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Speech

child, period, sounds, development, children, time and words

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SPEECH DISTURBANCES.—Existing disturbances of speech may be more readily understood by a short survey of speech development in the child. This may be divided into four periods.

(1) The screaming period. Screaming is closely related to speech, since it is the child's only utterance during the first period of life ; and, so far as the manner of breathing is concerned, it is very similar to that employed when speaking. Whereas the child breathes through the nose when quiet, it inhales rapidly through the open mouth when screaming, and exhales in long-drawn periods, at the same time vocalising.

(2) The babbling period. During the third or fourth month children begin to feel in sympathy with their surroundings, and show this by grasp ing with the hands and struggling with the feet. They also make all kinds of sounds which as yet have not much similarity to later sounds of speech, such as " mamma," " dadda," etc., and others which are made with those parts of the mouth which have become strengthened from suckling. These first sounds uttered by the child are often regarded as real speech, and that is why the syllables mentioned above are supposed to stand for the names " father " and mother." For this reason the same sounds are found to stand for the parental names in widely different languages.

(3) The imitative period. When the child begins to reach a higher stage of mental development, it not only hears but listens, and not only sees, but observes ; and together with this strengthening of the power of its senses increased by attention, there awakens an imitative instinct. The child endeavours to imitate, as far as lies in its power, what it sees and hears. When the child says "mamma" and " papa " at this stage of its development, it means much more than the babbling of these same sounds at a previous period. It is now a conscious process. The child cannot reproduce all sounds as yet ; some are learned with much difficulty. Many children learn to pro nounce " k " and " g " very late ; and instead of " come " they will say " tome," instead of " God," " Dod," etc. It is unwise to speak baby-talk to a child, for the child needs a good example, or it will remain at a low stage of speech development for a long time. It will pronounce faultily and stammer ; for

stammering is really a form of faulty pronunciation, as well as faulty breath ing. As with " k " and " g," so the child often finds difficulty with " s," ch," and other difficult sounds. A child is at once impressed with any unusual sound, and will try to imitate it ; it should therefore be kept away from stammering people. Some children, after being a short time with stam merers, begin to imitate their manner of speech, and gradually develop the habit. It was an old Roman orator who advised all parents to bring their children in contact with persons who spoke correctly. It is a \ yell known fact that mistakes made by nurses are very often adopted by the developing child.

(4) The actual period of talking. Having learned sufficiently how to use its speaking mechanism, the child now begins to give expression to its own thoughts. It must be remembered that the child understands the speech of its surroundings very early—in fact, much earlier than it is able to imitate it. The understanding of words is developed much earlier than the ability to form words. There is, therefore, a disharmony between the two processes ; and, not being able to use its speaking-mechanism with certainty, the child is often unable to give expression to its thoughts. It will often halt, and repeat first syllables of words ; and, in the case of nervous children who have an inherited tendency to faulty speech, there is danger that this may develop into habitual stuttering.

From this short survey it may be seen that there are important causes for the acquirement of faulty habits in the speech development of the child. In most cases parents can, at this early period, prevent the development of such disturbances by sufficient watchfulness over the child. In any case, if anomalies are noticed, one should not be content to let them " improve with time," but should apply the necessary correction. This consists in always talking slowly and very distinctly to the child, accustoming it to repeat slowly what was said ; and teaching it the meaning of words, if neces sary with the aid of picture-books.

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