Many young children have some difficulty pronouncing words or understanding language. If you have concerns about your preschooler's development in these areas, it may help to have a speech-language pathologist evaluate him for a possible speech or language delay. If she finds that he needs help, she will create goals to help develop his speech or language so that he can be a more effective communicator. Depending on the type of difficulties your preschooler is showing, the SLP might create goals to work on receptive language, which is the ability to understand what others say, expressive language, which is the ability to use words to speak or with articulation, which is the ability to pronounce words clearly.
When children have trouble using words to communicate, they need help with expressive language. Goals that would focus on this area might include naming objects, asking questions, putting words together into sentences, or keeping a conversation going. By the time your child is 3 years old, he should have a word for almost everything, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. If your child is not using many words, it may help to have a goal for him to increase the number of words he uses to identify objects. If your preschooler is not using at least four words in a sentence, it may help to have a goal for him to use more words such as verbs or adjectives when he speaks.
Language disorders can also include a problem with receptive language, which is when he understands what is spoken. Preschoolers who need help in this area may have goals to work on following directions, answering questions or with understanding gestures. Most preschoolers should be able to answer simple questions that begin with, "Who?" "What?" "Where?" and "Why." Older preschoolers should be able to answer questions about a short story they listened to. These may be goals for your child if he is unable to demonstrate this skill yet. Following directions can be a challenge for kids who have trouble with receptive language, so a goal might include increasing his ability to follow multi-step directions, such as "Put on your shoes and get your backpack."
Most of the time, preschoolers have not mastered the correct pronunciation of every sound, and mispronouncing a few sounds is not a big concern, according to Simalee Smith-Stubblefield, associate professor of Speech-Language Pathology at the University of the Pacific. Still, by the time your child is 3 years old, people outside of the family should understand most of what he says. The most common mistakes that children make in their speech are omitting sounds, such as "boo" instead of "book" or "cool" instead of "school;" substituting sounds for another, such as "dood" instead of "good," or "wun" instead of "run;" or distorting sounds, which is what happens when a child has a lisp. Goals for articulation might include working on specific sounds that are difficult for your preschooler to pronounce in isolation, carrying those correct sounds over to conversation or rhyming words.
Components of Goals
When determining goals for your child, an SLP will think about several factors. Goals for your preschooler's speech or language will include exactly what he should be able to demonstrate, under what conditions he should do this skill and how you will know when he has mastered the goal, according to SpeechPathology.com. For example, if your preschooler has a goal to increase his ability to answer questions, the goal might read, "Jack will accurately answer who, what, and where questions in conversation in four out of five trials." This helps you know specifically how to practice the skill and how many times he should be able to do it on his own.
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Preschool Language Disorders
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Typical Speech and Language Development: Three to Four Years
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Typical Speech and Language Development: Four to Five Years
- Education.com: Help for Speech Development: Preschool
- SpeechPathology.com: Writing Functional Goals for Preschool Children
- Cincinnati Children's Hospital: Speech Disorders
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