Ask Our Experts is a new monthly feature in which we ask for any questions you may have for one of our Child Health Experts. We then share the question and the answer on Facebook so that it may help other parents with similar concerns.
Marian Hogan, Speech & Language Therapist, started us off.
My 3-year-old daughter has poor speech and people find it hard to understand what she is saying. I often have to translate for others and my niece who is the same age has perfect speech. Should I be concerned?
Marian Says: Thank you for your question. Firstly, it is important to remember that every child develops individually though it can be difficult not to compare with peers. Generally, we would expect a 3-year-old to be nearing 75% intelligibility, so they would typically be understood most of the time. Though sometimes if a child is very excited and using more complex language their intelligibility can decrease! A 3-year-old would typically be able to produce most sounds correctly most of the time apart from later developing sounds such as l, r, ch, j which may not yet be produced accurately. If you feel that your child is not reaching these speech milestones it might be worth having a more detailed chat with a professional for advice. Hope this helps!
My little girl is 2 and a half and doesn’t use any sentences she just names things using one word. How can I help her to move from one word to putting words together? I’m worried that she will find it difficult making friends in preschool when she starts in September if this doesn’t improve.
Marian answers; Thank you for your question Colette, it’s an issue I see a lot in my clinic. Your little girl would need a thorough assessment to determine the reason for this delay but the number one strategy I’d advise is to expand on her single words by adding an extra word so for example if she says ‘ball’ you say something like ‘the big ball’ ‘the red ball’ ‘kick the ball’ etc so you are modelling a more complex utterance with one extra element. Also keep an eye on the vocabulary you are using as sometimes we have a tendency to focus more on nouns and naming objects ourselves as parents when we also need to give children vocabulary for action words (e.g. kick, throw, roll etc.), describing words (e.g. big, red, round, soft etc), possessive words (e.g. daddy’s ball, mammy’s ball etc.). Having more of these words in her vocabulary will help her to progress from single words to combinations especially if you are expanding and modelling for her. I hope this gives you some ideas.
I’ve a 20 month old boy who is still not forming sentences! He has words but not as much as he should have by this age. His comprehension is great and can take instructions no problem . He screams and points at things he wants as he can’t ask for it! Just wondering if you think I should be concerned?
Answer from Marian – Thanks for your question Fiona. So in terms of vocabulary the average for a child of that age would be 50 plus words and this generally increases to approximately 200 at 24 months. You seem to feel that he is not quite there in terms of single words. Regarding sentences we would expect some word combinations to emerge once a child hits about 50 single words so at about 18 months. This may be just 2 words together initially but then again we would expect this to progress to short phrases as vocabulary grows. It is very positive that your little boy can follow commands and points to request items that he wants as he is trying to communicate! Some children who are delayed in vocabulary development do ‘catch up’ but others require some assistance and it is difficult to predict which will be the case for your little boy. For this reason I always advocate for a proactive approach as early intervention is so critical so I would suggest that you or your GP/PHN may refer your little boy for an SLT assessment either publicly with the HSE or with a private SLT for a full assessment and advice. In the meantime have a look at the article I wrote for the Sunny Days magazine on the Children’s Clinic website – https://thechildrenscliniccork.com/…/ten-tips-to-promote-d…/ – which gives 10 tips that should help your little boy’s language if you try to put them in place. Hope this helps!