19 answers

Speech and Language Delay

Hi I have a 5 year old boy with a speech and language delay. He goes to therapy at kindergarten. I know this sounds awful but I find it really frustrating trying to talk and play with him because most of what he says I have to ask him to repeat it over and over before I understand him. Then I tell him the right way to say it and he tries his best to say it the right way. Most of the time I have to tell him repeatedly how to say things and it takes him a really long time to remember. Like for example he can't remember that girls are called she. He just keeps calling them he or him and I've been telling him for months and months girls are she and boys are he. He does the same thing with pronouncing words I have to correct him for weeks before he'll say it right. I asked his speech therapist and she just keeps saying eventually he'll get it. I know he's smart because he knows letters, numbers, colors, and knows how to spell his name, small words, and can write letters. It's just frustrating trying to have a conversation with him and I know its not his fault and he's trying his best. I just was wondering if anyone else has a child with the same problem and has any advice? Is there anything else I can do to help him?

What can I do next?

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Hi...I'm a Speech Pathologist and if you need a 2nd opinion just email me. He may need more therapy that just 2 times a week in a group setting at school.

Also..here is a great web site for practice ideas at home.

1 mom found this helpful

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Dear B.,

I know what you are going through and bless your heart! Here's the thing though B., the advice I am going to give you might not be what you want to hear;-) None the less it is advice that a "brave" and "true" friend once gave me and it was the right stuff for me, so here goes.

First...there are things you can do to expose your son to language as much and as often as possible, but that may go against some of what we as parents always typically think of. I'm talking about television, or in our case, videos and DVD's (I didn't like the commercials and all that) - I wanted to "control" the content and be able to replay it OVER and over again.

Here's how it was explaine to me when my son (born 3 months premature and having Cerebral palsey, PVL, speech Dysarthria (difficulty pronunciating basically) and speech apraxia (difficulty planning and coordinating the actual language/words part):

1) the average human baby/toddler needs to hear something several hundred if not several thousand times in order to "organize" that sound and make sense of it, let alone attempt and be successful in order to reproduce it. So if a child has ANY kind of disturbance to their speech and processing centers in the brain...it make take several HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of exposures to that same sound before they "get it". Hence you need to maximize every opportunity for them to do that and watching shows and having people talk to them constantly so they hear proper speech is absolutely key to that process.

2) You might want to have him tested for the same conditions that my son has....they are more involved then just being labeled as "delay" but they require a different approach and you don't want to miss anything that you could be doing for him. Better safe then sorry;-) If you are sure however...then no worries.

Now - here's the other part - the part where you come in. I KNOW how frustrated and hurt you are inside. He sounds like a bright little boy and it hurts you to think that his speech issues are helping others to think "less intelligently" of him. This is NOT his issue, this is yours B.. This is your thing to work on, not his. You have to trust that he will come along as he should in his own time and you just have to be there for him and keep doing all the wonderful, caring, responsible things for him....such as love and patience and therapies and most of all understanding. Don't give up on him!

Now that being said...I do think you need to "surrender" to the notion that he is not "perfect" and may never be "perfect"! This HAS to be okay with you in your heart. If you don't resolve this, then you can never truly help him to accept himself and love himself because even to you...his mother...he is not "good enough".

Let me put it another way. I wanted to help my son, I wanted to "cure" my son and it wasn't until he was over 3 yrs old that I met this friend who dared to share her wisdome with me. She told me to "accept" his disasbility and only THEN could we move forward. That does NOT mean stop fighting to improve the conditions of it, and it does NOT mean giving up on trying to make him as "functional" as possible so as to have a greater chance for a productive and independent a life as possible. What it means is NOT being ATTACHED to the PERFECTION that is MY idea of what he SHOULD/COULD be! There is a difference. I wanted him to be more "normal" by mine and the rest of the world's standard of "normal". My son however, was perfectly "normal" for himself. He was after all, born this way and knew nothing different. The perception of what should be vs. what was "normal" for Liam was MY problem not THE problem!

I had to face my own issues, my own embarrassment of his condition when we were in public and when strangers gave him that look of pitty and "awe how awful and difficult it must be for you mom" when they made eye contact with me. I had to get over the stares and the ignorant and oten judgemental and hurtful questions that people ask and most of all.....I had to get over my "shame and discomfort" knowing that most people perceived him to be mentally "not all there" just because he had a physical and speech disbility.

