When to take our 3.5 year old son to a speech therapist?

Our three year old son is bright enough, and he talks our heads off. But he is much harder to understand for strangers then most of the kids his age at daycare. The daycare has said to us that while our sons’speech is still improving every day, he might benefit from seeing a speech therapist.

Any Dopers have had the same? Opinions? Are speech therapists expensive, and are they worth it? What do they do? Should we wait untill he improves on his own?
He does need to speak intelligible in eight months, when he is due for kindergarten.

I know, me and his dad could do all sorts of verbal exercise with him. But the reality is that we are both much too tired to do more then what we do now.

A classmate of The Kidlet went to a speech therapist while in pre-kindergarten, I understand one of the things she did was teach the parents how to teach the kid: as per the father “it’s not exercises like when you’re studying, more about knowing how to correct him and how to avoid bad habits on our part”. No idea how much it cost or how long it lasted, I just happened to be having sodas with them when it came up and they’d only had a couple of sessions at that point.

I’m a huge fan of speech therapy. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s hugely frustrating for a kid not to be able to make himself understood, and you may be surprised how few sessions it takes to make some big differences in his speech skills. At least, that’s what I’ve found - and granted, my son has very different issues to what you describe with your son.

Also, we’re just about to drop about 10 therapy sessions worth of cash on fixing up the Taller Girl’s front teeth, which puts the expense of Speech therapy into perspective :eek:

I have known rather a lot of families who had kids (well, boys, really) between 2 and 4 with speech difficulties. None of them who took their kid to a speech therapist have regretted it - usually the improvement was very fast and noticeable. Some, who did not, wished they had when their child had to have treatment anyway at a later age (which usually takes longer).

I’d go with ‘now’ - they’ll start with just an evaluation, which shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive. They might recommend no more than a couple sessions, and give you exercises to do at home. Or he may require more extensive treatment to get him on schedule for kindergarten.

As for costs, seems like it depends more on your location and insurance than anything else.

It’s sad to me (because I know it’s mostly preventable) when I meet kids over age 6-7 who still have garbled ‘baby’ speech or difficulty pronouncing common sounds - I’d want to get my kid checked out ASAP to prevent this possibility.

Anyone have a rough idea of what sort of money we’re talking about here?

My son is starting speech therapy - he is 6 and in the first grade. I knew there were some problems but because I had become so accustomed to translating and learning how to understand him, I didn’t really realize the extent. It’s not terrible, though. He’s not completely unintelligible. I had spoken to a couple of his past teachers and they were not terribly worried about it, otherwise I would have gotten him some help sooner.

As for cost - it’s done through the school at no cost. The school has a speech therapy/OT room with full time therapists. OT is a possibility for my son as well. Last week we had our first IEP meeting so we will see where it goes.
I don’t know how things are where you live, though.

I had concerns about my daughter’s speech and had her evaluated by the early intervention people in the school district. Like the OP’s son, this was when she was about a year from going to kindergarten. Because it was through the school district, the evaluation was free.

For what it’s worth, the findings were that her speech was a tiny bit delayed, but well within the range of “normal.” (Sneak brag: In all other categories, she was well ahead of the curve, which may have made the speech issue stand out for me.) We were given a few simple exercises to work on at home, but were told that therapy wasn’t otherwise necessary.

It’s a little funny, now that she’s in kindergarten and trying to sound out words to spell them, she is always asking things like, “Does ‘rabbit’ start with ‘w’ or ‘r’?” Those letters sound exactly the same to her. She’ll get the hang of it eventually.

I grew up in South Africa, my parents wanted to bring me up bi-lingual, Dutch at home and English at daycare/kindergarden.

When I was 3 and I couldn’t form words in either language, my mother brought me to see a speech therapist, who was not impressed and stated that I would be lucky if I ended up learning even one language

I was in therapy for 3 years in South Africa and 5 in Holland

Looking back I think it was more a problem of me being hyperactive and trying to say everything that bounced inside my mind at the same time, when I got older I slowed bit down and my speech improved dramatically, when I get over stimulated/ unfocussed I still “brabbel”( not sure what the English word for it is)

What, exactly, makes his speech unintelligible? Knowing what the cause is might help give some feedback on whether speech tx would be helpful.

My daughter had a pretty serious stammer when she was younger. Her preschool had her evaluated and gave us some work to do at home while we waited to see if she grew out of it. Fortunately it was more like helpful hints than exercises, because I know we’d have been in the same position of feeling tired and overwhelmed. But just know that if you do go to a therapist, he or she will likely assign you stuff to work with him on at home, too, as it’s the practice that promotes the improvement.

Props to you for recognizing and confronting the problem.

I have twin cousins in their twenties who still speak very poorly. All suggestions that they get help were met with anger or outright ignored. My aunt did those kids a great disservice by refusing to admit their speech was abnormal.

I did some more googling in the meantime. My son doesn’t stammer, and I don’t think he has mouth defects. I think we just didn’t make him work hard enough at speaking because we understood him right away even if no-one else did. That is fine for the “Want!”+ point" stage, but it gets a problem when he wants to tell stories about stuff (usually dinosaurs :slight_smile: ) that isn’t within pointing range. He knows the words and can pronounce them, reasonably well, when pointing out illustrations in a book. But when he has to make a sentence all but the nouns are messed up.

The responses in this thread convinced me to look into help. Weird how parents think they do their kid a favour by clinging to “there is nothing wrong with you” when that means not facing a problem. Especially since the kid is too young to feel a stigma as long as we present it cheerfully. And from what I read, most kids looked back on speech therapy as fun times. More so then compulsory piano lessons, anyway, and good parents are supposed to subject their kids to those, too. :slight_smile:

A simple evaluation shouldn’t be too costly.

