Communication extends beyond verbal words. Many of us have thoughts and feelings we wish to share, but various challenges may make communication difficult. Whether due to speech and language barriers, motor planning issues, sensory impairments like hearing or vision loss, physical disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, or intellectual disabilities, these factors can significantly impact communication and swallowing.

At Words and Wellbeing Speech Pathology, we're committed to supporting everyone.

Recognising the early signs that indicate a need for speech therapy can be crucial for a child's communication development. Early intervention can significantly improve a child's ability to communicate effectively, which is essential for their academic success and overall confidence.

Below is a combination of markers to watch for and recommended activities to support your child's speech and language development in line with Australian English norms.

If your child started talking later than usual and is now facing challenges with communication in school, they may be experiencing what's known as being a "late talker." This term refers to children who begin speaking words later than the typical developmental timeline. As a result, they might struggle with both language skills and social communication when compared to their classmates. It's not uncommon for teachers to notice these difficulties and bring them to the attention of parents, highlighting concerns about the child's ability to communicate effectively or keep up with language-based activities in class. Understanding and addressing these challenges early can help support your child's communication development and social interaction skills.
Signs to Look For: Limited vocabulary growth, reliance on gestures, frustration when attempting to express themselves, and difficulty with sentence formation.
Examples: Using fewer than 50 words by age 2.
Next Steps: Engage in language-rich activities and consult with a speech therapist for tailored intervention strategies.
Activities: Interactive reading and play-based language modelling can enhance vocabulary and sentence structure.

If you've ever been concerned that your child might have hearing issues, only to find their hearing tests return normal results, it might be that they hear sounds without fully grasping the meaning. This situation often points to difficulties in receptive language development or auditory processing—where a child can hear words but struggles to understand or process them effectively. Speech pathology can play a crucial role here. By evaluating your child's language comprehension and auditory processing abilities, a speech pathologist can identify specific areas of challenge and develop targeted interventions to enhance their understanding and processing of language. This approach aims not just to treat but to improve how your child interprets and responds to the world around them through sound and language.
Signs to Look For: Ignoring spoken directions, trouble following conversations, easily distracted by background noise, and frequent requests for repetition.
Examples: Inability to follow a simple story or consistently misunderstands instructions.
Next Steps: Seek auditory processing evaluations and speech and language assessments, followed by targeted therapy.
Activities: Sound identification games and "follow the leader" can improve auditory processing and comprehension.

Speech sounds and articulation difficulties involve challenges with producing sounds correctly, which can impact a child's speech clarity. These issues, stemming from developmental delays, physical anomalies, or neurological reasons, should be addressed with targeted therapy. By the age of 4, it's expected that children can be understood by others 100% of the time. By age 7, most speech errors typically resolve. The goal of therapy is to enhance speech clarity through exercises and techniques focused on correct sound production. Early and consistent intervention is crucial for overcoming these challenges, ensuring clear and effective communication as the child grows.
Signs to Look For: Sound substitutions, omissions, or distortions that persist beyond expected ages for sound mastery.
Examples: A 5-year-old saying "tat" for "cat."
Next Steps: Obtain an articulation assessment and practise targeted exercises given by your Speech Pathologist
Activities: Mirror exercises and sound-specific games help with articulation.

Is your child finding it tough to say new or tricky words, or struggling with reading out loud smoothly, despite being at the age to read? Phonological awareness involves understanding how sounds within words are arranged and plays a crucial role in reading skills. It's a key indicator of a child's future reading abilities. Children begin developing phonological awareness when they start recognising sounds in language, a foundational step towards reading success. Speech therapy can significantly aid in enhancing this awareness, offering strategies to improve their pronunciation and reading fluency by building a stronger grasp of language sounds and their structure.
Signs to Look For: Struggles with rhyming, recognising letters and their sounds, and a lack of interest in reading.
Examples: A first grader who cannot rhyme or identify beginning sounds.
Next Steps: Your Speech Pathologist will provide exercises to focus on phonological awareness through identifying sounds, blending, and segmenting.
Activities: Phonemic awareness games and alphabet games are beneficial.

