Young children can have unclear speech and mispronounce words, but as the children get older they learn how to use their tongue, lips and brain to work in harmony to say difficult and unfamiliar words. For most children speech difficulties pass with time but for some they find it hard so they repeat or pro-long sounds. This can be very hard for children so they can struggle to find ways to avoid using these sounds or words.
A phonological disorder is when a child has a problem with producing sound that is needed for the child to speak. Children with phonological disorder can have problems controlling their rate of speech and can fall behind when learning certain sounds. 2 to 3 year old children often mispronounce words and can confuse the sounds that they hear, but if these problems continue as the child gets older, the child may need speech therapy. Research shows that phonological disorders affects “10% of pre-school children, but by the ages of 6 or 7 years only 2% or ?% meet the criteria for phonological disorder” (APA, 2000, Tallal & Benasich, 2002.)
According to the Irish Association of Speech and Language there are three forms of language difficulty in a child with SSLI. This is a where a child would have problems with both understanding and producing language. A child having problems with understanding but producing language more difficult and lastly a child would have particular difficulty with parts of language forms or language use. There are 45 SSLI schools in Ireland, with only 2 in Kerry, Moderwell, Tralee and St Oliver’s Killarney. For a child to get a place in these schools they need to be assessed by a psychologist on a standard test of intelligence to see if there non verbal ability is normal or above intelligent. They also need to be assessed by a speech therapist on a standard test of language development and this will help to determine wither the child has a disorder or a delay in language. The child’s hearing also has to be checked. These schools have a child teacher ratio of 7:1 and the child only attends for two years. Preschool children with SSLI may be slow to react to speech and language and to interact with other children. They may be hard to understand when speaking, so many use gestures to be understood. They maybe slow to learn new words. They may repeat the exact same words in the same order that an adult says which is known as echolalia. Along with these language symptoms a child may have poor attention and listening skills and many show signs of frustration and withdraw from other children in the preschool.
“Stuttering is also known as Stammering” according to the Irish Stammering Association. Stuttering is when a child repeats or prolongs sounds, syllables, words or phrases. Stuttering is a form of “disfluency” of speech, interrupting the child’s flow of speech. According to the American Psychiatric Association “stuttering progresses between the ages of two and seven years, peaking at the age of five” (APA, 2000). A large population survey estimated the incidents of stuttering to be about “3% in children, with boys affected about three times more often than girls”. (Craig, Hancock, Tran, Craig & Peters K, 2002).
Genetic factors play a role in the causes of stuttering. According to one major study “heritability accounts for 71% of the variance in the causes of stuttering and the remaining 29% are the result of the environment”. (Andrews, Morris-Yates, Howie and Martin, 1991).
Few children are diagnosed with stuttering as most children recover from stuttering. “80% of children who stutter before the age of 5, will no longer stutter once they attend school for a year or so” according to (Packman & Onslow, 2002). Since most children will outgrow stuttering, it can be hard for parents and therapists to decide wither to go ahead with therapy or not. Therapy can be given if the sound and syllable repetition is frequent and if the child or parent is worried about it. Once the parent contacts the Health Service Executive and the Speech & Language Therapist, the therapist can give the parent advice and can offer individual therapy or group therapy. The sooner the child is referred for speech and language therapy the prospect for success is greater. While there is no guarantee that therapy will cure the stuttering, therapy can help to increase confidence and self-esteem and lessen the amount of stuttering and improve the child’s lifestyle. Childhood stuttering can develop into a severe physical and psychological disability in adulthood. They have difficulty breathing during stuttering. They may have a laryngeal block where the airflow is cut off during stuttering and also they can develop secondary behaviours such as twitching and eye blinking. The psychological symptoms can include, avoidance of feared sounds, words and speaking situations and they may also substitute a words for another word.
According to Lavid stuttering is termed “developmental stuttering” to differentiate the condition from the occasional stuttering that affect us all (Lavid, N). Everyone stutters from time to time. Developmental stuttering happens to children,, between the ages of 2 and 6 years and may continue as the child gets older. Developmental stuttering happens when a child is still learning speech and language skills. Developmental stuttering runs in families and in Feb 2010 researchers in NIDCD found three genes as a cause of stuttering. Dr Drayna identified three mutations in a gene know as GNPTAB as a cause of stuttering. (NIDCD). It can be hard to know when to send a child with developmental stuttering for treatment. It can be an extra expense and worry for parents. Speech therapy is a treatment for speech disorders. Once the child as being diagnosed with developmental stuttering treatment can begin. The treatment can reduce the amount of stuttering and anxiety for the child. If the treatment is successful for a child with developmental stuttering “8% of children spontaneously recover, of the 20% who continue to stutter as adults, 6 to 8% respond to speech therapy” (Lavid, N).
There is also neurogenic stuttering and this is where a child’s brain has difficulty putting the different parts used into speaking. This kind of stuttering can happen after a child suffers a head injury or other type of brain injury or a stroke.
Stuttering can have an impact on a child’s life and development. If a child feels that they are different from other children because they stutter, then the child may feel alone and isolated. When a child continues to stutter at school and the child may be aware of the stuttering, this may cause the child to be embarrassed. Children at school may notice that the child is stuttering and may tease or bully the child who stutters. At school there may be different situations where the child has to read aloud, a child who stutters may feel uncomfortable. If an adult corrects a child who stutters, telling the child to “slow down ” etc this may make the child feel more self-conscious. If a child who stutters is forced into speaking they may concentrate more on the way they should speak and make more mistakes. When pressure is put on children who to speak they may feel fear and anxiety. They might feel so overcome that a child may avoid speaking altogether. If a child has to continuously think ahead and change certain words that the child knows will make them stutter, this may make the child feel less confident in speaking. When a child is trying to speak without stuttering, a child may turn stress-free repetitions into anxious stoppages as the child tries to force the word out.