Children with persistent speech difficulties beyond 5 years of age are more at risk for later challenges with reading and spelling skills. Children who have difficulty with speech input (identifying differences between sounds), have an imprecise storage of words, or have difficulty producing speech may present with challenges in reading and writing. These children may have difficulty with phonological awareness skills, such as knowing the sequence of sounds in words (beginning, middle, and end of a word) or being able to accurately repeat a word to evaluate its word structure. Children with speech production difficulties may also have difficulties with counting syllables and blending and segmenting sounds. For more information regarding your child’s pre-literacy skills, contact your child’s treating therapist!
A parent hotline is now available to help parents and caregivers of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. This hotline is available through The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell). This hotline is designed to assist parents of children who have been recently diagnosed as deaf or hard of hearing find the resources and support they need. When calling the hotline, parents/caregivers are connected with other parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Additional information about this hotline can be found on the AG Bell website.
Between the ages of 2-5, many children go through a period of decreased speech fluency. At this time in development, children are acquiring language and learning both speech and non-speech motor control. These factors, in addition to normal daily stressors and excitement while speaking, can contribute to breakdowns in fluency. Repetitions are the most common type of disfluency seen in young children along with interjections, revisions, prolongations, and pauses.
There are several important factors distinguishing a child who is normally disfluent from a child who stutters:
- Frequency of disfluencies: Typically developing children display an average of about 7 disfluencies per 100 words. Children who exhibit a higher level of disfluency are considered borderline, or potentially stuttering.
- Proportion of certain types of disfluencies: Research has shown that children who present with borderline or beginning stuttering have a higher number of part-word and whole-word repetitions, prolongations, and blocks when compared with normally disfluent peers.
- Number of times a word or sound is repeated: A higher number of sound or syllable repetitions per disfluency may indicate borderline or beginning stuttering.
- Tension: Children who stutter demonstrate signs of muscle tension, changes to airflow, irregular rate of repetitions and fixed articulatory postures.
- Escape behaviors: These behaviors can be present in children who stutter, and include eye blinks, head nods, interjections, limb movement etc.
- Awareness and frustration: Children who stutter typically show awareness and frustration when moments of disfluency occur.
If these factors are present, the child may require speech/language evaluation and intervention.
Guitar, Barry. Stuttering: an Integrated Approach to Its Nature and Treatment. 4th ed., Wolters Kluwer, 2019.
We rely on many different forms of memory to function in daily life including short-term and long-term memory. Out of all forms of memory, working memory is oftentimes less understood and less recognized. Working memory is what allows people to process, store, and retrieve information for later use. Working memory relies on the ability to attend to, concentrate on, sequence, and decipher important information. Some have described working memory as a bucket in which content is continually added to over time.
Research shows that in a screening of over 3000 school-aged children, 1 in 10 was identified as having working memory difficulties. Other studies conclude that between 10-15% of all children have working memory deficits, which causes significant under-performance in many areas of learning including math, reading comprehension, problem solving, and test-taking in the academic setting. Reduced working memory impacts children in their early years of preschool and kindergarten up through college and beyond. Working memory deficits can be associated with many more-recognized disabilities including ADHD and Dyslexia.
Working memory is what allows children to successfully follow multiple step directions, count, decode (read), encode (spell), follow mathematical operations, keep their place within text, answer questions, rapidly name basic concepts (e.g. colors, shapes), paraphrase information, and recite early-learned patterns from rote memory (e.g. days of week, months of year.) Understanding the connection between working memory and language is integral for supporting the developmental needs of children. An understanding of working memory is essential for identifying a child’s strengths and weaknesses for learning in the home and school environment.