Child stuttersIt is normal for children of 1-1/2 to 7 years old to occasionally repeat words, sounds and phrases, to hesitate or to use filler words. Ten to 15 percent of preschoolers have some kind of speech disorder. These speech problems occur because of number of factors, including physical maturity, heredity, and environment. Hearing problems is one of the most common causes of speech imperfections, but even children with normal hearing may go through speech imperfection.

Here are the three most common speech problems.

1. Stuttering: At two to three years of age, it's very common for children to stutter at the beginning of a sentence, and this problem is more likely to happen when a child is tired, excited, or in a competitive situation, such as trying to express herself better or faster than her peers.

2. Lisping: Lisping is another common speech problem when young children are learning to talk. Preschoolers typically make substitutions of an easy sound for one that is more challenging for them to make, such as "th" for "s," causing them to say "thand" for "sand." They also may substitute "w" for "r," saying "wabbit" for "rabbit."

3. Lengthy pauses: Another speech imperfection is the appearance of long pauses between words or thoughts. This is a sign that a child is thinking in order to find the correct word or thinking about how to structure her next sentence.

What You Can Do

In the early stages of stuttering, parent education and guidance may be all that's needed to create a more relaxed environment for your child to express himself. It is very important that you talk or read to your child in order to help him understand and learn more words and thus increase his vocabulary. Studies have shown that children who are read to and spoken with a great deal during early childhood will have larger vocabularies and better grammar than those who aren't. Following are a few tips that will help you nurture your baby's language development.

  • Read to your child. The best way to help your child develop language skills is to read to her. Research shows that kids who are read to on a regular basis are likely to develop meaningful language--saying their first real words--earlier and more effectively. Make sure to point out the car, the ball, or the puppy in the book and say the words clearly. Parents can start with simple board books and graduate to picture books and longer stories, as their child gets older. You can also tell stories to your child by creating adventure, interesting characters in the story and giving it a happy ending.
  • Talk with your child all the time. Narrate the day as it evolves. Tell your child, for instance, "After some time we are going to go out. So why don't we take a bath first, get dressed and then go out."
  • Eat dinner as a family. Studies show that families who eat together have kids with better verbal skills.
  • Enjoy music together. Young children love music and movement. When they listen to lively songs, like "Old McDonald Had a Farm," they learn about the world around them and the rhythm of language.
  • Follow your child's lead. If your little one seems interested in a particular picture in a book, keep talking about it. If she seems intrigued by a boat, show her more boats and talk about them, too. Repeat her babbles back to her, ask questions, and interact with her. You can even try recording your child on a tape recorder and playing it back.
  • Never criticize your child's articulation or speech patterns. Instead, repeat his statements back to him with the correct pronunciation or word usage. Give your child lots of praise for his efforts. Avoid pressuring your child to speed up her language skills or correcting her speech imperfections with criticism.
  • Go on field trips. A trip to the zoo, the aquarium, or a children's museum will open up a whole new world for your child. As an added bonus, she'll want to learn the names of all those fascinating creatures and fun activities she experienced.

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