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Dutchess_III's avatar

What would cause a child to have such strange speech patterns?

Asked by Dutchess_III (36038points) July 30th, 2014

My seven year old grandson, Jaden, is borderline autistic and he has some speech issues and some behavioral issues. He’s also been diagnosed with ADHD (though I don’t see it….) But he’s gotten much, much better since Chris, my son, came into his life about 2½ years ago. He is also a brainiac! One of the smartest kids I’ve ever known. Unfortunately, he often uses his smarts to manipulate people around him.

I think his biggest problem is with the “TH” sound. He puts his tongue on the back of his teeth instead of between them. He is in speech therapy at school. He’s also REALLY soft on the consonants which makes him very hard to understand sometimes. So he does have some valid speech problems, but he also exaggerates them at times and it’s really annoying! He’ll also revert to baby talk, especially when his little sisters are around, because he’s trying to get the same kind of attention they get. I finally got him to stop calling a “computer” a “puter.” He can say “Com” just fine, but, for what ever reason, wanted to hang on to the toddler version of it.

The other day he started pretending he couldn’t say “Vanta” the cat’s name. This was after he’d already said it a dozen times. I asked him if he could say “Santa,” and he could, so I said,“It’s just like ‘Santa,’ only it’s ‘Vanta.’ ” Well, he was eating his lunch and he kept saying things like, “Vanguh? Is it Vanguh, gramma? Is it ‘Vanger’ Gramma? Is ‘Vanger’ right, Gramma?” Well, I knew what he was doing so I just ignored him and he quit after several minutes. Now he calls the cat “Avanta,” but that’s understandable. He’s relating it to similar words he already knows, like, “Advantage,” or “Advice.”

But he also has some strange speech patterns, and I can’t figure out where they come from. For example, he may say “Why does he does that?” but he pronounces both of the “does” as “dues.” There is no such variation on the word ‘do’. It’s not anything anyone in his life, or in the English speaking world, would say, so where would that come from? Some of his stuff is plain old bad grammar, “He don’t do that,” and that kind of thing, but some of it is inexplicable to me.

Any ideas?

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16 Answers

kritiper's avatar

Cleft pallet or hearing problems. Could be a speech pattern that hasn’t been adequately addressed to correct. My little sister had speech problems but they were caught and corrected when she started pre-school. ”“Sh” and “r“s.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

Don’t harp on the problem too much. Ignore it for a while so the issue fades a bit. Then, just to see how serious it really is, out of the blue, pretend you have forgotten kitty’s name. Do it naturally and convincingly. You will notice that he will probably blurt out the correct name. It may mostly be some attention-seeking as he knows that saying things wrong will get a reaction out of you.

snowberry's avatar

The verb “do” is an irregular verb. If he’s as smart as you say, he may be trying to make “do” a regular verb. So walk becomes walks, spell becomes spells, and so on, all by simply adding the “s” sound at the end.

JLeslie's avatar

He is so young it doesn’t sound strange at all to me.

My inlaws can’t say th well, because they are Spanish speaking. Th actually isn’t that easy to perfect. I really think his speech therapy will help him a lot.

Some of what you mention I think he is purposely doing to antagonize you, and some he probably really can’t pronounce yet or has not completely figured out how to conjugate the verb.

My husband who is ESL, but speaks English very well, and has been taking English class since before Kindergarten can’t say sill correctly. He can say will, bill, Jill, but sill he says more like seal. I assume it is because it starts with an s, and even s is hard for Spanish speakers, because most s words start with es. He doesn’t have that problem of always wanting to add an e, but for whatever reason sill is difficult.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Great answers, everyone.

@snowberry Your explanation clicked in my brain, even though I don’t know what an irregular verb is! But it makes perfect sense. The thing is, the words have been pronounced correctly to him so many times that you’d think he would have dropped the “dues,” by now. As @JLeslie commented, her husband still has a problem with words beginning with “S” because as a child the “es” sound was so ingrained in his mind by everyone around him. So if he was speaking Spanish that would be perfectly proper. But how could a non-word (‘dues’ for ‘does’) that nobody in the English speaking world would ever use, get so ingrained when NO one uses it?

@ZEPHYRA I’m harping to you guys, not to him. He doesn’t get much reaction from me. When it gets tiring I’ll just mildly say, “I can’t understand what you’re saying so I can’t answer your question.” Then I’ll go do dishes or something. If he follows me around, trying to get a reaction I’ll say, “Go outside! Go play!” and it’s just amazing how he corrects himself.

The other day he said “Do you think the kitt-en needs a sheen to pick that up!” ?
I said, “I have no idea what a sheen is (although I actually knew what he was trying to say…) Show me what a sheen does.”
So he demonstrated a “machine.”
I said, “Oh. *M*achine.”
He said, “Is that how most people say it?”
“Yes, Jaden. That is how most people say it.”

