Episode 2 Live Q&A : Gillian Fong (Speech Pathologist)
Gillian Fong, speech pathologist, has provided answers to questions asked by our Huggies Baby Club members about their childs speech and language as part of the Live Q&A sessions that followed Episode 2, Communication and Discipline on Tuesday 1st May.
The Live Q&A session with Gillian Fong has had an overwhelming response from our Huggies Club members. Unfortunately Gillian has been unable to answer all the questions submitted. If you have any concerns about your child’s speech, language or communication development , contact a Paediatric Speech Pathologist via your local Community Health Centre, look in the yellow pages under “Speech Pathologist – paediatric”, or look on the Speech Pathology Australia website.
Both my children had lisps when they started saying words. Its really cute. My eldest grew out of it by the age of 2, but my youngest hasnt as yet. ARe there any speech/mouth exercises we can do together or will she have a lisp forever?
It depends on the age of your child. Most younger toddlers tend to have a forward tongue placement which can result in a lisp. This can be affected by factors like if they suck their thumb, or still use a dummy. Speech pathologists don’t tend to work on lisps in younger children until the age of 4 plus, mainly because they are still growing so much, and their mouth changes. Some lisps do “disappear” naturally, but if it hangs around and has a big impact on how clear their speech is, it’s best to have a Speech pathologist look at your child and they can demonstrate appropriate exercises to do.
At what age should babies start saying words on their own, and then combining them to make short sentences?
There is a wide range of what is considered “within the normal range”. Some children start talking around 18 months (first words) if not before, some children may not start talking until they are over 2. If children aren’t quite using their words to communicate yet – they may not be ready – we look at other areas like how well they are understanding, what sounds they ARE making, etc. Once children start using single words, if they are encouraged, and provided with appropriate models (slow down and simplify), they will start combining the words they have been using in short sentences.
My son gets frustrated when I don’t understand what he’s saying, do you have any tips on how we can learn to communicate better (sorry, this is a silly question).
Try slowing down and simplifying what YOU are saying, even if he is understanding everything you are saying when you talk normally. Children will tend to copy what they’re adults are saying using the same number of words, and speak at the speed that their parents are, even if they aren’t quite able to. If you meet your child’s talking more at their level, they are more likely to have success.
You can also trying getting your child to SHOW you what they are talking about, then model back what they were trying to say and let them have another go at what they were trying to say.
My boy has just turned 2 and a half last mth and he is still having trouble with some of his pronunciation. ‘Chocolate’ is ‘Choc-cake’, ‘Joshua’ is ‘Shua-shua’, ‘Drink’ is ‘Krink’, etc.. I have tried to help him by repeating the words many times and he still says the same thing. We speak to him in more than one language at home, so apart fr English, we speak in a chinese dialect as well. Is this normal? When will he start to pronounce correctly?
Re: speaking more than one language at home, it’s great that you can expose your child to another language other than English. One important thing to remember is NOT to mix the language, e.g. speak ½ a sentence in English and ½ in Chinese. In doing so, you are mixing words, and sentence structures and your child might not getting a good model of either language.
Some of the examples you have given are difficult sound combinations for young children to produce. Young children automatically simplify difficult speech/sound combinations like “dr”, “st”, etc, or words with lots of syllables in it like “elephant” or “hospital”. Keep it slow and simple for your child. When they are physically more able, they will be able to get their mouth around the words. If not, speak to a Speech pathologist.
My 5 year old son is in prep and is still having problems pronouncing words. He cant make ‘ch’ sounds, instead it comes out as ‘sh’ and has many other problems getting words out. When we try to teach him, he gets frustrated and tells us that he doesnt want to talk about it. Is there anything else we can do to encourage him to learn the words properly? Seryn
By the time children start school, they usually are able to produce or approximate most speech sounds. Sounds like “r’ and “th” tend to come a bit late……and everything goes a bit wonky when they lose their teeth! If the sounds you mentioned are difficult for your child, I would suggest you consult a Speech Pathologist and he/she can give you and idea if whether these sounds are likely to come naturally, or if some intervention will help them.
If you are trying to get your child to do something they can’t do, it’s likely they will get frustrated, so I suggest leave it for now and speak to a Speechie.
Hi Gillian, thanks for your time. My son has milk from a bottle two times a day and has just turned 12 months. I was told he shouldn’t have the bottle any longer he should be using a sipper or straw cup as the bottle it will interfere with his speech development. Is this the case?
