A study by WHO consultant Sophie Jullien on language and speech delays in children found that the average prevalence of isolated speech and language delays and disorders is around 6% among children between two and five years of age in the United States. Addressing speech delays among children is important to reduce their risk of developing learning and literacy disabilities, which include difficulties in reading and writing. This will also reduce their susceptibility to behavior and psychosocial adjustments that may persist into adulthood.
If children exhibit speech delays for more than six months, consulting with a speech-language pathologist is better than a wait-and-see approach. Speech-language pathologists are highly trained professionals who assess, diagnose, and treat disorders that affect speech, language, and different types of communication. Like doctors, they are required to have a strong academic foundation and plenty of practical experience before becoming certified speech-language pathologists. Most speech-language pathologists work in educational settings where they can teach and assist young children with speech delays and disorders.
Although therapeutic treatments with speech-language therapists are indispensable in diagnosing and treating speech delays, parents can reduce their children’s risk of long-term speech delays by talking and reading books to them.
Shared Reading Promotes the Development of Phonological Awareness
Family journalist Sherri Gordon discussed how reading books to babies and children can promote your child’s early language development. Even if babies cannot speak back to their parents yet, they’re already learning the sounds of language through hearing. The more you read to your children, the more they recognize the sounds and patterns of the spoken language, which helps with the development of their phonological awareness.
Phonological awareness is an important skill that helps a child to identify rhyming words and syllables and use prefixes and suffixes. If children lack the ability to distinguish speech sounds, they may encounter difficulties in speaking and perceiving the difference between similar sounds like m and n, which can cause unclear speech. In extreme cases, this can cause speech impediments and delays. This is why shared book reading interventions, where you read a book to your child, can help them become familiarized with how words are spoken through your example.
To practice this, you can read the same book over and over again since repetition can assist with language development. You can also specifically use books with rhymes or songs because it will allow them to remember these words more, and it's a perfect way to keep your child engaged. For School-Age Children, you can ask them questions about what happened in the story to practice their ability to put words into coherent sentences, as well as learn the proper pronunciation. By developing phonological awareness through shared reading, children will feel less frustrated when pronouncing similar sounding words that help them in overcoming their speech delays.
Reading Aloud Allows Them to Practice With Words
Our previous post on dysfluent speech discussed how it's normal for children between the ages of 18 months to five years of age to exhibit difficulties in speech since this is the time when they are rapidly acquiring and learning a new language. Therefore, it's the perfect time to assist them in their language skills to help them develop their speech and prevent any speech delays. Reading to your child is only one way for them to learn words and speech sounds. Encouraging your child to read a book aloud can greatly improve their communication skills since they're putting their knowledge of speech sounds and pronunciation into practice.
When you ask your child to read aloud, they are focused on speaking and trying out the words on their own instead of individually putting words together, which may be difficult for them at the moment. This will help them slowly practice their speech and pronunciation even if they make mistakes. To help your children when reading aloud, start with books that use short sentences or phrases first. You should also tell them that it's okay if they're reading words slowly since it allows them to emphasize the words they're reading. Lastly, don't give up. If you show your child that you feel defeated because of their speech impediment, they'll start losing confidence as well.
Sometimes giving your child the opportunity to talk is one simple way you can help them rectify their speech problems. Aside from eliminating their stuttering, encouraging them to read aloud can also boost their confidence to speak and express themselves.