The Family Project: Toddler’s speech
Q. I am concerned about my three-year-old’s development. Our pediatrician tells us that he is normal, but we are not so sure. Compared to other children, he seems like he is behind. Our son is physically-coordinated, but his speech is very hard to understand. He understands us and can follow directions. He doesn’t focus for very long like his older brother did at his age, and he is extremely active. Should we be concerned?
The panel of experts agreed that there is nothing to be concerned about. “It’s normal to have a lot of these speech problems, even up to the age of eight,” panelist Erin Stalsitz said. “You can’t compare [one child with another]. Every child is different.” “The range of ‘normal’ is really broad,” according to panelist Denise Continenza. “Kids develop at different rates and in different stages of development.” Panelist Wanda Mercado-Arroyo added, “When the pediatrician tells you your child is fine, trust the pediatrician.” “The parents also have to keep in mind that their first child’s demeanor has shaped their parenting,” panelist Chad Stefanyak said. “What they did worked well with the first child, so now they are trying to force it on the second child. Maybe the first child could sit still for an hour, which isn’t normal [at that age], so now they are trying to figure out why the second child can’t focus for as long a time. It’s important that the parents stay flexible with their parenting style.” The fact that the child understands what his parents are saying, and can follow directions, rules out hearing problems, Continenza said. Panelist Pam Wallace said that playing with other children can help with speech development. Panelist Mike Daniels suggested recording the child’s speech now and in six months, and compare the recordings to see if there has been any improvement. If there is no improvement in the son’s speech, the parents can get assistance by contacting the Child Find program in their school district. Stefanyak said the program provides early intervention for children in need of speech-language support. Intervention begins prior to first grade. The website parenting247.org lists information about child development, including the typical language skills at ages from 0-6 months to six. The site’s speech information includes ways to nurture language skills at various ages. For example, under the three-to four-year-old category, it suggests “include your child in everyday conversation.” “play simple games that teach concepts like over, under, on and in,” “read books with poems, songs and rhymes,” and “encourage your children to repeat favorite stories.”
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Chad Stefanyak, School Counselor; Wanda Mercado-Arroyo; Denise Continenza, Extension Educator, Food, Families and Health, Penn State Extension; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, CTS, and Erin Stalsitz, Lehigh County Children and Youth Casework Supervisor. Have a question? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org The Family Project is a collaboration of Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.