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Q&A Help From an Expert… HELP: My nine-year-old cannot speak

March 1, 2023

Q: I have a nine-year-old girl who is not able to speak fully. She can spell some words when we teach her, but I want her to get better in her speech. Any suggestions, please?

Q&A Help From an Expert… HELP: My nine-year-old cannot speak

A: Hi Kavitha,

Firstly, saying a letter in isolation can often be easier than saying a whole word with multi-syllables or saying a phrase or sentence.

This little girl could have auditory processing challenges (not hearing all the sounds correctly).

She could have articulation challenges (not able to pronounce certain sounds), or she could have oral motor challenges (not able to use her articulators efficiently).

These possibilities should be evaluated by a certified, licensed speech therapist. Then, special articulation and auditory processing strategies can be put in place.

Language comprehension is most important. Can she follow simple directions? Can she name things, request things, make a choice with one word clearly? Can she imitate sounds or words well? Does she respond to music and could singing songs be a motivator to support speech?

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Does she like to be read to? Reading to her and having her point to and name objects could be a motivator. Some songs are also great where kiddos have to repeat sounds of animals; this, in particular, could help her.

Acknowledge all communication attempts. Then provide good modeling.

When she is calm and non-resistant, ask her to repeat if she is not clear. Children get frustrated when they are not understood. Try to not stress her out.

Some parents get a talking device to help support clear communication. Having a voice output talker can help relieve frustration and also provide modeling for the child.

I hope some of these thoughts and ideas help.

This article was featured in Issue 126 – Romantic Relationships and Autism

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