The truth is that of you have either a physical or speech disability, that most people will automatically interpret that as a sign of mental retardation and if one has both...well then that's the kiss of death to interlligence as far as the general public is concerned.

I had to get to a place in myself, in my own mind and confidence to NOT CARE and to KNOW that his confidence would be build off my confidence of him. I had to surrender to the notion that he was not put on this earth to make me have the challenge of "fixing" HIM. His mission was not to make my life embarassing and therefore think that I needed to move in that direction subconsciously. He was put here to fix ME! It was MY challenge to make him the BEST HE CAN BE...not the best that he can match MY image of what he could be and should be.

When I "got that" is when the shame and the guilt and the "attachment" to a perfect outcome that was defined by the complete and total absense of any "abnormality" as I saw it.....only THEN did I really start to help him. My attitude changed, my patience quadrupled, my conviction became eternal and my confidence that he was ALREADY a great kid who didn't need to be "fixed" but rather just needed to "come into his own like any other"...really solidified.

B., all of a sudden within months, he was flourishing. The outcome was/is this. He is now 7 and did not even speak his first words or string them together until he was 4 years old. We were told he would likely NEVER speak properly so that others could understand him. We were encouraged to purchase a 12K speech output device for him and were told that he would always have to have it with him to be able to communicate with others. He'd never string words together to make a complete sentence...we were told this. His babbling woudl make others starea and get "that look", as I call it.

After I "changed my expectations" of him and decided to let him "be" and I'd just keep trying but not be "attached" to the eradication of his disabilities...that's when he blossomed. I can't explain it, but he just did. And now he speaks all the time and while not ever word is perfect, he has NEVER ONCE used that speech output device!!! He loves to talk to people and I just explain his speech issues and give them clues to his patterns and pronunciations and well....it is magic the love and understanding that they give him. It is even more magic how hard he works to be understood and so it will be with your boy too.

It may take months and it may take YEARS and you must prepare yourself for the possibility that it may be the best it can be already....and you must be OKAY with that! It is your expectation of change and eradication that is leading to your own frustration because it allows you to ask the question WHEN IS THIS GOING AWAY. This question is bothersome because you NEED for it to "go away" and THIS is the foudnation of the "fear" that you need to conquer within you as his mother.

I know that this is hard, but this is necessary. You can't control this outcome, only God and your son can. You must be okay with that, whatever the end result is. Get there mentally and you'll have all the amunition you need to stay your course and repeat and correct and work with him for HOW EVER LONG IS NECESSARY until such time as you have change and/or improvement. Enjoy the journey...THIS is the life part that you will miss if you are only focused on the outcome and sort of waiting to get there.

This is my "stolen" advise for you. It was given to me and it changed my life once I chose to accept and practice it. Perhaps it can do the same for you and/or others to hear it as well:-)

God Bless and you keep going for him! My son is the greatest blessing for our family. He brings the greatest joy and he's taught us all the greatest lessons of appreciation and gratitude and unconditional love.

Take care,

3 moms found this helpful

Hi B.,
I am a mother of an extremely intelligent 3rd grade boy who has had a speech/language delay since he was 2 years old (MANY of the same things you describe for your own child). I am also a Speech Language Pathologist in the public schools for 12 years. As both, I feel more qualified than most of the respondents (no offense to anyone) to address your issue.

As a mom...
First of, your feelings of frustration are valid. I had my son tested at 3 years of age (by someone else, of course, to take away bias), and I cried after my son's evaluation, not because I had learned anything new, but because I felt it was some type of personal failure. I mean, as an SLP I didn't expect my own child to have those difficulties. I was a professional in that area and I knew what to do to stimulate his development from the beginning. It's ridiculous now to me that I felt that way, but I'm still human, just as you are. Children are born with different strengths and weaknesses, and we need to accept and love them as they are, while helping them achieve their highest potential. It's sad that I needed to have two more children, who were practically born talking, but not as good at other things as my eldest, to emphasize to me what I already knew, that kids are all different and that no matter what you do; some kids will still have difficulties in some areas. Chances are, you wouldn't blame yourself if your child needed glasses or would you get frustrated by his inability to see. You would get him glasses and be done. Unfortunately, speech is not as easy to correct. It is a highly complex skill, developed over many years. If you think that 1/3 of the motor strip in your brain controls the muscles in your mouth, 1/3 controls your hands, and the other 1/3 controls the REST of your body, it's pretty overwhelming. Add to that the fact that there are separate parts of the brain dedicated to understanding language and to forming language, you're looking at a huge portion of the brain involved in our ability to communicate. Be patient and above all, talk to him. MODEL, MODEL, MODEL. Read Rhonda's response, it is the best one I read.

