My child can’t talk properly

It’s a thrill when your child starts to communicate with spoken language. But some children struggle to start speaking, or to communicate clearly once they do.

Here are some of the speech-related questions posed by Parent24 users, and answers from occupational therapy expert Paula Barnard-Ashton. Not all speech problems require occupational therapy, but it may sometimes be used in addition to speech therapy.

Click on the links to read the full questions and answers.

Is there a problem?

'My 9-year-old son is in grade 4 and his teachers are satisfied with his progress at school but I am not happy with his dialogue. He seems far behind his age with his dialogue. He likes to play a lot but he does not talk much ...His sentences are very short and he forgets words.' Vincent

Paula answers: 'Yes, by 9 years old your son should be able to relate events that he has experienced in a chronological sequence as a story. Not talking much can be a personality trait, and may just be the "way he is", but if you are concerned it is probably for a reason.'

Should she have two types of therapy?

'The speech therapist has referred my 6-year-old to an OT, saying she could have Sensory Integration deficiency. She is a normal child, not yet talking fluently but understandable and loses focus when doing her work. Does she need two therapies? I don't want to confuse her.' Jennifer

Paula answers: 'Two therapies will not confuse your daughter as they work on different systems in the body. I have worked with many speech therapists, and often find that the best results to therapy are when a child received them simultaneously as the body then develops as a unit, more integrated.’

My hyperactive son struggles to pronounce words

'I think my 4-year-old son is hyperactive. He doesn't sit still long enough to complete a task. His teacher also suggested that I take him for speech therapy. He struggles to pronounce words properly. We speak Afrikaans at home, the creche is bilingual, but mostly English. I don't know if this is the cause.' Renee

Paula answers: ‘...identifying the cause of the hyperactivity is a priority as it can have definite influence on his speech development.’

He speaks his own language

'My son is 1yr 9mnths. He says about 4 words and still speaks baby language. He talks a lot and will have a conversation with you, but in his own language.' Tiffany

Paula answers:
‘I really would not worry about it at this stage. Many toddlers use their “own” language, and some develop clear speech later than others.’

Will occupational therapy help?

‘My son is 4 years old and is not speaking well, he has had speech therapy. He also seems to be struggling a little to comprehend things i.e. names and to relay stories or what happened at school. Do you think occupational therapy will assist him?’ Lynda

Paula answers: ‘Occupational therapy does not really focus on speech the way a speech therapist does, and if this is his primary problem, then speech therapy is the way to go.’

You can also ask speech-related questions of our developmental expert Dr Melodie de Jager.

How has your child’s speech developed? Have you sought out any therapies?
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