When Should I Start Being Concerned About My Daughter's Speech?

Updated on October 15, 2006
J.S. asks from Pemberton, NJ
26 answers

my daughter just turned 3 last week. i understand her most of the time, and strangers probably understand her 50% of the time. i have checked for info on the internet, and she seems to have mastered the alphabet letters that she is supposed to be sounding out at this age. she doesnt quite have the last few to be mastered, ie-f,k,q,r,s,v,x...she is not as clear as the other toddlers who are her friends, but these toddlers all have older siblings and i assumed that made a huge difference. she is very very tall for her age and i get those 'weird' looks when she starts to talk to strangers. her hearing seems fine. she has had a lot of ear infections from age 1 to 2, but they stopped at age 2. she hears me, follows directions, and gets frustrated when i dont undrerstand what she says. does anyone have any experience with speech difficulties in their children? any advice would be greatly appreciated. thanks in advance!

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So What Happened?

i just got a referral from my pediatrician to have a full speech and hearing evalutaion from the specialist. i see great improvement from my daughter weekly though, but i want to be absolutely sure she is not having any hearing difficulties from the ear infections. thank u for all your kind words and advice!

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C.E.

answers from Washington DC on

My daughter is now 17 and a senior in high school. When she was 2 and a half I became concerned that she was not talking clearly. I had a son who is now 20 and he was understandable after 1 year old. I had my daughter tested and her hearing was fine. What I was told was that her tongue was attached more toward the tip so she did not have the ability to move it as much as she should and that she had a very narrow and arched pallet. She was enrolled in the speech program through HeadStart at the local elementary school. They did a lot of work with phonetics and sounds, and how the tongue is supposed to move in speech. She remained in speech up through middle school. Because of her speech issues my daughter was never very verbal. She would use the quickest, easiest way to respond - one word if she could get away with it. To this day she is not a chatterbox. But, those early phonetics have stayed with her and to this day she can sound out words and use those early skills.

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D.C.

answers from Harrisburg on

Well i would ask a specialist just in case. It may be a problem with her hearing, not that she can't hear but that maybe she doesnt hear as well as you think. I worked with a little girl who got a lot of ear infections and she could hear but her speech was all messed up becuacse to her we sounded like we were underwater. or prehaps she cant quite hear herself and thinks that she sounds like everyone else. I would deff. ask a specialist about it. Good luck!

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K.S.

answers from Washington DC on

Speech and IQ aren't connected. Necessarily. Your child may have a mild problem or a severe one, or no problem at all. It's worth having the county check her out. If you're still worried, have a private eval, too. I think if you disagree with the county eval, you're entitled to a private eval at county expense. But a special ed lawyer will be able to tell you more.

Anyway, both my kids are very, very bright (my oldest in a gifted program and reading at the 7th grade level in third grade) and both needed speech/language services.

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N.S.

answers from Philadelphia on

My son had problems speaking to.. I have him involved with Montgomery County Intermediate Unit.. I talked to my Dr and they suggested I call them.. I did and they came out and evaluated him. He gets theapy once a week and is doing wonderful. It doesn't hurt to look in to.. I am really happy and he talks like a champ now.

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M.P.

answers from Dover on

My son sounds similar to your daughter. He is 3 1/2. I understand him about 90% of the time, although sometimes I have to make him repeat what he is saying (which does frustrate him.) He still has difficulty with "r" and "s" sounds and in the past few months finally mastered "f" sounds (he was replacing them with "p".) He continues to replace "v" sounds with "b," but I think that is developmental. Like your daughter, he had extensive ear infections for the first year and a half of his life, and even needed surgery because he developed mastoiditis.

I took him to his pediatrican last week and told her I was a little concerned. When I was in elementary school I needed 2 years of speech therapy to learn how to pronounce my "r"s. His doctor said that at this age it is difficult to tell what is developmental and what could become an issue. She told me that generally speech therapy begins at 4, but I could have him evaluated early if I wanted to. Generally, it's the local school district who is in charge of early intervention and devbelopmental therapy, so I would call them and ask them to put you in touch with someone about speech therapy. I sounds like your daughters difficulties will probably be resolved in a few months, but it doesn't hurt to be proactive.

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P.B.

answers from Allentown on

Hi J.,

Mother of three here, but older not your child's age. Could there possibly be a hearing problem that she can't seem to make up words. I would check into speech therapy for her. Depending on where you live, children can start prekindergarten even with head start and speech therapy should work, but get the hearing checked as well.

