Children develop at different rates. While some children with foundational literacy difficulties will catch up to their peers, children who make slow early progress often need extra help. If they don’t get it, they can experience delays in literacy development which ultimately impacts on their academic success.
There are some early signs that your child might be having trouble with foundational literacy skills. These signs involve both oral language (vocabulary and listening skills) and knowledge of word structure (knowing letters, rhyming, sounding out and blending sounds in simple words).
Seek help or advice if most of the time your child has trouble with three or more of the following activities:
- Telling you what action is going on in a picture book (running, barking, eating)
- Using all of the necessary words to make a complete sentence – for example, ‘I’m going to the zoo’ rather than ‘ me going zoo’
- Listening to an adult read to her on a regular basis
- Remembering a previously read book when shown its cover
- Showing an awareness of how books are handled
- Naming simple objects represented in books
- Concentrating on and responding to print, such as the letters in names, signs and so on
- Scribbling to make shapes that look like letters
- Playing with words and making rhyming words. Children particularly enjoy making up “rude” rhymes. E.g. hum, bum, mum
- Repeating at least parts of nursery rhymes.
5 – 6 years
Seek help or advice if most of the time your child can’t do the things listed above, and struggles with three or more of the following.
- Understanding everyday spoken directions
- Incorporating new words when he speaks, and noticeably using longer sentences (often more than five words)
- Recognising the beginning of words and sounds that rhyme, and producing examples
- Breaking simple words into their parts (syllables or single sounds), and putting sounds together to make words
- Using the proper endings of words – for example, ‘He played soccer with me’ rather than ‘He play soccer with me’
- Showing interest in books and reading
- Trying to read – for example, your child should recognize their own name, brands (McDonald’s ‘M’, Stop Signs, Woolworths etc.) Recognizes the sounds of letters and makes references like, ‘that one starts the same as my name, or snakes start with the same letter that Stop does..
- Following the sequence of events in stories
- Relating what happens in books to her own life events
- Listening attentively when books are read aloud, deriving meaning and pleasure from it.
- Knowing that words in print are different from pictures, and are there to be read
- Observing and commenting on print in different settings, such as on TV, food packets and so on
- Appreciating the different purposes of print – for example, prices, shopping lists, recipes, assembly instructions
- Knowing that each letter in the alphabet has a name and a sound, and being able to name at least eight of them
- Understanding that writing is a tool for communication, and scribbling his name, messages and so on (regardless of whether you can read what he scribbles).
By the middle of grade one your child should be enjoying learning to read and should be developing a growing sight – word vocabulary such as the, and, and is. The letter – sound associations should be more automatic and he should be eager to read. The following may be warning signs as you listen to your child read aloud:
- Doesn’t know the sounds associated with all of the letters
- Skips words in a sentence and doesn’t stop to self-correct
- Can’t remember words; sounds out the same word every time it occurs on the page
- Frequently guesses at unknown words rather than sounding them out
You can also look at your child’s writing for clues about reading difficulty. By the end of Grade R, a child should be writing his name and some other consonants. Mixed uppercase and lower case letters is appropriate.
It’s important not to panic if you see some of these warning signs in your child. Lists of early warning signs can help you be on the lookout; however, there is no precise list of surefire signs of a reading difficulty. Each child is unique and may exhibit only some of the signs. Knowing what to look for can help you decide whether you need to investigate further.
When in doubt check it out.
Your son is 2 years old and still isn’t talking. He says a few words, but compared with his peers you think he’s way behind. You remember that his sister could put whole sentences together at the same age. Hoping he will catch up, you postpone seeking professional advice. Some kids are early walkers and some are early talkers, you tell yourself. Nothing to worry about…
This scenario is common among parents of kids who are slow to speak. Unless they observe other areas of “slowness” during early development, parents may hesitate to seek advice. Some may excuse the lack of talking by reassuring themselves that “he’ll outgrow it” or “she’s just more interested in physical things.” After all, wasn’t Einstein late to talk? This can be a very confusing situation for parents who want to do the best for their child.
Whilst it is important to recognize that every child is unique and develops at his/her own pace, knowing what’s “normal” and what’s not in speech and language development will assist you in making a decision regarding referral to a speech and language therapist. Below is a chart of “typical” language development in children.
LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT CHART
|AGE OF CHILD
||TYPICAL LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT
| 6 – 8 months
- Vocalization with intonation
- Responds to human voices without visual cues by turning his head and eyes
- Responds appropriately to friendly and angry tones
- Enjoys social games like peek- a- boo
- Babbling sounds include p, b, m
- Uses one or more words with meaning (this may be a fragment of a word)
- Understands simple instructions, especially if vocal or physical cues are given
- Practices inflection
- Is aware of the social value of speech
- Responds to name
- Has a vocabulary of 10-20 words.
- Produces more than 5 consonant sounds, like m, w, n, p, and b.
- Begins to use two words together (“mommy shoe” meaning “mommy’s shoe”).
- Points to some body parts
- Follows simple commands (“Give me the ball”).
- Pretend play beginning.
|2 years (24 months)
- Approximately 2/3 of what child says should be intelligible
- Vocabulary of approximately 150-300 words
- Rhythm and fluency often poor
- Volume and pitch of voice not yet well-controlled
- Can use two pronouns correctly: I, me, you, although me and I are often confused
- My and mine are beginning to emerge
- Responds to such commands as “show me your eyes (nose, mouth, hair)”
- Puts many actions together during play like stirring, pouring, scooping, and feeding a doll.
|3 years (36 months)
- Use pronouns I, you, me correctly
- Is using some plurals and past tenses
- Knows at least three prepositions, usually in, on, under
- Knows chief parts of body and should be able to indicate these if not name
- Handles three word sentences easily
- Has in the neighborhood of 900-1000 words
- About 90% of what child says should be intelligible
- Verbs begin to predominate
- Begins to use negative words – no, can’t don’t
- Understands most simple questions dealing with his environment and activities
- Relates his experiences so that they can be followed with reason
- Able to reason out such questions as “what must you do when you are sleepy, hungry, cool, or thirsty?”
