be understood by a stranger

It’s best to consider seeking help if your child:

  • is six months or more behind the approximate age ranges for using speech sounds
  • uses speech patterns that are delayed for his/her age, or speech sounds that are immature compared with peers
  • gets frustrated about speaking – for example, he/she gets upset when he/she isn’t understood and has to repeat himself/ herself frequently.

If meal times are difficult, should my child's feeding skills be assessed?

If your child has any of the following issues, a feeding assessment might be needed:

  • frequent gagging, choking or vomiting during meals
  • chewing difficulties
  • refusal to try new foods
  • picky eater – only eating certain foods
  • food range of less than 20 foods
  • difficult to feed

On the day of the assessment, you will be asked to bring certain foods from home to trial in the session with the therapist. After a thorough interview with the therapist, she will observe your child’s feeding and drinking abilities. During the assessment, she might trial some strategies that might improve your child’s feeding skills. Depending on the outcome of the assessment, feeding therapy might be recommended.

Should I refer my child if I am concerned about stuttering?

Stuttering is a fluency disorder. It is also known as ‘stammering’ in some parts of the world. Stuttering is characterized by disruptions in the production of speech sound, which may be in the form of repetitions, prolongations or blocks. One or any combination of these behaviours may be observed consistently or variably. The frequency, duration, type, and severity of disfluencies vary greatly from child to child and from situation to situation with the symptoms appearing between the ages of 2.5 to 4 years. It is also possible for stuttering to start during primary school. About 5% of children display stuttering behaviours and stuttering is more commonly observed in males than females. Preschoolers may have little or no awareness of their fluency difficulties, especially so when they first start to display stuttering behaviours. However, most people who stutter become increasingly aware of their fluency difficulties and the responses they receive when they do not speak fluently.

The exact cause of stuttering is currently unknown. Recent studies have suggested that genetics plays a role in the development of the disorder and that abnormalities in speech motor control, such as timing and sensory and motor coordination, are implicated.