It has been noticed that there has been an increase in cases of children who are starting to speak at a later age. On an average, according to Dr Shan N. Narayanan, Consultant Paediatrician of Hospital Fatimah, Ipoh, he sees at least two children who have speech delay, or worse, speech disorder, in a week.
The normal development of speech in children is cooing in response to voice in the first six months, then progressively babbling randomly, rhythmically and then in imitation to voice. Around the first birthday they have their first words “mama”, “dada”. The number of words progressively increases and by 18 months they have about 6-10 words. They begin to put two words together. By 2.5 to 3 years they begin to talk in short sentences and by 4 to 5 years their speech is understood by strangers.
Although there will always be variables, as every child develops at a different rate, a delayed speech would still follow the above sequence. Any child that does not follow this stipulated sequence, would be considered to have a speech disorder.
So, how does a parent know if a child has speech development issues, since about 5 per cent of preschoolers are affected by speech delay or disorder? There are a number of red flags to look out for.
The first would be the lack of double syllable babble at a year old. The next stage would be fewer than six words known, or if there is persistent drooling at 18 months old. The third red flag would be the lack of two and three word sentences by 2.5 to 3 years old. And lastly, speech remains unintelligible to strangers by four to five years of age.
Parents who have concerns about speech development in their children should consult a paediatrician, who would screen/assess the child’s development. The paediatrician would then refer the child to an audiologist for a hearing test and then to a Speech and Language Pathologist for assessment and therapy.
Two upcoming workshops would be helpful for parents:
The first entitled SCHOOL REFUSAL is scheduled for Wednesday, November 5, from 7pm to 9.30pm and conducted by Mr David Hong, Family Therapist. School refusal, is a child-initiated refusal to attend classes on a regular basis or has problems staying in school. School refusal behaviour could be due to a number of factors, including avoidance of fear or anxiety-producing situations at school such as presentations and tests because of learning difficulty or a fierce teacher or bullying.
Trained family therapist, David Hong, who is based in Australia, has over 20 years’ experience working with children and adolescents with serious emotional and behavioural issues, and 36 years’ experience in mental health service. Contact Ms Susan Lim at 05 545 5777.
The second workshop is FACILITATING SPEECH & LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT IN YOUNG CHILDREN by Ms Farah Azlina Mohd. Alkaf, Speech and Language Pathologist, on Saturday November 8, from 2pm to 6pm. This workshop aims to teach parents ways to stimulate speech and language development in their children. The speaker, Farah, based in Kuala Lumpur, has almost 16 years experience as a speech and language pathologist. This workshop will be interactive and transfer skills to parents. Contact: Ms Santha at 05 546 1345.