Infants can go onto a cup or a sipper cup (with a spout) from 6 months onwards. Some toddlers do like to keep using their bottle as a comfort thing, especially at night. It’s not really a problem at 12 months, but you can certainly start introducing a sipper or straw cup when you are out and about. At this stage it shouldn’t interfere with his speech development, as long as the bottle isn’t staying in his mouth when he isn’t drinking.
Hi, my name is Flor I have a 3 years old dauther, She start to talk clearly just 4 monts ago. We speak just spanish at home and She goes to childcare 2 days per week since She was one. She is speaking a little bit of English now. but my main concern is that She is streamely shy. I take her to a lot of activities just to make her more social but She does not responde Do you think that can be for her speaking? pls help me I do not know what to do.
She may be shy because she’s still learning English. Remember her first language is Spanish and she has only been exposed to English for a short time. Give her some time, children take a while to settle into child care. It’s good to speak to the child care workers to get a sense of how she is going. If you are still really worried, contact a Speech Pathologist, or discuss it with your GP.
My son (6yrs) and daughter (3yrs) have been diagnosed with severe language delay. I also have a 12month old daughter. What chances do you think my youngest has of being language delayed as well? Thanks Nicole
It’s hard to predict. I have seen a lot of siblings from the same family who present with similar language difficulties. On the other hand I have seen many children who’s siblings have amazing language skills. You’re youngest child is certainly at risk of being language delayed so I would suggest if you notice similar developmental patterns to his/her older siblings, then have him/her seen by a Speech Pathologist. Intervention may not be necessary, but it’s would be good to have their language development monitored.
I have a boy who will be 4 in July he still doesn’t talk properly he can say words but they sound sought of mumbled he also can only count to 3 and doesn’t know his colours his kindy teachers think he might have a hearing problem.
If there is any suspicion that there may be a hearing problem, it’s best to get that eliminated as a difficulty. If a child has any sort of hearing difficulty, it can distort or effect how much language they are receiving from their environment.
It’s good if a child can count to say 5 and know their colours around the age of 4, but as a Speech Pathologist, I’m more concerned about what words he’s using, how he’s putting them together, if he is understanding what is being said to him. It’s probably not a bad idea speak with the Kindy teachers and ask what they thing and/or see a Speech Pathologist to get an idea if he is behind, or “on the right track”.
I have a 5 year old son and I think he should be talking by now and I can’t have a conversation with him. Is there something wrong because his stepbrother has a speech problem and I’m really lost at what I should do? If you can help or tell me what my options are, that would be really great.
It’s hard to get a sense of what he is doing and how much. It depends what you consider “having a conversation”. Even when children have good language skills, they still may need support in making sentences, explaining, organising their thoughts and ideas to reply to what you have said, thinking of the right words to you, constructing and sequencing the words into sentences. It’s OK to help your child with their talking. The idea is to help them by modelling back what they are trying to say, then give them another opportunity to use that language again.
If you are really worried, I would suggest consulting a Speech Pathologist, or if he’s in child care/school, speak with his teaching staff about your concerns.
hi, I enjoyed the program today. I want to ask about my 14 mths old girl, she started to say words in 2 languages -I dont know what language to speak with her, it feels more natural for me in spanish but we have a dog and all the commands are in english, and when we go out or get together with other mums and bubs they speak english. my baby is saying words in 2 languages. what can i do so she does not get confused. my partner and I are fluent spanish speakers but we speak english as well. should I stick to one language? please give me some hints, i am also worried because my husband has dislexia and was never treated for it. it that inherited
Ooooh, lots of questions. I’ll try and answer at least some of them. Speak with your daughter in the language you are most comfortable in, because it will feel more natural. It’s great if she is learning 2 languages. Children are amazing with how quickly they can learn languages when they are exposed to them in a natural communicating environment. I mentioned in another Q&A that it’s OK to expose your child to multiple languages as long as you aren’t mixing the languages, say, within the same sentence. What’s a nice thing to do if you can, is to translate some or all of what you are saying. E.g. say what you are saying in Spanish, and if it’s appropriate say some of they key vocab in English, or if you can, say the whole sentence in English.
When your child starts talking more, if she starts using both languages and mixing them, that’s OK. Just model back to her what she said wholly in Spanish , or English.
If one language is being spoken more than the other, that’s the one she will acquire faster. If they are both being spoken in the same amounts, it might take her a little longer to get a handle on both languages as she has to work out 2 vocabs, and 2 different grammar systems. That’s also OK. Children all over the world do it!
Re: dyslexia, it can be inherited, but not always. This is something you won’t have a sense of until you child is a least 4. If your child develops good language skills (talking skills) and is exposed to and enjoys books, it may decrease the chance of literacy difficulties later on.
