Speech Pathology Week - Let's Talk Speech

Speech Pathology Week (August 25 - 31) intends to promote the speech pathology profession and the work done by speech pathologists with more than 1.2 million Australians who have communication difficulties that impacts on their daily life. Communication is a basic human right and so important to people in their everyday lives. Most of the time communication difficulties are not visible and can be ignored causing them to go untreated through to adulthood, it is therefore so important to give it the attention it requires. As well, confident communication can have an impact on educational, social and health outcomes in positive ways.

Speech pathologists work to ensure everyone can communicate with confidence by diagnosing and treating communication disorders, including mild or severe difficulties with speaking, listening, understanding language, reading, writing, social skills, stuttering and using voice. They work with people who have difficulty communicating because of developmental delays, stroke, brain injuries, learning disability, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, dementia and hearing loss, as well as other problems that can affect speech and language. A speech pathologist may also help with issues swallowing food and drink.

Our speech pathologist at Melbourne Wellbeing Group, Nicolette Choo, has been busy the last few months doing free speech and pragmatic screener assessments at Early Learning Centres and schools around Melbourne (thank you for all your hard work!). We asked her to give us some insight into speech, communication, language, and about her time during the screener assessments.

During your time at the ELC free screeners you have been providing, what would you say are the most common communication difficulties you came across?

I noticed that there are a few speech sound errors which are common amongst the children. Some of these errors are age-appropriate while others are not, depending on what age the child is at. 

Some age-appropriate errors include “lellow” for “yellow” which is found to be a difficult word for pre-school children to say, substituting “r” sounds for children up to 6 years old and substituting “th” for children up to 8 years old. 

The most common speech sound errors which are not age-appropriate include:

  • substituting “g” with “d” (ie: dogàdod) for children over 3 years old

  • substituting “k” with “t” (ie: keyàtey) for children over 3 years old

  • frontal or lateral lisps such as incorrect “sh”, “s” or “ch” sounds 

What is the best advice you can give parents when it comes to their child's speech and language skills?

Parents, or the adults who take care of them the most, are the people your child learns most from. Talking and reading to your child provides them with a model for them to learn speech sounds and language from. This can be done by commenting on what they are doing to provide them with extra words they can use in sentences and reading story books to them to teach them the different sound-letter associations as well as literacy skills. 

I can’t understand half of what my 2-year-old toddler is saying. Is this normal?

Toddlers can find it hard to say the sounds the right way all the time. For example, they may say "tat" for "cat" or "pam" for "pram". They can be even harder to understand when they say longer sentences. Help them by show them how to say words the right way by modelling the right word for them when they get it wrong. Visit the Speech Pathology Australia Communication Milestones page to learn more about average children’s communication milestones are.

What are signs that your child may have an underlying communication problem which is affecting their mental health? 

They may have poor social skills and spend a lot of time alone. This may be a result of difficulties related to their speech, receptive language (understanding people), expressive language (ability to talk about their feelings and ideas) and their behaviour.

To find out more about our speech pathology services or book an appointment with Nicolette, our speech pathologist, give our team a call on (03) 9882-8874.

*Please note: some of the information is from Speech Pathology Australia