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M.V.

answers from Philadelphia on

J. be patient, she is talking and although it's not always clear to everyone else, it comes in time and practice. I'm sure she's developing just fine. Take this from someone who's been there and done that.

M.

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H.L.

answers from Dover on

Hi J.-

I am actually a speech pathologist. I work with children from birth to 3. If you are concerned with your daughter's speech, I would have her evaluated. I am not sure what state you live in and everywhere is different about how the services are handled. If your child has a delay, the school district has to provide services. At 3 years of age, others should be understanding your daughter more than 50% of the time. It is very frustrating to children when people can not understand them and can lead to some behavioral outbreaks. In addition, since she has a history of ear infections, I would definitely pursue services. When children have ear infections, they are not hearing all sounds correctly and therefore will often have a difficult time with articulation. Any questions, please let me know.

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J.S.

answers from York on

My son, Jake (3) has been diagnosed with Apraxia and has received Early Intervention services and now get's both speech and physical therapy through the LIU. If you are concerned about her speech, I would definately call the LIU (or your local school district) and request an evaluation. They'll be able to tell you whether or not there's any issues with her speech and will provide services if there are. I can't stress that enough, because speech/language issues can cause problems in so many other areas of their lives as well (social skills, reading, spelling, self confidence, etc). The best thing we ever did for Jake was getting him Early Intervention. And if it turns out to be nothing (no speech or language disorder) then you can breathe a sigh of relief and relax! :) Good luck! If you have any questions feel free to contact me!

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M.G.

answers from Washington DC on

There is free program in Fairfax County called Child find...I do not have the number anymore, but they will help test for free as long as you reside in Fairfax county to see if if you child has speech problem or not. It is located in Falls Church.

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A.B.

answers from York on

I myself don't have a child with speech problems, but my mother is a low level and mentally retarted learning support teacher so I've seen different things from spending time around her. I don't think you should be to terribly worried yet. I've heard that a lot of children can have trouble with those letters for a while. Sibblings don't always make a difference either. My son was talking like crazy by the time he was 1 and my daughter who is now 1 only says 4 words, 3 of which she only says on the very rare occasion that she feels like it. The rest of the time its all Emma, Emma, Emma. lol. My whole family talks very plainly to her all of the time and encourages her to say other words, but she's completely uninterested. Some children just develop slower than others. But good luck with it. :-)

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S.R.

answers from Scranton on

Hi J.!
I know what you are going through. My five and a half year old has a speech delay. I would recommend speaking to your doctor who can evaluate her. When I spoke with my doctor about it he said that they normally dont do speech evaluations until 4. He would also be able to point you in the right direction as to who can help. My son currently receives speech therapy from school. Previous to this he received therapy from NEIU in Headstart. I would highly recommend enrolling her in HeadStart if it is available in your area. I hope this helps:)

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J.

answers from Pittsburgh on

I wouldn't be too concerned just yet- I have a nine year old that the school put in speech classes in pre-school because he had problems with his th's and ch's. It took him out of class etc. and he really didn't improve - my pediatrician said the muscles in his face weren't developed enough for him to say those correctly yet. basically it was just giving him practice - but it also called attention to something and he thought he was doing some thing "wrong"... not good for his little self-esteem. I with drew him and over the summer things just started coming out the right way. He just needed time to grow - naturally...
I would wait until at least first grade to really worry - unless there is obviously a major pronunciation deficiency, kids grow at thier own pace and do not need to think that they are "wrong" or "different" etc. for something that just comes naturally.

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D.M.

answers from Allentown on

Yes i have some idea of what you are going through. Our daughter was born 9 wks early with a birth defect called spina bifida. and well she began walking at 2 yrs of age on christmas day and Nove 2004 she had a shunt revison that night she began talking... In the hospital well anyway Vanessa was born also with a clif palate with no holes and hig roof she has. Her speech was very hard to understand and she would get frustrated when talking to anyone cause we could not understand. what you should do is talk to your ped. and see if you can get speech therapy home services. this will happen weekly for a therapist to come out and help you and your little one how to pronounce things. and it will also boost self esteem that she will be reciving some help and it will show you how to help your little angel...

Hope this might of help.
Let me no.
D.

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R.

answers from Pittsburgh on

My son is 3 and will be 4 in Feb. He is in about the same boat as your daughter. I can almost always understand him but other people can't. I don't think it's a speech problem with him as much as the fact that he's always in a hurry. He's very active, he talks ALOT but dosen't have the time to slow down and pronounce his letters properly. I don't force the issue, but when he gets frustrated at other people for not understanding he will slow down and think about what he's saying, and his speech then improves. Is your daughter very active? Maybe she's the same way, just in a hurry to get her point across?

