Fix speech early

Speech pathologist Rebecca Watson with mum Tara Serrano and daughter Vienna, 2, at Gladstone’s Community Health Centre.
Speech pathologist Rebecca Watson with mum Tara Serrano and daughter Vienna, 2, at Gladstone’s Community Health Centre. Tom Huntley

LANGUAGE is the ability to understand words and to use them to make sentences.

Difficulty understanding or using language is common, experienced by 20% of four-year-olds.

Speech pathologist Debbie Williams said two types of language difficulties could be identified: comprehensive and expressive language difficulty.

"Comprehension difficulty is when the child has difficulty understanding what is being said and expressive language is when the child has difficulty expressing themselves," Ms Williams said.

She said children developed various speech sounds at different ages and some were easier to produce than others.

A range of symptoms can indicate a child is having speech difficulty.

"Some children have difficulty producing sounds beyond the age at which most children have acquired the sound," Ms Williams said.

"Other children can produce individual sounds but have difficulty with the sound when it is in a word."

Amanda and Michael Wynne noticed their son Marley, 3, had speech difficulties at an early age.

"When he was two, he was still struggling to speak. It was always a grunt, groan or point," Mrs Wynne said.

She said he was upset and angry all the time because he could not communicate.

"Within an hour of seeing a speech pathologist, Rebecca Watson, she got him to say five words," she said.

"We were sitting there gob smacked. To go from that to where we are today has been an absolute miracle."

Ms Williams said early intervention could make a huge difference.



The following are a range of symptoms of comprehensive and expressive language difficulty:

  • If they find it difficult to follow instructions
  • Find it hard to follow conversations
  • Look like they have not heard when someone speaks to them
  • Speak in short sentences
  • Find it difficult to tell stories
  • Find it difficult to find the right word/s to say what they mean.

Topics:  children communication language speech pathologists

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