Also - in the US, speech therapy could be provided by / covered by the public school system, if your son is found to need the help to help him succeed academically; my own son had speech therapy not so much because he couldn’t be understood (his vocab and enunciation were quite advanced actually) but because of the “pragmatic speech” (back-and-forth conversation). That was badly impaired because of his autism.

Anyway - it’s worth checking into, to see if the Netherlands has any such government-provided services. Hereabouts, those can take a while (several months) to obtain, and might not be as comprehensive as you think your child needs; some people here do get outside services which they pay for themselves.

This comment concerned me a little.

When our son came to us he had no consonants. That was about two years ago. Once he had settled in for a few months, we took him for speech therapy.

The actual sessions were once a week or once every two weeks for an hour. The real work was done at home. We were the ones who had to make sure he put in the effort to say the consonants he was learning. For a few months, everytime he spoke, we had to get him to repeat it a few times until he finally got the consonant. They would show us what to do but we did the lions share of the work at home. This will not be an easy process for you. It takes a lot of time and energy.

The good news is (except when he is tired or waaayyy overstimulated), he now has all his consonants except ‘r’ (which is apparently typical up to about age 9).

I’m glad you’re looking into getting help. Kids can get incredibly frustrated when they don’t feel like they’re understood. Also, if they feel they don’t do something well, sometimes they stop wanting to try. This is very true for my son. A few months ago, he didn’t feel like he could write well at all. He’s left-handed and everyone who taught him was right-handed and allowed him to write improperly for a left-handed person. So he got incredibly frustrated when asked to write, so eventually refused to write period. We worked with him over the summer, having him play with play dough to improve the muscles in his hands (left especially) and encouraged him to draw and helping him learn to write properly. His writing has improved so dramatically it’s like night and day and he’s so much more confident. I imagine that speaking would be the same way (not that your son would stop speaking) - if you feel your bad at it, maybe you wouldn’t try as hard and would therefore become increasingly more frustrated, causing behavior and learning problems.

With respect to the time, I wouldn’t worry about it. If you can incorporate your exercises into daily life/play or just take 15 minutes out of your evening if he needs to sit down and focus, it should be relatively easy, though it will take some adjustment. With our son, we tried to make every opportunity we provided to write or draw enjoyable. I’m sure you can find ways to do that, too.

“Babble”. That kind of talk is also the root for “barbarian” :slight_smile:

Your son is definitely in the age range where he is beginning to tune his articulation. In the field, instead of saying “He has accomplished/mastered the X sound,” they say it rather in terms of “He has suppressed the habit of incorrectly pronouncing the X sound.” so instead of seeing it as a process of mastering a sound, it’s more like a process of suppressing the incorrect sound, if that makes sense. Some sounds aren’t typically mastered until the age of 9, some long before. So he may be on the right track for certain sounds but off developmentally for others.
I wish I could find it online…I have a really awesome few pages in my articulation/phonological disorders book that shows a chart of the different phonemes and what age they are typically suppressed by. If he has specific sounds that you’re curious about, I could post the page if you like.

As others have said, I’d recommend not stressing yourself out with trying to figure out what could be wrong and have him assessed by a speech pathologist. After the evaluation the therapist will be able to tell you if he is within the norms of speech development and, if not, tell you where the child is having problems and the plan of therapy.

I never realized it was typical. Interesting. Around that age I was sent to a speech therapist to sort out my r’s and w’s. I don’t recall it taking too long to understand the difference and incorporate it into my speech (though I’m convinced that to this day I lose it when I’m very tired and/or drunk; my husband doesn’t pay enough attention to tell me and I’ve never asked anyone else!)

I also struggled with my “th” sounds, but that was pretty much attributed to my being bilingual; the sound doesn’t exist in French and francophones substitute a d or t when they speak English. Basically, I was saying what I’d grown up hearing! :slight_smile:

Except that I wasn’t hyper physically, – my brain, however, was and still is sometimes – I have the same issue and I only speak English. I think I got some speech therapy when I was four (no older, anyway) and that helped me a lot – but I still have to stop and regroup and start over on a regular basis.

It’s such fun having your mouth seize up when you’re trying to say something too fast when your brain is already onto the next thing. Not.

Three and a half? I’d say an evaluation at least would be a very good idea. It’ll make the transition into school a lot easier if he’s gotten a handle on the issue ahead of time.


I wanted to take my son to a speech therapist, but I couldn’t afford it. Luckily as someone who worked in education, I had some for friends. :smiley: They gave me the same tips that have been mentioned here- how to properly correct, facilitating different kinds of language, etc. Still, it would’ve been helpful for the little guy if he had it in pre-kindergarten. Speech and reading skills are linked and he really struggled last year.

If you can do it, I highly recommend it.

Ours is $AU160 a session for one-on-one therapy, $AU110 for small group work (which depends on there being enough “similar” kids with the therapist to form a group - we were doing one-on-one for about 6 months before we managed that). We do get funding through the public health system, so currently we don’t pay any of that, but if he’s still doing it in a couple of years when our funding runs out, that will change.

The initial assessment was actually the most expensive bit of the process - about $300-$400 worth IIRC, about half of which was payable by us.

I’m sure the Netherlands must have some sort of publicly funded or subsidised speech therapy for those that need it, it’s just a question of figuring out what the system is and if you qualify.