Family life

Does your child have pronunciation problems?

What was once considered cute is becoming a concern with Tracy's four-year-old.

By Tracy Chappell
Does your child have pronunciation problems?

Avery and her little “fwiends.”

Anna, Avery and I are in the car, discussing what Avery should bring for show and tell for “Things that begin with Y.”
“A yeti!” I exclaim, because we actually have a stuffed one which has come in handy in the past when we needed something starting with Y. Avery doesn’t want to bring the yeti.
“A yo-yo!” Anna offers up. Avery doesn’t want to bring a yo-yo.
“Something yellow?” I suggest. No.
“I want to bring in ya-wen,” she says.
Anna cracks up. “You’re just going to yawn in front of them? That’s actually a good idea.”
“No, ya-wen,” Avery repeats.
“Yon?” I ask, trying to figure out what she’s saying.
“You know, ya-wen!” she says emphatically. “Like string?”
Oh, yarn. She means yarn. But because she doesn’t pronounce her Rs properly, words like this can sometimes take time to figure out. She also has issue with Fs — she says “ith” instead of “if” and “breakdis” instead of “breakfast.”
When she was two, and three, and four, I admit, it was cute. Everyone thought so. Anna pronounced everything crisply from the beginning, so Avery’s mispronunciations surprised me. Everyone told me not to worry, that she would grow out of it. And she definitely has made improvements — she used to say “lub” instead of “love” for example, but now says it properly — but now that she’s four-and-a-half, I’m starting to become concerned that I’ve neglected something important.
It’s such a tough thing to know when to wait something out with your kids’ development and when to jump in. I could totally relate to my colleague Katie wrestling with how to handle her daughter’s “late” walking, because you don’t want to overreact to something that will sort itself out, if given time. But only hindsight tells us which decision is the right one and sometimes, it tells us we missed the boat. (Avery is also on the shy side, so I haven’t wanted to make a big deal of her speech issues, for fear of her becoming self-conscious about it and not wanting to talk to people.)
Avery’s teacher sort of waffled on whether he thought I needed to get her assessed when I asked him, but someone else mentioned that places prefer parents bring concerns up before the child begins SK. Many online resources say that some letters or combos aren’t always mastered until a child is six or so, but one of the big questions all the online checklists ask is: Do people think your child’s speech is amusing? Check.
My instinct is to move forward with an assessment, rather than just wait and see any longer. Maybe there are some easy exercises we can do to help. Maybe she has a hearing problem we haven’t noticed. Maybe they’ll say not to worry. I think it’s time to find out.
Have you dealt with any speech issues with your children?

This article was originally published on Apr 09, 2013

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