Now as a school based SLP...

1. Keep the communication open with your school SLP. Trust me, those of us that choose to stay in the schools are there because of the kids and a love of the profession. If it was money that motivated us, we would easily leave to work elsewhere making almost twice as much, with less paperwork or stress (been there, done that, came back to the schools).

2. Get involved in what your child is working on, ask
questions, request homework and do it. I typically get back 5-10% of the work I send home with the kids, no matter the reinforcements I attach to it. I resent the various comments made about only group therapy once per week, etc..., the truth is that we do what we can to help the kids. All the school-based SLPs I know try their hardest to meet each child's needs. Here's a MYTH: individual therapy is better than group therapy. TRUTH: Interaction is required in order to communicate. Group therapy, when done right, can actually speed up the progress because the child has to practice their new skills in a natural setting, with peers, so they learn to talk like normal kids, not adults.

3. If you still feel that you're not getting a straight answer from your child's SLP, or that you need another opinion, seek it. It won't hurt your child to get more therapy, but I'll be honest, it may or may not help. Only you can be the judge.

Finally, as a word of encouragement, my own son has come a long way. He received therapy by someone else (afterall, I have to act like a mom sometime!) until age 6, then I took over. He does well in school and was recently recommended for the gifted program. He still struggles some with reading and writing, and can get frustrated if he's given too much verbal information at once, but is learning compensatory strategies to deal with his difficulties. It takes a long time, but trust me, it's worth it, just love your child, model correct speech, talk to him, read to him, and yes, watch t.v. with him and talk about what's going on in the show.
Good luck,

2 moms found this helpful

Hi, my son is only 2 years old, but is in speech therapy. I did ask the therapist as I am concerned that he categories things. Like all characters in Winn the Pooh are "Pooh", all liquids to drink are "juice", all colors are "blue". I just wanted to give you some encouragement as she said most kids do that. He will start to change, but just keep reinforcing. He started saying piglet and milk. First when I said it and now he is slowly starting to say it. I know there is an age different, but you are doing the right thing by reinforcing. The more I tried to make him say it- the less he did for me. So, hang in there...

1 mom found this helpful

Sounds like you are at your wits end. My son is the same way, well he's only 2 1/2, but he too isn't even saying one word. He just has his own language, granted a busy one, but nothing you can understand. He is starting speech therapy through "Early Steps" and they will guide him into a preschool that will know what his needs are at that point. I too get a little frustrated, but you've been in the barrel alot longer than me. Try to take a breath and think "ok, none of this will probably even matter in five years"...Sounds cliche' but it helps me. I try to let it roll when I constantly hear from friends/family "So, when is he going to talk"..I just blow it off and think It's just something for them to say. At least your son knows what is going on and understands what you are saying to him, that's when I'd really worry!! He'll get there and the he/she thing will pass in time. Plan a night out soon or something. Ya deserve it.

1 mom found this helpful

Be patient, it will come. And consider if you were learning a new language, even though it is your native language he is speaking it is all new to him. Pronouns are very hard and it will come. Flashcards and lots of fun repetion help at our house. My 6 yr old is starting to really explode with understanding the words better. Smile while you work on it so you feel less stress and he will see fun it learning. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

The best advice I can give you is to hang in there honestly at age 3 my son only had 5 words, he is now in 3rd grade and still attending speech but he has come sooooooooo far and made so much progress, to this day i still have to ask my son to slow down to talk to me and repeat alot of the things he says because i cannot understand him, i felt much like you did when he was younger it was very very frustrating for us both, just remember as frustrated as you are he is just as much if not more, ask him to slow down his speech and be patient. you cana lso try and get home therapy for him on top of the therapy at school to help reinenforce things.

Good luck

1 mom found this helpful

Hi...I'm a Speech Pathologist and if you need a 2nd opinion just email me. He may need more therapy that just 2 times a week in a group setting at school.