- Should be able to give his sex, name, age
- Should not be expected to answer all questions even though he understands what is expected
- Asks lots of questions.
- Most regular and irregular past tense verbs are used correctly.
- Understands most questions but has difficulty answering “how” and “why.”
- Can retell stories and recent past events.
- Uses the pronouns: they, us, hers, his, them, her, its, our, him, myself, ours, their, theirs, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves.
- Knows names of familiar animals
- Can use at least four prepositions or can demonstrate his understanding of their meaning when given commands
- Knows one or more colors
- Can repeat 4 digits when they are given slowly
- Can usually repeat words of four syllables
- Demonstrates understanding of over and under
- Has most vowels and diphthongs and the consonants p, b, m, w, n well established
- Often indulges in make-believe
- Extensive verbalization as he carries out activities
- Understands such concepts as longer, larger, when a contrast is presented
Many late talkers do “grow out of it,” but many do not. It can be difficult to predict which children will not catch up to their peers. However, a list of risk factors has been identified, which suggest that a child is more likely to have continuing language difficulties. These include:
- quiet as an infant; little babbling
- a history of ear infections
- Limited number of consonant sounds (e.g., p, b, m, t, d, n, y, k, g, etc.)
- does not link pretend ideas and actions together while playing
- does not imitate (copy) words
- uses mostly nouns (names of people, places, things), and few verbs (action words)
- difficulty playing with peers (poor social skills)
- a family history of communication delay, learning disabilities, or academic difficulties
- a mild comprehension (understanding) delay for his or her age
- uses few gestures to communicate
What about the group of late talkers who seem to catch up on their own without intervention?
Even though a large percentage of these children appear to catch up to their peers by the time they enter school, studies are showing that this group of children do not perform as well as their peers in certain aspects of language use such as language complexity and grammar.
So, back to my maxim – when in doubt, check it out,
When my son was a toddler he said “doddles” instead of goggles, “tote” for Coke, and “tows” for cows. It was really cute and in fact today “doddles” has become a family word which we all use.
However, on the whole, most people understood what he was saying and by the time he was 3 and a bit, he had outgrown his speech idiosyncrasies and he spoke in clear sentences.
What my son was doing was typical of many young children because they have difficulty co-ordinating the movement of the oral and vocal muscles and they therefore simplify the production of words. These simplifications are not random but predictable. These sound pattern errors are called Phonological Processes.
For example, very young children (ages 1 to 3) may say “wa-wa” for “water” or “ephant” for “elephant.”
Other children may leave out the final sound in words (for example,“pi” for “pig” or “ha“ for “hat.”)
In order to identify when intervention is necessary for toddler’s speech, the following can be used as a guideline.
- Parents should understand at least 50% of what a toddler is saying by age two
- Parents should understand about 90% of what their child is saying by age three.
- Strangers should understand about 50% of what the child is saying at age three.
- Strangers should understand about 100% of what the child is saying by age four.
Many parents ask, “How should I respond if I don’t know what he’s saying?” My advice is to reword what you think he intended to say to ask for clarification. Hopefully, he’ll try to correct you if your guess was wrong. Other advice is to encourage your child to SHOW you what he wants or is talking about. If your child becomes overly frustrated when you don’t understand, you may be able to slide by with nodding or offering a general comment such as, “Oh!” However, if your child is adamant about telling you something or asking you for things you don’t understand, “faking it” may not work.
What should you do when your child mispronounces a word?
Model the word correctly and move on. Your child asks for, “tate?” You say, “cake? Do you want cake?”
Being understood is an important part of communicating. However, until a child’s language skills (sentences that he is using and vocabulary) are age appropriate, intelligibility cannot be the sole focus. Over correcting a 1 or 2 year old child’s speech errors can lead to frustration and a shutdown of progress faster than anything else you can do to a new talker.
What is the difference between articulation and phonology?
Articulation can be defined as the production of a speech sound by the movement of the organs of speech.
If any of these mechanisms are not working properly, weak, damaged, malformed, or out of sync with the rest, then a speech disorder may be classified as an articulation disorder. The age at which a child generally masters specific sounds is tabled below
This chart depicts a range of development and should only be used as a general guide.
Phonology, as discussed above, encompasses the rules of the sound system of language. Some children outgrow these errors; whilst others have errors that persist. This could make speech virtually unintelligible and negatively impact the child’s academic and social success.
ELIMINATION OF PHONOLOGICAL PROCESSES IN TYPICAL DEVELOPMENT
Phonological Processes are typically gone by these ages (years; months)
Caroline Bowen PhD (Speech Language Pathologist)
||GONE BY APPROXIMATELY
||pig = big
||pig = pick
|Final consonant deletion
||comb = coe
||car = tar
ship = sip
||mine = mime
kittycat = tittytat
|Weak syllable deletion
||elephant = efant
potato = tato
banana = nana
||spoon = poon
train = chain
clean = keen
|Gliding of liquids
||run = one
leg = weg
leg = yeg
||fish = tish
||soap = dope
||very = berry
||zoo = doo
||shop = dop
||jump = dump
||chair = tare
|Stopping voiceless ‘th’
||thing = ting
|Stopping voiced ‘th’
||them = dem
As children stop using phonological processes, their speech becomes more understandable. This allows them to become better communicators.
Your child’s age and intelligibility are key determinants in deciding the course of treatment in most instances.
When in doubt, check it out!
The earlier intervention occurs, the less the chance of compounding difficulties developing.