Skip links and keyboard navigation

Seek help if your child has speaking problems

8 February 2019

Children who don’t speak as much or as well as others may be struggling because of several possible underlying issues.

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Thursday Island-based Senior Speech Pathologist Tanya Govey said parents with such children should seek support from the health service’s speech therapy service.

“Recently for instance, I highlighted the speech developmental issues resulting from children spending excessive time on the screens of their mobile devices, TVs, computers, tablets and so on and not learning to speak properly,’’ she said.

“But excessive screen time is not the only possible cause of children having difficulty with learning to speak.

“Children who are multilingual, come from very large families or who have poor hearing also may have problems learning to speak.

“For instance, if your little boy or girl is learning two or even three languages at the same time they are not going to talk as quickly as children learning only one language.

“This is normal. The child just needs time to learn things correctly in both languages.

“Sometimes a second language can also have different sounds, so this means a child has to learn more sounds than a child with only one language.

“Children may look like they are delayed but actually they’re not.

“We know that if the languages are very different, like for example English and Japanese, the child will have both languages properly by about the age of seven.

“With similar languages such as Torres Strait Creole and English, then a child will speak both languages, sooner as long as they don’t have any other problems.’’

Ms Govey said coming from a large family also had its challenges.

“Many children who come from a big family or live in a home with a lot of people tend to talk less, particularly at home, than their friends.

“In a busy home with lots of people, children often do not need to talk.

“To keep things running smoothly we know what they want and need, so we just give it to them without them asking.

“You have probably also noticed that a big brother or sister will tell you what the younger child wants, and talks for them.

“This is normal, but it reduces the need for the child to talk which may cause speech problems.

“It is important for a child to talk so they learn the rules about yarning.

“For example, taking turns, watching if others understand, don’t be rude, don’t mumble, hold you head up, speak clearly, etc.

“They will also get to practice their new words and, if said incorrectly, we can guide them to speak correctly.

“Be aware that young children need play time and sit-down time with others to read and play and practice their talking. The more practice they get the better communicators they can be.’’

Ms Govey said poor hearing could be another reason why children were having difficulty learning to speak properly.

“If a child has poor hearing, then they don’t learn the sounds to say,’’ she said.

“They don’t learn the words to say and they also can be slower in understanding because they can’t hear you when you are explaining things.

“It is important for the child to see the local primary health care clinic where their hearing can be tested. The longer a child does not hear for the more difficult it will be for them to learn to talk.

“If there is a hearing difficulty, it is also a good thing to see a speech pathologist to help with ideas about learning to talk.

If the child has hearing aids then they must wear them all the time so they learn how to communicate.

“There is no reason why they can’t learn two or more languages as long as they wear their aids.’’

Anyone with concerns about their child’s talking or other speech matters can contact Tanya Govey on 4030 6188.

PHOTO CAPTION: Senior Speech Pathologist for Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service, Tanya Govey.

Last updated: 1 March 2019