Also..here is a great web site for practice ideas at home.

1 mom found this helpful


relax and be patient. he really will get speech straightened out - but it is going to take time.

my son is 11 and i still have to ask him to repeat things. my niece has speech problems too and i spend a lot of time asking her to repeat herself.

slow down the speed of your words when you speak to him - it will help him.

as for the remembering he/she thing, relax - he will get it. my son didn't get it straight till he was like 8. girls were he/him regardless of how many times i told him. i would just gently remind him and let it go.

i know from personal experience how frustrating it can be when dealing with speech delays. i did not hear "mommy, I love you" until he was 3 1/2. i still cry over that one. my son is brilliant on the computer, math, science, reading, etc., but at 11, we still have days when his speech pattern reminds you of a 2 or 3 year old. he still has times when he stumbles over words, gets extremely frustrated and you can tell that he is simply ready to scream. so we slow down, start over, i help him remember words and repeat his sentence back to him when he gets frustrated.

1 mom found this helpful

Just love on him! my twin boys are now 6 years old and even now they still have some trouble with some words. Keep with speech therapy and read with him. Sometimes there are just too many expectations on what is typical of a "5 year old". Sounds like you are doing the right stuff. Pray for patience and you will be able to be so much happier instead of frustrated. He will come around.

Have a blessed day!

1 mom found this helpful

Brief background... My daughter just started talking in December. She didn't babble as a baby and her first word was mama in December. She was diagnosed with speech delay a few months before and did not receive any therapy until after this fact. My nephew also has speech delay and my method did not work for his mother as every child learns differently.
I will probably be castrated for my answer but this is what I did with my child.
I tried the speech therapy, and followed all the suggestions given to me, talk to her, get her around other kids her age, correct her when she is wrong, teach her sign language until she is able to communicate with words. Frustrated one day I threw it all the window.
I began my own therapy. I took her to church, prayed for her. At home we would sit and (shhhh don't tell the doctors) we watched tv. We would watch the same DVD episodes over and over again for at least an hour or two a day. As annoying as it sounds she started after about a couple days interacting with the characters on the screen. A week in and she was SAYING the words of the characters.
We would switch DVDs out once a week. After a month of this I hated Dora and all the other cartoon characters and let my house fall silent as I turned off the television. She now says a whole arrange of words, and is sitting still for me to read to her. She hated books before and now she looks forward to her evening reading time with Daddy. She is still behind her counterparts but I am joyful enough that she is talking. Which is the biggest hurdle to cross.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi B.,
I understand this can be frustrating. My brother was electricuted and bit his tounge off when he was 4 and had to RE-learn everything he had just got down pat! It was a difficult time, and very hard on us to keep our composure when it was just SO hard to understand what he was saying. It was also 10x frustrating for him to not be understood.

What we learned to do was sing! Kids remember songs faster than words or sentences. AND kids usually don't do well under pressure or frustration. So make up a little song:
Boys are he's, and girls are she's, remember this even when you sneeze, Girls are she's and boys are he's, Even if their tiny bees - LOL! Kids love to be silly - so if you make learning things super fun, by singing silly songs, the child will relax and want to "have fun" (learning) with you. If he knows you're frustrated, it will make him nervous, and anxious, and that usually makes anyone mess up!

Also, visit www.discoverytoyslink.com/jaymelee
Look for the E symbol, That means reading and language, these toys help with that specific Learning pathway. I am in St Pete, Tyrone Area, I believe you are in St Pete too, I'd love to chat with you, you can call me at ###-###-####, I hope I can help :)

I would listen to the speech therapist. If you don't find that feasable, then seek a 2nd opinion from a different therapist. If you get the same advice (to wait until he is developmentally ready to reach these millestones) then wait. I have a 5 year old daughter who is also very smart and every now and then she confuses he/she. I simply repeat what she says using appropriate grammar, without ever correcting her. Just be patient and supportive. I have a feeling your son will be better than OK whent the time is right!

Boys commonly have speech and language delays. The key is to have a speech pathologist and pediatrician both whom you really trust. I know it's easier said than done, but patience is required in order to not isolate him further. My youngest brother was barely verbal almost to age 5, and now at 16 still has difficulty processing what he wants to say, it's truly a struggle for him to verbalize what he is thinking and it's evident, at least to us, in conversation. He has a condition called Apraxia which we found out was quite common in boys and had several varying degrees of severity. What helped my mother was finding a support network of other mothers whose children suffered from Apraxia, were misdiagnosed often as autistic, and were frustrated with the lack of information available.

