Albion Park Rail specialist on delayed speech in children

Parents can help their children overcome their speech problems early.

Asking your child about their day at school is a conversation repeated time and time again in households everywhere.

But for Melissa Abrahams, hearing her daughter Claudia, 4, talk about the painting and craft she has done at preschool never gets old.

Claudia has been seeing a speech pathologist for the past year to help her overcome delays in her speech development.

Abrahams first noticed Claudia's speech problems when she was two and could only say a few words. By three she could pronounce a handful more, but her language still had not developed adequately, with people having difficulty understanding what she was saying.

As a childcare worker, Abrahams could see her daughter wasn't hitting the same milestones as other children her age. According to Speech Pathology Australia, people should be able to understand most of a three-year-old's speech. But Claudia's chattering has improved dramatically over the past year.

"She couldn't answer: 'What have you done at school today?', where now you can ask her and she'll tell you," Abrahams says.

"It upset me to see her struggle because I could see she did want to communicate but she just couldn't do it and her behaviour was suffering as well, it was a lot worse than what it would have been if she had the langua ge skills to cope."

Claudia began seeing Albion Park Rail speech pathologist Megan Philip fortnightly, reducing her visits down to every six weeks after lots of additional at-home work on sounds, grammar and description.

Philip says delay in speech development is one of the most common reasons parents bring their children to see her.

Difficulty understanding words and following instructions, speech sound problems, lisps and mispronunciation of letters such as "K", "R" and "L" round out the top issues.

She says these problems are exacerbated when they aren't corrected, which can be hard for family and friends to do.

"There's a real issue with people thinking it's really cute, it's OK, and even in advertising they often use kids with a speech disorder," she says.

"It may be cute when they're three, but then they get to school, and all of a sudden it's not."

While each child learns and develops at a different pace, a study of nearly 5000 children by researchers at Charles Sturt University found a quarter of four- to five-year-old children were identified by parents as having difficulty talking and making speech sounds.

Philip says parents can start to address speech problems by doing gentle corrections, pointing out the differences between words and talking to toddlers using proper sentences and correct pronunciation of words.

She believes the best thing parents can do to help their child overcome speech difficulties is to address them as soon as they start to notice a problem, something Abrahams strongly agrees with.

"Parents should address it early, it is important and sometimes it's not just a matter of your child catching up, if you genuinely believe there is some sort of delay you should go and get help," she says.

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