Hello Gillian, Just a quick question… My son Wyatt will be 3 on the 31st of this month, and still doesn’t speak in sentences; It’s actually rare that he puts more than 2 words together. I’m worried about it, but I’m not sure if I’m being paranoid or not. Should I be seeking some help for him?
Hi, good question. If he’s listening and understanding well, and you’re modelling shorter sentences he can use, then it should be OK. It depends on how clear the words he’s saying are, if he’s getting frustrated, and if the words and word combinations are gradually increasing.
If you are still worried, then by all means get him checked out by a Speech Pathologist to get a more accurate sense of where his language development is.
Hi My daughter is 4yrs &3months old, her brother is 7 yrs old, everybody in the house has talked very clearly with my daughter, but somehow she can not say R instead she says y eg. for rabbit, she will say Yabbit train
-chain tram cham red- yed is it a speech problem?
The “r” sound tends to be a sound that develops later in children. Some 2 year olds can say “r’ beautifully, some 6 year olds still have difficulty with it. If that’s the only error your child is making, then it’s probably age appropriate, but it depends on if she’s getting frustrated. Generally, most Speech Paths wouldn’t work on “r” sounds until they are attending school, because the sound develops later. If you are concerned, have a Speech pathologist listen to her.
At 2yrs 2mths my little boy seems to still be babbling a lot and has only a few clear words. He has no problem following instructions and pointing to things but his speech is still not clear and only my husband and myself seem to understand anything he says. Our mchn has suggested perhaps seeing a speech pathologist. Do you believe this is normal behaviour for his age or should we see someone and what exactly does a speech pathologist do to assist language development?
Try slowing down and simplifying what YOU are saying to him. He may well be trying to copy what you can your husband are saying to him at the speed at which you are saying it, and his whole “talking system” might not be quite ready to do that successfully, even though he can understand everything. Consequently it’s probably coming out as a lot of “gobbledy-goop” with the odd clear word.
Children develop clear talking skills at different times. even though they can say single words clearly, and say lots of different sounds, it may not mean they can use them consistently in their talking. They often make mistakes, take short cuts by simplifying words, or else it falls into a huge heap and comes out like “Martian” . If you start modelling shorter sentences that your child can use, and it’s still note improving, consult a Speech Pathologist.
A Speech Pathologist may assess your child’s language formally or informally, and can give you lots of tips and strategies of how to facilitate your child’s language development. Often the tips and advise you get are reinforcing things you may already be doing.
Whats the youngest age that a child can start speech therapy? What should we look for in a good speech therapist?
It depends on what is being worked on or targeted in “therapy”, what the concerns are with the child, and how they are going with all their developmental skills. A child might start language therapy if they are at risk from 18 months onwards. This might not mean seeing a therapist every week, it might be at regular intervals to have “checkups” and to get an idea of where to go next. If there are difficulties with speech sounds, I generally don’t tend to do formalised “speech therapy” until the child is over 3, mainly as it can require a bit of focused sitting a listening.
Generally all speech pathologists have had a lot of experience in the area they are working. If you are contacting a clinician from the Yellow Pages, or even through the Health Department, make sure they are paediatric clinicians. A lot of Speech Pathologists only work with adults (in rehab, post strokes, head injuries, etc). I guess you are looking for someone you and your child can relate to, feel comfortable with and trust. It’s a 2 – 3 way partnership for any intervention to work.
Many speech pathologists are also registered with Speech Pathology Australia who monitor things like professional development, etc.
My daughter is 3 1/2 months old and ever since she was 2 – 2 1/2 months old she has been able to copy the sounds I make to her, like moo and woo hoo. Is this a early sign that she will be talking at a young age?
It’s not always a predictor but if she’s looking , and listening, and copying at such a young age, these are really important skills for when she is ready to start copying words and sentences. Unfortunately child development is not always in exact science (if only they could poop on cue! ). Enjoy, it sounds like she’s lots of fun!
Hi, my son is 2 years and 3 months and I can count on my fingers how many words he can say. He does not repeat words when I try to teach him and many of his friends are younger than him by 6 months and can have conversations. What should I do?
Even though he is over 2, he might not be ready to copy and use a lot of words to communicate. I’m sure he’s doing lots of other things to communicate with you. I would probably have a lot of other questions to ask you like “what is he doing to communicate with you?”, “is he understanding what you say”………
It’s probably not a bad idea to have your child checked out by a Speech Pathologist to give you a better idea if he’s on track or not, if he needs additional input, or if a few simple strategies help in getting him going.
