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Our child does not speak correctly - what should be done?
As a parent, do you have any suspicion that something might be wrong with your child's language development? Your child may have started speaking late and is generally very incomprehensible. Or they keep reacting completely wrong to something you say to them. It may also be unable to remember sentences, rhymes, or prompts. Or it cannot find the right words when speaking and cannot produce grammatically correct sentences, even though other children of the same age have long been able to cope with such demands with ease.
The comparison with children of the same age and your “gut feeling” are actually your most important starting points. However, you shouldn't carry your concerns and doubts with you for long. It is better to investigate the matter and arrange for a medical clarification - if possible before starting kindergarten. Because if there are actually problems with language development, your child needs early support. Only in this way can it at least partially make up for its deficit by the age of school.
How to recognize language difficulties
You can recognize possible language problems by the following signs:
- If your child has a limited understanding of speech, they may not understand spoken language or only partially understand it, even if their hearing is perfectly fine.
- You can recognize a limited vocabulary by the fact that the child speaks significantly fewer words than children of the same age.
- A faulty pronunciation is when the child cannot form certain sounds correctly and therefore replaces them or leaves them out (instead of “Frau” it says “Flau” or “Fau”).
- If the grammar is faulty, the child forms incomplete sentences (“Mama Kitchen”), builds up sentences incorrectly (“Lilli Kuchen likes to like”) or has problems with different word forms (“There is the ball!”).
These four characteristics mentioned so far are characteristic of a language development disorder, even if the individual areas are not necessarily affected to the same extent.
A language development delay, on the other hand, occurs when the child's language development is similar to that of other children, but with a time lag.
- If the child sometimes “gets stuck” while speaking and repeats sounds, syllables or words several times, they stutter (“B-B-Ball”).
- Speaking quickly and hastily, swallowing syllables or entire words, is known as rumbling.
- If the child constantly talks as if he had a cold, he nibbled (“barbelade”).
- Finally, voice disorders manifest themselves through constant hoarseness or an unnatural pitch of the voice (very high or very low).
The first four of the characteristics mentioned are of course part of normal language development up to a certain age. Therefore, comparisons with children of the same age can give you important clues as to whether your child's linguistic development is appropriate for its age.
Which doctor is responsible?
If you suspect that your child's speech development is not age-appropriate, you should have this clarified by a doctor. The most obvious option is to see the pediatrician first. He has followed the development of your child to date during the preventive medical check-ups and can therefore assess whether your child is developing well in general. However, more detailed examinations, such as an ENT diagnosis, an audiological and a speech therapy finding, are advisable in order to identify special problems in language development.
There are various options available to you for such a specialist examination: You can contact an ear, nose and throat specialist, a resident phoniatrist (a specialist who specializes in voice, language and speech disorders) or the department for language and voice disorders a university or ENT clinic. There - but also from the pediatrician or family doctor - you can get the medical prescription for an upcoming therapy if necessary.
In the case of language problems - such as restricted speech understanding, restricted vocabulary, incorrect pronunciation or the formation of grammatically incorrect sentences - the doctor usually recommends speech therapy. This should not be thought of as a strict practice of language in the sense of a “speaking lesson”. Rather, speech therapy for children is a playful approach that initially aims to awaken the child's enjoyment of speaking in general. When playing, for example with clay, dolls or play figures, the speech therapist works to ensure that communication gradually develops through doing things together. In this way, the child can expand their vocabulary and understanding of language, which in turn is a prerequisite for their language to develop further. Listening games to improve hearing, blowing games to improve oral motor skills, concentration games and the playful practice of courses of action are also important components of speech therapy.
Parents of small children are sometimes put off by the doctor with the argument: "It is still too early for therapy." But if you present your child to a speech therapy practice at the age of two or three, that doesn't mean that therapy is about to begin. In the case of small children, the first step is usually to give parents suggestions on how they can support their child at home. Then it is checked at regular intervals how the child is developing and only later is a decision made about any therapy that may be necessary. If necessary, use this opportunity to steer your child's linguistic development on the right track at an early stage.