Spelling is a crucial skill that extends beyond mere memorisation of word patterns; it's deeply connected to phonological awareness and understanding the structure of language sounds. For children especially, developing strong spelling skills is not just about learning rules but also about understanding the relationship between sounds and their written forms. As someone trained in the Sounds-Write approach, I focus on leveraging this connection to enhance spelling abilities. Sounds-Write is an evidence-based program designed to teach spelling by emphasising phonemic awareness—the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate the sounds in words. This method helps children grasp how spoken language can be represented in written form, making it easier for them to spell new and complex words. By building a solid foundation in phonological awareness, children are equipped with the tools they need not only to spell accurately but also to approach reading with confidence. Through targeted strategies and engaging activities, I aim to develop each child's spelling skills in a way that supports their overall literacy development, ensuring they become proficient readers and writers.
Signs to Look For: Reliance on phonetic spelling, difficulties with spelling rules, and trouble with visual memory of words.
Examples: Spelling "phone" as "fone."
Next Steps: Your Speech Pathologist will implement multisensory approaches to link spelling with phonological awareness.
Activities: Practise spelling patterns and daily writing exercises.

Stuttering and cluttering are speech disorders that affect communication fluency, each presenting unique challenges. Stuttering is characterised by interruptions in speech, such as repeating sounds or prolonging them, making it hard for individuals to express themselves smoothly. Cluttering, meanwhile, involves speaking at an unusually rapid pace or in a disorganised manner, leading to speech that can be difficult to understand due to its hurried and scrambled quality. Speech therapy offers invaluable support for both conditions, providing customised strategies to meet each child's specific needs. For children who stutter, therapy focuses on techniques to enhance speech flow, whereas for those who clutter, the goal is to slow down speech, improve clarity, and organise thoughts more effectively. Through specialised support, speech therapy helps children communicate more clearly, boosting their confidence and social interactions.
Signs to Look For: Repeated sounds or words and excessively fast or disorganised speech.
Examples: Repeating the first sound of a word several times or blurred speech.
Next Steps: Obtain a comprehensive evaluation by your Speech Pathologist to develop a customised therapy plan.
Activities: Slow and steady talking, along with breathing exercises, can improve fluency.

Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is a motor speech disorder where children struggle to articulate sounds, syllables, and words. This difficulty isn't due to muscle weakness or paralysis but rather a coordination issue within the brain. Essentially, while children with CAS understand what they want to say, their brains find it challenging to direct and coordinate the necessary muscle movements for speech. Therapy for CAS is highly personalised and often intensive, focusing on improving the planning, sequencing, and coordination of muscle movements needed for clear speech. As a therapist, I utilise repetition, practice, and multisensory cues to aid in the development of speech skills. The primary aim of therapy is to help children become effective communicators, enhancing their ability to produce words and sentences so they can express themselves more clearly. Therapy sessions are designed to be engaging and motivating, acknowledging every small victory in their journey towards improved communication. With consistent and specialised support, significant improvements in speech capabilities can be achieved for children with CAS.
Signs to Look For: Difficulty with the correct order of sounds, inconsistent errors, limited intonation, and groping movements.
Examples: Saying "buffly" instead of "butterfly."
Next Steps: Begin early, intensive, and individualised speech therapy.
Activities: Repetitive practise and multisensory cues aid in speech production.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) encompasses a range of tools and strategies designed to support individuals who face challenges with verbal speech. AAC can be a lifeline for various children, including those with developmental conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, or those recovering from injuries that affect their ability to communicate. AAC strategies range from low-tech options like picture boards and sign language to high-tech solutions like speech-generating devices and apps tailored to individual needs. The key is to tailor the AAC approach to each child's specific capabilities, preferences, and goals, often incorporating a team of professionals, including speech-language pathologists, to ensure the best outcomes. The use of AAC requires careful consideration, planning, and ongoing adjustment to match the evolving communication skills and needs of the child. Engaging with these tools not only boosts the child's ability to express themselves but also has a positive impact on their overall development, learning, and quality of life.
Signs to Look For: Significant verbal communication difficulties that cannot be addressed through speech therapy alone.
Examples: A non-verbal child with autism struggling to express basic needs.
Next Steps: Assessment for suitable AAC devices, followed by training for effective use.
Activities: Daily practise with AAC devices and incorporating them into daily routines.

Common concerns

When should my child start talking?

Children usually begin to say their first words around their first birthday. These early words might be simple and not perfectly clear, but they're used consistently and intentionally. If by 18 months your child has fewer than 10 words or isn't speaking yet, it might be time to consult with a speech pathologist.

How do I know if my child needs speech pathology?

Keep an eye on key developmental milestones that could indicate the need for a professional evaluation. Challenges in social interaction, communication, fine motor skills, or gross motor skills are signs to seek advice from a speech pathologist, occupational therapist, or physiotherapist for clarity and support.

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