4 Year Old With Speech Delay

by Charlotte

My 4 year old son was diagnosed with speech delay a year ago.

We were told it was simple delay and that his speech was appropriate but for a younger child. We were told they would not consider therapy until he started school.

He turned 4 in August and has now started school but his teacher is confused by his diagnosis. She says his vocabulary is advanced and he uses sentences etc. as his peers do.

His problem is it is almost impossible to understand the words he is using.

He can say most things not exactly right but you can work the words out if he is asked to say the words in isolation but when he spontaneously speaks in sentences of his own accord even I struggle to understand him.

He has ankyloglossia but we're repeatedly told that this would make no difference despite his grandfather having had an identical problem at the same age that was then fixed by having his tongue cut.

Typical examples of errors in his speech are fronting, gliding and deaffrication (did an online assessment and got told that) but in general speech a lot of his words are totally incomprehensible.

Is this just speech delay that will sort itself out or should I be pushing to get something done?

I feel extremely angry that he has been left until he started school as now he is aware of his problem and being teased by his peers and isolating himself.

Oh his teacher says he is above average intelligence and he can already read if this makes any difference.

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Sep 13, 2013
speech delay
by: Janelle


Regarding the ankyloglossia, or tongue tie, that is typically not clipped any more unless it affects feeding (nursing or bottle). If your son can touch his tongue tip to his lips (not necessarily out of his mouth very far), then it's fine for speech.

We actually don't need all that much range of motion for correct pronunciation. Some people also choose to get their tongue tie clipped for cosmetic reasons, but that is personal choice and not medically necessary.

Regarding the speech delay, I am sorry that your son is experiencing difficulty both with peer relations and with academics due to having poor speech clarity.

That is definitely not nice.

I would definitely ask his teacher how to contact the Speech-Language Pathologist, if you have one at your school. In Canada and the US, and possibly the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, school age children have access to speech therapy at school. (I don't know about elsewhere.)

I recommend you advocate for SLP service as being difficult to understand means that he cannot "access the curriculum"--he might be difficult to grade (or demonstrate learning), and he might have some difficulty with learning spelling.

It is totally possible that when your son was assessed a year ago, that his speech delay was considered mild as there are lots of normal errors at age 3. At age 4, there are still some expected errors (e.g., on r, l, th, ch, sh, j, s) but you and his teacher should be able to understand him even with these errors.

Until he sees an SLP, pick ONE sound to work on. Look at the free teaching videos on this website for how to teach a sound e.g., www.home-speech-home.com/12-Ways-To-Teach-Your-Child-The-K-Sound.html

...and work on teaching the sound all alone, then at the beginnings of words. You can look at children's books and pick out pictures starting with your sounds, or get free flashcards from mommyspeechtherapy.com

And regarding what your son's teacher said, yes, she is confused about the diagnosis. The teacher seems to be confusing "language" (vocab, sentence length) and "speech" (pronunciation).

I hope this helps a bit!

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