As a child develops in the first five years of his life, you may notice some problems when it comes to his development of speech skills. Often children develop speech impediments that make it hard for them to express themselves or communicate effectively. Early intervention is key when it comes to finding therapeutic solutions to speech impediments. There are a few types of speech impediments that are fairly common in early childhood, most of which can be remedied with speech therapy and exercises.
Stuttering is a common speech impediment. As many as 20 per cent of children will go through a stage of stuttering, as noted by the Stuttering Foundation of America. Stuttering often manifests in early childhood, and if left untreated can pose a large problem in future communication as the child matures. Stuttering is characterised as a repeating of certain letter sounds, prolongation of certain letter sounds, or even a stopping of speech in the middle of a word or sentence. Stuttering is largely genetic and can be remedied by regular speech therapy.
At first glance, cluttering may seem to be the same as stuttering, but it is, in fact, a much different impediment. Cluttering is characterised by unnatural breaks in speech. Whereas a child who stutters knows what he wants to say but has trouble saying it, a child who clutters often has long pauses of not knowing what to say. Speech is disorganised, jerky and often hard to understand. Therapy is needed so the child can learn to organise his thoughts before speaking and to speak slowly and clearly.
Articulation disorder deals directly with a child;s inability to articulate certain sounds in speech. This could manifest as a lisp in an inability to make a 'th' sound, and many children have problems in substituting a 'w' sound for a hard 'r' sound. Most often, these disorders are corrected with age as the child becomes more confident in her speech. However, speech therapy may be needed if the problem does not resolve itself.
A phonological disorder is an impediment that finds its roots in the difficulty that some children have in pronouncing words that begin with two consonants. Because of this, children will only pronounce one of the words or omit the letters completely, resulting in broken and confusing speech. This is yet another impediment that is prevalent in early childhood but is resolved as the child ages. You may hear this type of speech in a toddler, but that toddler's speech problem will resolve with age.
Apraxia of speech occurs when a child is unable to move his mouth and tongue to create common letter and word sounds. He may have trouble stringing certain word sounds together as the mouth positioning changes. Children with speech apraxia lack the proper control to make letter sounds and can become frustrated in trying to make letter sounds that they had done unknowingly. Mouth exercises such as blowing bubbles or making kiss sounds can help a child gain better control over the muscles in her mouth and tongue to remedy this impediment.