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M.R.

answers from Pittsburgh on

I don't think it is anything to worry about. My daughter is 5 and she didn't start talking til she was 3 1/2. She talked sentences when she was 4. I have found that kids do things at their own pace. You can't make them talk and when they start they never stop. (lol). You can talk to your child Ped. and see what they have to say. Some say wait til they are 3 years old to start speech therapy. Good Luck, M.

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J.K.

answers from Pittsburgh on

I did this with my son, my sister inlaw referred me to them its the alliance for infants and toddlers they will come to your house and test your child for speech or anything else you are concerned about, here is their # ###-###-#### and their web address is www.AFIT.org the evaluation is free!

How it works

1.Referral
A call can be made by a parent, hospital, NICU, physician, county health department or others.
2.Family Interview
A family will be introduced to the early intervention process by an Alliance for Infants Service Coordinator who will interview them at home or a place convenient to the family. An observation / developmental screening of the child will be completed at this time.
3.Monitoring
Ongoing developmental screenings / tracking may be recommended.
-OR-
4.Evaluation
An evaluation may be recommended to determine if your child is eligible for specialized services.
5.Planning
If a child is eligible, a meeting with the parents and the early intervention team is help to plan what services will be most helpful to the child and family.
Ongoing Services
Services for the child and family continue with periodic review and / or evaluation.

hope this is helpful good luck!

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S.T.

answers from Dover on

my daughter is 2 yrs old and I had the same problem. What I did was talk slower to her and when she slured a word I would say the word to her slowly and have her try to say it again. Also I sang little simple songs with her, like barney songs, and look her in the face so she could watch my facial exspressions as i talk to her. It seemed to help her, she speaks a lot better now.

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S.R.

answers from Scranton on

Hi J.,
My name is S. and i have a 2 1/2 year old son. He's was five weeks early and 10 pounds. I notice my son was a late starter on his milestones. He didn't start to walk until he was 16 months, and i always noticed him pulling on his ears. i would take him to the doctor and there would be nothing wrong with his ear. So on his second bithday checkup i asked my doctor about his hearing becasue he seemed to only hear the stuff he wanted too. she recommended that i take him to speech pathogists and a audioologist. but she said it could just be normal 2 year old behavior. i was not convinced so i contacted a group called early intervention, were they come into your home and test the child in their own home. well he did say 25 words but they told me he should be saying 200 words. so he qualified for speech thearpy, she comes to the house and works with him. I am also going to have his hearing tested tomorrow becasue i am still not convinced that there is nothing wrong with his hearing. He could have like fluid buildup in his ears and may need tubs in his ears. alot of my family members told me that they did that on one of my cousins and he started to hear better after he got the tubs. but im no doctor so i shouldnt jump the gun. But if you feel there is something wrong go with your gut feeling. contact early intervention i could get you the number, and maybe ask your doctor for a referral for a audiologist. My son is going for a hearing test tomorrow. but as long as i know whats going on with him at least we can fix the problem now and not wait until he gets older and it would be harder. i am on aol my email address is [email protected]____.com if you want me to get those numbers or if you want to chat about this anymore. But i went with my gut feeling and they did find that he was 56% delayed on his speech. he is 32 months but on a 13-17 month old level. so dont wait until its too late. go with your gut . hope to speak with you soon.
S.

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R.T.

answers from Philadelphia on

My very best friend and her daughter (who's my daughter's very best friend as well) have experienced this. Her daughter has a good vocabulary but just doesn't annunciate (sp?) all of words very well. My daughter is 6 months younger than her and she speaks very clearly, even though she's my oldest child. Anyway, she was evaluated by a speech therapist at age 3 and it was recommended that she have therapy. She'd also get very frustated when others couldn't understand her but her parents knew "most" of what she was saying. Anyway, she's been in therapy for just over a year and although I still have some difficulty understanding her, you can tell that she now has the skills to speak words much clearly and she's definatly less frustrated. My friend also told me the the Dr. said that it's important to get this stuff out of the way early, before it starts to effect the childs self esteem and they stop talking since they aren't being understood. I'd definatly request a speech therapist referral ASAP. Even if your Dr. doesn't think there's a problem, let the specialist tell you that after an evaluation, do just take the pediatrican word for it.

