What You Need to Know About Your Child's Speech and Language


What is Speech and Language?

When we talk with others, we have to do many things:

  • Understand what others are saying

  • Know the right words for things

  • Put words together into sentences

  • Say sounds and words clearly so others can understand us

Some children have trouble with their speech. Some have trouble with language. Some have trouble with both.

Speech: Speech has three parts—articulation, fluency, and voice.

1. Articulation

This is how speech sounds are made. Your tongue, lips, teeth, and other muscles move together to make sounds. For example, you press your lips together and “hum” to make an “m” sound. It is very common for children to have trouble saying sounds when they first learn to talk. Most children speak clearly by the time they start kindergarten.

2. Fluency

When we talk, we are usually able to say a sentence or more without too much trouble. This is called fluent speech. If your child stops a lot or repeats sounds or words, he may be stuttering. Many young children repeat words or sounds between the ages of 2 and 4 while they are learning language. Most of them will stop stuttering or be more fluent as they get better at talking.

3. Voice

 You need to make sound to talk. Sound comes from your voice box, or larynx. Voice problems happen when your child’s voice doesn’t sound right for his age or gender. For example, his voice may sound too high or low, too loud or soft, or hoarse. Voice problems do not occur very often in children.

Language includes: listening, talking, reading, and writing.

Your child uses language to:

  • Understand what is said and follow directions

  • Use words in the right order to say what she thinks, feels, wants, and needs

  • Write down thoughts and ideas

  • Understand what she reads

  • Show that she knows what words mean and how to use them

When a child has trouble understanding others, it is called a receptive language disorder. When he has trouble sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings, it is called an expressive language disorder. Children can have problems with both understanding and sharing ideas. Your child may have trouble in school.

Worried about your child’s speech and language? Your child can have speech problems, language problems, or both. The problem can be mild or severe. In any case, a complete evaluation by a speech-language pathologist, or SLP, is the first step to getting help for language and speech problems. Contact us today to learn more about we can help. 

Let’s Talk Permission is granted for unlimited copying of “Let’s Talk.” © American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2010 8064-35



Sandy Dorsey, President, All About Speech. 

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