Could my child just be lazy?
Occasionally parents bringing their child for a speech pathology assessment will ask if their child might ‘just be lazy’.
This question usually arises because they have noticed that their child sometimes says something spontaneously, but will not repeat it, or can copy a single word, but immediately reverts to their old pronunciation in conversation.
This perception is understandable, however, normal speakers do not need to ‘try hard’ to speak well or remember new words most of the time.
If a child often has difficulty in recalling a word or phrase, it may be for many reasons. But laziness is not one of them.
Firstly, remembering new pronunciations is hard for some children. Imagine if you needed to swap all your ‘t’ sounds for ‘f’ sounds. You could easily do this on single words (e.g.‘fea’ instead of ‘tea’) and maybe even in phrases or short sentences (I told/fold him to/foo come.)
But it would be impossible to do this in an angry or excited conversation unless you had a lot of practice first, and the switch over was automatic. And you are an adult who can read and visualize pronunciations!
Another reason is that the child may be experiencing verbal dyspraxia, also known as apraxia (see Blog post on Dyspraxia). People with dyspraxia find it difficult to recall what movements to make for words, and become far less capable when asked to repeat or ‘perform’.
Speech pathologists are able to assist a child to understand the new speech task and develop competence from words, to sentences, to conversations, in careful stages.