By Debra Collins, Family therapist
My 7-year-old daughter has trouble explaining herself when asked a question. It's like she knows what she wants to say but has trouble expressing it. The only way you can get an answer out of her is by listening to her try to explain it a couple of times and then guessing what she is trying to say. Is there anything I can do to help her, or should she see a speech therapist?
I am wondering if your daughter is in first grade at age 7 because of her birthday or other reasons such as school readiness or retention. Her past school performance might be helpful in discussing the direction you want to pursue with her teacher and school administrators.
It sounds as if you have the same difficulty with her at home, since you mentioned that you have to guess what she is trying to communicate. Has this always been the case or is it something recent due to any stress or change in the family? Anxiety or trauma can contribute to poor communication skills.
If she has an expressive language disorder, that means she understands language better than she can communicate. Developmental language disorders, which are the most common, can be found in children of normal intelligence and can be related to another disorder or condition.
It is usually apparent at a young age when language skills are being formed. For example, a 2-year-old might be able to follow easy instructions but not name her body parts. Older children might have problems relaying a story or interacting with their peers. Even if there are organic reasons for poor expressive language skills, the stress of trying to be understood can exacerbate the problem.
It may be useful to have her evaluated by a speech and language therapist. Some schools offer the evaluation after first having a meeting to determine the child's overall needs. A thorough evaluation can help you and the school plan what further services are required to support her.
For more information about speech and language disorders, visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's speech disorders page.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.
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