What you can do yourself as a parent
As parents, you can learn a lot from the approach taken by speech therapists. This does not mean that you should take the therapy into your own hands. Instead, heed the recommendations that the speech therapist gives you. In this way you can have a positive influence on the language development of your child.
- Follow your own language example: speak slowly, clearly and in short, clear sentences. Repeat what you say often to help your child grasp new terms.
- As often as possible, explain what you are doing to your child in simple sentences: "I'll wash the car." - "I am going to pick the newspaper."
- Do not correct your child by complaining about incorrect sentences, but simply repeat the wrong sentence correctly: "Mama söne sad." - "Yes, mom has a nice dress."
- Listen carefully and let your child finish speaking, even if they are speaking slowly or expressing themselves awkwardly.
- Avoid overstimulation and do not expose your child to permanent acoustic drizzle. With selected radio play and music cassettes, on the other hand, you can encourage your child to speak and keep them busy.
Address the causes
In the case of certain language difficulties, in particular a language development disorder (see above), there may be deeper causes that cannot be addressed with speech therapy alone. Most of the problems are based on perceptual disorders, i.e. impaired processing of sensory stimuli. In this case, the brain is unable to process the information transmitted to it by the sensory organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin, muscles and joints, organ of equilibrium) in a meaningful way.
Well-functioning perception and perception processing is an essential prerequisite for healthy language development. It therefore makes sense not only to send the child with problematic speech to speech therapy, but also to treat the perception disorders in a targeted manner. Various therapies are possible for this: occupational therapy, curative education, psychomotor skills, rhythmics or audio-psycho-phonology. With the improvement of perception and motor dexterity, progress in language development can often be achieved.
Occupational therapy primarily aims to improve hand dexterity and fine motor skills, but also gross motor skills. This therapy is also primarily a playful approach. The occupational therapist offers the child games that not only improve motor skills, but are also fun: for example, kneading with modeling clay, doing handicrafts, crafts and painting. Success stories play an important role because they motivate and increase self-esteem. Parents can also be involved by giving them guidance on how to pursue therapeutic approaches in everyday life. However, this does not mean that parents should compulsively practice with their child at home. Because, as I said, occupational therapy should be fun - and the child shouldn't lose that again right away.
It is mainly children whose difficulties lie in the psycho-social or intellectual sphere that come to the special educational support. But it can also be children whose impairments lie in different partial performance areas: for example in language, motor skills and perception. Playing together is also the focus of this promotion, which is partly based on play therapy. However, there is no uniform curative educational concept, but rather different focal points, which are for example based on Montessori therapy, music therapy or psychomotor skills (see below). In addition, curative education - just like occupational therapy - can work hand in hand with speech therapy, so it makes perfect sense to run both support measures in parallel if there is a reason to do so.
Remedial educational support is offered by resident curative educators. The costs are reimbursed by the youth welfare office, provided there is an opinion from a child psychiatrist or a specialist child psychiatric clinic.
Further treatment and funding options
As far as the three options mentioned so far - speech therapy, occupational therapy and curative education - are concerned, it is advisable to start them as early as possible, preferably as early as kindergarten age. In any case, they have priority over further measures. This means that only when you have already made use of one or more of these three options can you consider whether you want to take advantage of other support measures for your child with language problems - which of course can also be very useful. Three possibilities are briefly presented here:
Psychomotor development usually takes place in groups. Through playing together, creative design and movement, children should get the opportunity to get to know their bodies better, to gain experience with different materials, to come into contact with other children - and to improve their language through communication. The materials and devices that are used in the psychomotor lessons are mostly very popular with the children because they promise great fun: for example building blocks, roller boards, swing cloths, pedalos, but also everyday materials that are easy to experiment with, such as ropes , Corks, paper cups or newsprint.
Psychomotor development support is suitable for children between the ages of around three and twelve years and is offered throughout Germany. The costs are partially reimbursed by the health insurance companies.