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K.P.

answers from York on

J.,

Both of my children just finished speech therapy. My son will be 4 in a couple weeks and my daughter is 2. I would definitely recommend talking to your pediatrician. Ours referred us to Early Intervention, which is a program through the county. We are in York County and had a great experience! The services are free. They will most likely recommend a hearing test first, just to rule that out. I wish we had asked earlier and got my son into the program sooner.

Good Luck,
K.

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A.H.

answers from Pittsburgh on

Hi J.

My daughter, who turns 6 next week, has been in speech therapy for 3.5-4yrs now (I've lost track of how long we've been doing this routine!). She has a physical disability as well, which prompted my call to the Alliance that another mother advised. The Alliance hooks you up with the Early Intervention program for 0-3yrs and they come to the home to provide services for you. In addition to the Early Intervention, I also took my daughter to outpatient therapy, which she's still going too although we're finally down to once a week sessions now. One thing about early intervention and dart, there needs to be a 25% delay for them to provide services. If they see that your daughter is delayed, but less than 25%, I'd seek an outpatient eval and go through your medical insurance.
Like the other moms recommended, I would talk to pediatrician to get his/her opinion, but I would call the Alliance and have her evaluated regardless. If there is any sort of speech disorder/delay, it's best to start working on it asap, hence the early intervention program.
My daughter's first MD assured me my daughter was developing normally at the 3 and 6 mos visits, brushing off my concerns. I went back after her 1 yr visit and insisted he refer us for CT scan, EEG, neurology and child development evals...long story short, my concerns were valid and my daughter missed out on 8-10 mos of therapy because I wanted to believe this doctor, who had more training in pediatrics than I did (I am a chiropractor), was right.

By the way, some of the sounds your daughter hasn't mastered are later developing. I know that S is an 8yr old sound, the others I'd have to check my sheet from the speech therapist.

Good luck and keep us posted!
A.

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J.S.

answers from Reading on

I'm going through the same thing with my daughter. My pediatrician referred her to bciu for early intervention services and she has been receiving speech therapy. It's actually a pretty common thing. I would talk to your pediatrician and tell him your concern and ask them to refer her. They will probably wait until she turns 2. You will then be contacted by Service Access Management(SAM) for an interview and then they will schedule an evealuation. After the evaluation, they will tell you exactly how far behind she is and set up a plan of action if she has a significant delay. They even come to your home for all this. I hope everything works out well for you! If you have any questions, please let me know!

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L.O.

answers from Pittsburgh on

Don't sweat it - no one understood what my little cousin said until she was 5!! The only thing that you could understand was "juice" - they even named their dog Juice!!
Who cares what people think - she'll do just fine - especially once she gets into pre-school and is around other kids all day...I say just relax.

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J.D.

answers from Scranton on

Hi J.,
I was wondering what does her peditrician think of her speech? Is he concerned? If he isn't I woldn't be either. Each child grows and learns at her own speed. Some things I would try would be reading to her and sounding out the words slowly so she can grasp what the words sound like. try not to finish her sentences for her, make her do it on her own and be comforting with it because children can get very fustrated when they cant say what they want. I have tried with alot of success with my son by making a game of the letters. When it was warmer out I would write all the letters on the sidewalk and tell him to jump on a letter and make the sound. He loved the game and he was learning with out knowing it. Also check your TV listings to see if you have the noggin channel. All the programs are very educational and teach things like sounding out words and such. If you don't have it, you can go to noggin.com and there are games that help with speech. try Oobi, it is a hand that talks and if you click on it there are some fun and educational games. Other wise don't worry! Don't worry. she will be fine! Keep me informed and once again don't worry!! :) Peace and Love to you!
J.

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N.

answers from York on

Hi, J.. I have a 4-year-old boy who went through the same difficulties with speech. He's also tall for his age, and gets those "looks" from strangers. They always ask him how old he is. This has happened so much that when he introduces himself, he immediately says his age, "Hi. I'm Caleb. I'm four-years-old." I had a speech therapist come to our house and work with him just after he turned three. Then, I got laid off, and could no longer afford it. The suprising thing was his progress has been just the same, if not better, now then with the therapist. The therapist just showed us what exercises to do with him. Then, we practiced them with him at home. The same information can be found online, and if you work with your child continuously, she'll catch on. Also, try your local library. I'm sure there are books on speech pathology for children. Good luck! Caleb's still got a little way to go, but he's improving every day. We're so proud of him! And don't dwell on what others may think of her. Caleb has many friends at preschool, and as far as strangers' opinions,...who cares? They're strangers!

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