General Etiquette > Family and Children

Should I say something?

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I babysit my neighbor's 4 yr old DD a few days a week.  I have actually known this family since the mom of the little girl was 7 and I worked with her mom.  She is a smart girl, but, her speech is beyond garbled.  Besides the fact that she speaks softly (unless she is mad ::)) I have the worst time understanding her.  Her grandmother was talking with her this morning when I went to pick her up and put her and my DD on the bus, and she looked at me and said "I can't understand her."  When she is at my house I have asked my older DD if she understands certain things she is saying and she says "I don't understand half of what she says, and the other half I get is because I keep asking her to repeat louder." so I know it is not just me.  It is not just mumbles, she cannot pronounce things that a 4 yr old should be able to say.   My own DD had started speech therapy at 15 mo thru early intervention and is currently undergoing a more intense therapy at 6.  I know how to get all these therapies and resources that I would gladly pass on to them but some people can be sensitive about broaching anything with their kids, and I don't want to upset them.  The child also has never been in any kind of daycare or playgroup and the only interaction with kids her age in a weekly story time at the library, so she hasn't had the interaction with kids on a daily basis that can also help in the mimicking aspect.   The question is, do I say anything to the mom, or just keep shaking my head and saying uh-huh when she is talking to me?

Since you babysit regularly I think this is fair game for you to ask about. It seems related to the child's well being, i.e. if she was trying to tell you she was hurt it would be important that you know where, how, why, etc.  However, I wouldn't lead with suggestions. I would tell the parents that both you and DD have trouble understanding their daughter, and do they have any tips for better communication? Either they are compensating somehow (like having her repeat herself) or they are so used to how she talks they don't see a problem. You might ask if they want suggestions since you went through speech issues with your own child.

I would mention it to the girl's mother. Be prepared for her to be in denial, though. One of the signs that a child has a speech problem is that people outside of the family cannot understand them. The family is used to communicating with them and are too close to the situation to recognize a problem.

If she is at all receptive, many public school districts offer speech testing. 

My vote is for "say something." This is the kind of thing that parents who are with their kids all the time tend to be unaware of, and this is the age when speech therapy will really benefit the child. Maybe something like, "Hey, I have a really hard time understanding Girl when she talks, and when I mentioned it to Grandma she said she has a hard time, too. Have you thought about having Girl evaluated? Lots of kids at this age benefit from a little bit of speech therapy -- my daughter did! Let me know if you want some more info about it and I can get it for you."

As a childcare provider, I do think you have a responsibility to say something to the mother.  You will have to be gentle in the way you say it.  Perhaps you could ask the grandmother if the child's mother might be open to you offering the same resources you used with your own child?  Otherwise, if you do say something, perhaps phrase it in terms of "I found this resource to be very helpful with MyChild."

I had a bad speech impediment as a child, as did my little sister.  Both of us had the same problem:  we simply spoke too fast.  My little sister also spoke very quietly.

LK now has the same problem, only not with the quietness, just with the speed at which she speaks.  I can understand most of what she says, but most other people can't.  We are using flash cards right now to correct the problem and focus on individual words that she *can* say. 

My nephew ALSO has the same problem (it really seems to be a family thing), and my sister took him to a speech therapist who recommended kindergarten instead of speech therapy (she homeschools, which is why it had to be suggested).  After a few weeks in kindergarten, his speech began to improve.

As a sitter, are there any tools you currently have to be able to help the child you watch?


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