My son is 26months and we speak to him in both English and Greek. He’s strating to say a few words but I’m comparing him to my neighbours son who’s the same age and says alot more than my son. Are we confusing him with speaking to him in both languages.
I think I may have answered some of your questions in one of the other responses re: bilingualism. Re: sleeping patterns, if no-one has responded, I would suggest speaking to your local Early Childhood Health Centre and they would be able to give you some suggestions or direct you to an agency that might be able to help. Your GP or paediatrician would also have some ideas.
My 26 and a half month old, Thomas, has a handful of single words. He didn’t roll over, sit up or crawl until he was approx 10 months old (when he met all these milestones at once). He was nearly 17 months old when he took his first steps. I also have a 3 and a half year old son who, at the same age, had a huge vocab and was putting three and four words together. I am concerned about Thomas, as he seems to get extremely frustrated because he can’t communicate effectively – he squeals at a piercingly high pitch when he is tantrumming. He seems to have pretty good receptive communication, but our GP has suggested having his hearing checked. Are we going down the right path?
Hearing is always a good place to start and an important area to eliminate as possibly affecting your child’s ability to hear language. He might be a bit later with talking because he was slower with developing his gross motor skills, but it’s worth having someone like a Speech Pathologist have a look at what he’s doing with his communication, and help with some ideas to reduce his frustration (and probably yours) levels. Many children only have a handful of single words at just over 2 years, but if he’s getting really frustrated, there may be ways of reducing this until he is more ready able to use words to communicate.
My son has speech troubles, he has alot of trouble with his pronouciation also word and sentance stucture, but he has good comprehension. He has already been seeing the community health speech therapist and is now under the schools therapist. We are having trouble keeping him interested in trying to improve his speech he quite often says its to hard and wont try. Do you have any suggestions in making it fun? Also we have trouble with him eating quite often, he doesnt chew properly and will often und up just spitting out his food. Could this be linked with his speech troubles too?
Sure, if children aren’t great at chewing and manipulating food in their mouth, it can suggest that their mouth muscles aren’t working really efficiently and effectively, when can then have an effect on speech. Your child sounds like he’s having speech AND language difficulties, and can often need long term support. It’s probably best to speak with your own Speech Therapist about the above. Long term “therapy” can be tricky for a child to stay interested in. Remember these things are difficult for your son. We all resist and avoid and lose interest in things we find difficult. I know I do. Try applying some of what your therapist is working on to things your son is really interested in. If he loves, say, watching the Simpsons, then there is lots of things you can talk about together about the Simpsons and try and incorporate some of the practice you are having to do anyway.
Gillian, I have a 15 month old son that only says muma and dad. The other toddlers in my mothers group are all saying much more than 2 words. When should I start to be concerned. I read to him everyday, play nursery rhyme CDs and have direct one on one time talking to him but he just wont talk. he understands everything that I ask him to do so I know that his hearing is fine.
Have a read of some of the responses I have written already. Your child is still quite young. He may not be ready to use words yet. You sound like you are doing all the right things like reading, talking, playing, etc. When children are learning to walk, you can’t get them up and walking before they are ready. In the same way, children need to be developmentally (cognitively, and physically) ready to talk. You can encourage it as much as you like, but you can’t make it happen if it’s not ready to happen.
It’s always tricky in mothers groups, and play groups NOT to compare your child. Toddlers develop at such different rates…..ALL of which are still within the “normal range”. If he’s listening and understanding well, and you’re modelling words and phrases he can use, then keep persevering, he should get there. If it’s just talking that is the concern, I tend to give toddlers until they are 2ish before thinking about seeing them.
Hi Gillian I have a 19m boy. we speak two languages at home- he is babling words, but he communicates with us more with sounds, not actually words. Could he be confused with trying to link the words b/c of the two languages?
I’ve already responded to a few questions on bilingualism so do have a look at some of the other responses. Your son is still quite young and it’s appropriate for him to be still babbling. Keep it slow and simple in whatever language you are using with him, and try not to mix your languages (e.g. in the same sentence).
My daughter is 19months old. her vocab is extensive – she speaks in 4-5 word sentences, learns new words immediately ( up to four syllables) – she counts to 14 and sings her abc’s already – is this a sign that she is gifted – at least at speaking?
It certainly sounds like you’ve got a good talker on your hands. She sounds like she’s doing beautifully! It’s always really good for kids to have strong oral language skills before they start formal learning (i.e. school) as it’s easier to translate good use and understanding of language to text and literacy.