The rhythmic education was introduced around a hundred years ago as a further development of music pedagogy, but some time later it was expanded to a curative pedagogical working principle. In the rhythm lessons, therefore, not only musical instruments such as piano, flute, gong, triangle or drum are used, but also specially developed devices that are intended to stimulate play, movement and creative design: sticks, rattle boxes, hoops, stranded ropes or magic cords.
As a special form of curative education, rhythm is used primarily in institutions for the disabled. Rhythmic education is also offered in some kindergartens, schools and after-school care centers or in facilities for youth and social work, as well as occasionally in special educational institutions. Rhythm is suitable for children, adolescents and adults.
Individual support in kindergarten and school
A medical clarification of language disorders before entering kindergarten is advisable, among other things, because you can then calmly consider which facility is most suitable for your child: a "normal" kindergarten, where the groups consist of up to 25 children, or an institution with smaller groups and possibly special funding places. Integration kindergartens, special educational day care centers and language therapy kindergartens offer individual support. The latter two, but also some integrated kindergartens, have the advantage that they offer therapy and remedial lessons - such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, rhythm or psychomotor skills - in-house. This can relieve you enormously: You no longer need to bring your child to therapy yourself once or twice a week.
If it turns out before starting school that your child is still struggling with their language difficulties, you may be able to place them in a language therapy school instead of in the regular school. Your child will receive individual support there until it is able to seamlessly switch to mainstream school; this usually happens after the second or fourth grade. In the speech therapy school, the children are taught by specially trained speech therapy teachers. The classes are much smaller than regular school classes. In addition to the lessons in class, there are also separate therapy lessons in small groups. In many speech therapy schools there are other funding opportunities, such as special sports lessons for children with abnormal motor skills.
The book on the subject
- Rita Steininger (2004): How children learn to speak correctly. Language promotion - a guide for parents. Klett-Cotta publishing house.
This parenting guide describes all of the therapy and support options mentioned in the article, but also possible causes for language development problems. With further information and addresses as well as suggestions for support at home, the book can be an orientation aid for affected parents.
- Ayres, Jean (1992): Building Blocks of Child Development. The importance of integrating the senses for the child's development. Springer-Verlag, 2nd edition.
- Fendrich, Bärbel (2000): Language problems in preschool age. Children with language and speech disorders and their educational therapy options. Juventa.
- Krause, Kornelia (Ed.) (1998): Venue: Curative Pedagogical Practice. A workshop book. Modern learning.
- Nienkerke-Springer, Anke; Wolfgang Beudels (2001): Come on, let's play language. Handbook for the psychomotor development of language and voice. Borgmann.
- Pfluger-Jakob, Maria (2001): Perceptual disorders in children - indications and observation aids. Kindergarten today special, Herder, 4th edition.
- Judge, Erwin; Walburga Bruges and Katharina Mohs (1997): This is how children learn to speak. Ernst Reinhardt Publishing House.
- Stengel, Ingeburg; Lieselotte von der Hude; Veronika Meiwald (1998): Language difficulties in children. How parents can help. Klett-Cotta, 10th edition.
- Tomatis, Alfred (1990): The Sound of Life. Rowohlt.
- Wendlandt, Wolfgang (1992): Language disorders in childhood. Materials for early detection and advice. Thieme.
- Wiedenmann, Marianne (Ed.) (2000): Language promotion with all senses. Beltz, 2nd edition.
- Zimmer, Renate (1999): Handbuch der Psychomotorik. Theory and practice of psychomotor development in children. Herder.
- Zollinger, Barbara (Ed.) (2000): When children do not discover language. Insights into the practice of speech therapy. Publishing house Paul Haupt.
- Zuckrigl, Hildegard and Alfred; Hans Helbling (1999): Rhythmics help disabled children. Ernst Reinhard Verlag, 4th edition.
Further contributions by the author here in our family handbook
Rita Steininger works as a freelance editor, journalist and author and is the mother of two sons. Among other things, she has published advice articles and non-fiction books on topics in the fields of health, psychology and family.
Created on March 5th, 2004, last changed on November 6th, 2013
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