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  • Listening to others?

  • Understanding words or sentences others say?

  • Following instructions?

  • Producing clear speech?

  • Speaking with appropriate vocal quality, pitch or loudness?

  • Speaking fluently?

  • Using words or sentences that are clear or make sense to others?

  • Using appropriate grammar in sentences?

  • Telling a story or recounting events?

  • Controlling saliva and dribbles?

  • Reading, spelling or writing?

  • Relaying a message to others?

  • Playing, interacting or socialising with other children or adults?

Communication difficulties are usually viewed with respect to the child's age, development, medical and hearing status, languages spoken at home and communication environments the child is exposed to.

When addressing articulation (sound production) or language delays/disorders, developmental norms and data are often used to determine the level of the disorder as development of language and sound production follows a fairly predictable course over the early years. Children are generally compared against age criteria to determine if a problem exists.

Other disorders such as voice abnormalities (eg hoarse or nasal voice) or speech distortion often require thorough investigation of the speech mechanism to determine whether there is a structural or functional cause.

Assessments may be completed in conjunction with one or more health professionals such as Ear-Nose-Throat specialists, paediatric dentists, orthodontists, plastic surgeons, neurologists, physiotherapists, teachers, occupational therapists, psychologists, and school counsellors to fully address the nature and cause of the problem.

Communication disorders in Australian children are common. Early detection and intervention will facilitate early communication development and positive outcomes.


Speech therapy will often be targeted at the specific communication and/or feeding issues whilst integrating home language, behavioural, emotional and social issues which will influence the family's involvement and outcomes. The treatment methods chosen may range from education and advice to a home program, individual or group treatment sessions. The treatment selected is often dependent on the type of disorder, family situation and availability of services.

Intervention may involve consultation and collaboration with other health and educational personnel to determine the nature and extent of the child's problem and provide appropriate treatment in view of the child's overall needs.


Communication difficulties are common among young children. Some children may be more at risk of developing a communication problem. Some of the risk factors include:

Hearing impairment or a history of middle ear infections

  • Developmental delay or slower development

  • Structural abnormalities of the speech mechanism
    (lips, tongue, jaw, teeth, palate, tonsils, adenoids, pharynx, nose and larynx) eg cleft palate, missing teeth, tongue tie

  • Incoordination of movement of the anatomical structures of the speech mechanism
    (ie. Lips, jaw, tongue, soft palate or larynx)

  • Abnormal muscle tone/movement

  • Emotional and social immaturity

  • Early feeding difficulties

  • Autism

  • Behavioural problems

  • A learning disability

  • Congenital abnormalities/conditions
    eg Down Syndrome

  • Acquired conditions
    eg brain injury, trauma

  • Neurological conditions
    eg cerebral palsy, cranial nerve abnormalities

  • Prematurity

  • Degenerative conditions
    eg metabolic disorders

  • Environmental conditions
    eg lack of stimulation, deprivation

  • A family history of communication disorders

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