My heart goes out to you and your child, I remember how stressful this was when he was a child. Best of luck.

Has your son been thoroughly evaluated? It appears to me that he could have an audio processing problem as well. Patience and positive reinforcement is critical. Have you thought of using homemade flash cards with him? Draw a picture of a girl and on the card write the word girl. Below girl write she, then her. Do the same with other objects, people, etc., then the noun, then the pronouns written below. Use these with him when necessary. Many times children with audio processing problems do well with visual prompts. Since he does well with his letters and numbers in written form I think the visual stimulus could be helpful. As he matures he will catch on faster. But be patient and remember that everyone learns in different ways and that everyone has different strengths in their learning patterns. Best of luck to you and your son!

I would be a little concerned that something else may be going on. Try calling Early Steps or The Florida Center in Sarasota. The people are great. They are trained to notice some things that we may not notice ourselves. It's possible he may just need a little outside therapy. Hope it helps.

Has your child ever been diagnosed with a specific speech delay? At the age of 2, my son could only say two words and now after two years of private speech therapy and a lot of hard work, his vocbulary has increased to probably 500+ words. My son was diagnosed with Apraxia, which is a speech disorder. I would ask the SLP (Speech Language Pathologist) at the school to suggest some exercises that you could do at home to help him. I'm sure that they are working on specific areas and you need to re-enforce them at home. If you need any more specific information, please feel free to contact me.

First, confusing "he"/"she" is age appropriate, not part a speech delay. ALL young children confuse their pronouns. That doesn't mean he doesn't know there are girls and boys. 5 year old children are still learning language usage.

My question to parents is why do they wait and expect the school system to teach their kids speech? I had my son tested at 3 through All Children's Hospital. He went twice a week for 8 months, and then left at a 6 year old speech level. (He started very far behind with a prognosis of at least 2 years to get him up to a 4 year old speech level--that's how delayed he was.) The problem with the school is that you RARELY know what they are working on. As well as it being small-group therapy maybe once a week. Your child doesn't really get great help or any one-on-one in the school system. Is it isolated sounds and where beginning, middle, or end? Or is it language usage itself--conversational speech? Or is it pitch--getting the child to not speak in a high tone of voice? All of these areas incompass language and speech. My son had therapy in all areas, as he is on the autistic spectrum. And you see how much I retained from what he learned too, because I was there at every session, seeing exactly what she taught him and how she taught him, then following it up at home every night.

Your concerns are valid. If you as his mother can't understand him, then his friends or teacher can't either. The longer it persists, the more chance for behavioral and social problems to develop. I would go outside the school system and seek a second opinion/evaluation for him through a private speech program, such as All Children's Hospital-- your pediatrician can refer you to the place he/she feels is best.


I don't have a child in your situation but I have an idea that may help. I took a linguistics class in college and the professor provided many examples of children who had delayed speech or were isolated through cruelty and didn't speak who learned and caught up quickly. Repitition didn't work. They learned by being assimilated with other childen and picked up the language by eventually understanding the grammer rules. For example they leaned "walked" was the past tense of "walk" and therefore would say "speaked" for the past tense of "speak". No-one told them that, it wasn't correct but it pointed out over and over that the only way for them to remember the words was to have a structure and order. I found this fascinating!!
I would suggest that you spend 30 minutes every day just reading simple books to him and eventually he will put it together himself. This would only accelerate his lessons with the speech therapist.
If you are doing this already, just give it time. It will work. A friend of mine's son was delayed and he is now up to speed at 5 but it took a while!

It sounds like you're doing everything right. The thing is, your son has difficulty with language. That is frustrating, even if you do everything right.

It's good that you're helping your son with language. But maybe, just to reduce stress, you need to set aside some time to relax and be with him. Maybe pick something where you won't actually need to talk much (he's not too young to learn chess), go bird watching, go to a concert. Something where you can be 'just mom' and not 'mom who helps with a frustrating thing'.

He's lucky to have such a dedicated parent. But this won't get fixed overnight. Good luck!


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