Did you know that 41-75% of Australian preschoolers who have early language delays still experience reading difficulties at the age of eight?

It’s a worrying statistic, but studies have shown that if you want your child to have solid foundations for later literacy, it’s important to ensure that your preschooler’s speech and language skills are age appropriate now.

What’s normal?

According to paediatric Speech Pathologist Rebecca King from Kids First Children’s Services in Sydney, children frequently make mistakes when they are learning to speak.

“When they are learning to talk, all children sometimes utter oddly worded sentences, put speech sounds in the wrong spots or omit them altogether,” she said.

“If your three year old is saying ‘hopstible’ instead of ‘hospital’, there is probably not a lot to worry about. However if your child is still making this error at the age of four and half, it would be worth consulting a speech pathologist to help your child to develop age appropriate speech and language skills.”

Rebecca says that it’s not uncommon for kids aged between two and six to misunderstand what is said to them or to forget a sequence of instructions.

“If your child occasionally forgets things, you should not be overly concerned,” she said.

“But if your child seems to be ‘tuned out’ or consistently unable to remember something that has been recently said to them, have them seen by a specialist who can determine if this is something that requires support.”

What’s not normal?

Ms King said that while making some simple language errors is a normal part of children’s development, there are some abnormal speech and language habits that parents should monitor closely and seek advice about if they are concerned.

“It is not typical for children to stutter, be disinterested in communicating with other people or make infrequent eye-contact with others,” Rebecca said.

She advised that parents should also be on the lookout for preschoolers who are stand-offish with people who are not members of their family, echo all or part of what other people say word-for-word or speak with a consistently hoarse voice.

“Some children have naturally reserved temperaments and many go through phases of shyness however, parents need to be careful that these behaviours do not mask an underlying problem.”

“Issues like stuttering and an inability to connect with others can have long term effects on a child’s social, emotional and learning development. They need to be addressed as quickly as possible so that children have the best chance possible to learn to communicate successfully.

Where can I get help and advice for my child?

Ms King said that a paediatric speech and language specialist is the best person to advise parents about strategies to help a child overcome communication challenges.

“In our experience at Kids First, a parents’ gut instinct about their child is rarely wrong. If you are concerned, seek advice, if only for your peace of mind.”

“Language is the precursor to all learning and international research has proven that early intervention gives kids the best chance of overcoming communication difficulties.”

“An independent professional can give you the information you need to make informed decisions for your child and the strategies you learn may make an enormous difference to your child’s future happiness and health.”

To find a paediatric speech pathologist in your area, contact Speech Pathology Australia

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  • When my son started kindy, we were told he needed help with his speech. We didn’t notice,new always understood him fine. Was a shock to hear


  • Thanks for shar


  • All good advice – often first step is G.P. who can help make useful referrals.


  • so at the start of this i article i wasnt worried then i was worried then i wasnt again and now i’m just confused…. fuck


  • Have you had your child’s hearing checked at all???? I have heard of more than one child who has barely said a word and was going to be taken him/her to a speech therapist.
    One little boy was found to be deaf in one ear and a surgeon put grommets in his ear/s. They come outon their own when they have done their job. He little boy had what is called “glue ear”. Now he never stops talking. The tubes in his ears may bent (mine are – one worse than the other so I can hear better in one ear than the other). I’m not sure what the remedy is for that as they don’t want to do anything unless mine gets worse. I only discovered it because when I retired and no longer needed to write things down I started holding the phone receiver to my other ear. Your child could have an ear infection and not complained about it. I know a young girl who had a head MRI because another unrelated medical issue. It was discovered she had an inner ear infection which can be seen by normal medical ear checks. I know a boy who had an MRI and they discovered his problem too – the same. His temperature would occasionally rise so high that he would lose consciousness.


  • It’s a real shame that there aren’t more publicly funded speech pathology centres so taht all kids can get the help they need. In our area, the waiting list for the public service is at least 12 months – that is a long time for a child who needs help with speech development, and such a long delay in support could have lifelong consequences.


  • Good to know…my child often mixes up words and peoples names for example she calls her friend Evelyn “Elevyn” and milk “Lilk” she is two and a half and I have been hoping she will grow out of it. We just keep repeating the correct pronunciation of the word but I must dammit quite often I get mixed up too and start saying her words….


  • I like how she said to follow your gut instinct.


  • I’m a bit obsessed with this topic at the moment, as my kids are great communicators, but have trouble with a few particular sounds. I’ve been told they should still grow out of it, but it can be difficult to know what is just normal development and what is a potential problem that may endure.


  • A frustrating situation for the child and the parents no doubt.


  • Very interesting article especially the bit about ‘ 41-75% of Australian preschoolers who have early language delays still experience reading difficulties at the age of eight?” Thanks for the article.


  • Thanks for this article great read.


  • Hopefully my sons speech would develop well as he grows up!


  • thankfully I have never had to deal with stuttering, even though I did as a child


  • My four-year old still says words like hopstible when talking about the hospital, but none of her medical team has ever voiced a concern, even though I have asked them… They always say ‘wait a little longer’ but we are moving interstate soon, and I planned on looking up a speech therapist when we get there, this made me sure to do it!


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