It’s hard to figure out what he’s doing on purpose and what he’s doing because of some limitation. His mom said he didn’t start talking until he was 3.

JLeslie's avatar

The dues example just seems like when kids say things like, “I rided my bike home.” The suffix ed is the past tense for most verbs, but then we have irregular verbs like ride, which would be rode, and buy is bought not buyed, etc.

Basically, there is logic in it, but the child either does not know the correct conjugation or has not filed away in their brain the correct conjugation and just keeps going with what he thinks is right based on the rules he knows for the language.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That makes sense. I’ve heard other kids talk that way and I kind of intuitively understood why, and it’s exactly because of what you said @JLeslie. But usually they break away from that at about the age of 5, when they start school and stuff, don’t they? And I have never heard any other kid say “dos.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

Seven just seems awfully old to still be talking like a 3 year old who is just starting to master the language. He’s had 3 years of school. Preschool, K, and he’s going into 1st grade. He’s been corrected a thousand times.

The thing is, if he’s hanging on to it deliberately, doing it on purpose, I handle it one way, like by refusing to have a conversation with him if he won’t speak the language correctly. But if he honestly doesn’t know, I have to think of something else. I just don’t see how he couldn’t know….

gailcalled's avatar

We have an 8-year child (male) on the autism spectrum in my family. He is very high functioning and has a very high IQ, but there are a thousand mysteries about his behavior. It is not always consistent, and never logical by our standards. He has been tutored in behavioral, occupational and physical therapy almost daily since his diagnosis, at about 18 months

He is in a special classroom and has an aide in school. He has to be reinforced constantly, over and over. We all stopped asking “Why” long ago and now stick with “How.” When he is in a family setting, there is always a quiet place for him to retreat to when the normal stimulus of family activity, even sitting around a dining room table, gets to be too much for him. He responds to calmness and silence. Asking him questions frustrates everyone.

He is slowly learning not to shriek when he speaks but it is an effort. And sometimes he is not clear but we usually understand what he means and wants.

His parents use simple trigger statements. “Please do this.” “Please stop this.” No. Good.

He loves being around animals…not just domestic pets, but chickens in the yard, frogs around the pond, birds at the feeder, horses, sheep, goats, and cows.

@Dutchess_III: Have you and your family connected with the enormous resources provided by the communities of families and professionals working with autistic children? It sounds as though you are reinventing the wheel, which is exhausting.

JLeslie's avatar

I agree seven is starting to get a little old for it. Although, boys often are slower with speech than girls. I have read that boys very delayed with speaking, which is doesn’t sound like the case here, they mean boys barely talking until age four in the studies I have read, are statistically more likely to be exceptionally brilliant at mathematics. The boys in these studies do become very competent at language, they are just significantly delayed in speech. Also, since he is Autistic, it seems to me having some trouble with speech might be expected.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Good answer @gailcalled. Well, the ball isn’t in my court. I have to assume they’re doing all that they can. I mean, they have him in speech therapy. I’ll ask if he has a tutor, though. Don’t want to push too hard, in case Mom gets the idea that I think she isn’t doing enough, know what I mean? From what I hear, he’s a completely different child around them. If they put him in time out his behavior gets 5 X worse (black mail.) For me, time out works. I don’t care if he throws a tantrum. He senses this and has never had one around me. He will not control my behavior, which is what he does at home.
However, my son said that since they started bringing him to me his behavior at home has improved.
But yeah. I’m trying to reinvent the wheel. Don’t want to step on any toes.

LOL! The other day I was over there. Zoey had crashed and burned on the concrete, pretty bad road rash all up and down her face and chest. Jaden (who didn’t even witness it) said “She fell of the porch because Mom wasn’t paying attention.”
I snapped, “JADEN!” Both he and Mom snapped to attention! I said, “Accidents happen! You don’t talk like that about your mother, do you understand?” He nodded mutely.
Then Mom started arguing with him about it all, protesting her innocence. “Talk talk talk so how do you figure it was my fault??” Bleh.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@JLeslie he’s boarderline, whatever that means.

Gotta go! Have a job interview!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Interview went well, guys! Wish me luck.

Back to this Q. He is brilliant, but he plays dumb a lot.

JLeslie's avatar


If he is borderline then there is the question of having him labeled and using it to help deal with his teachers in school, or to ignore the diagnosis and just take things as they go. What has your son decided to do for Jaden? Do they do anything special for his diagnosis?

As far as ADHD, if you disagree with the diagnosis I personally would go with your gut.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Snowberry has been in Fluther purgatory for 2 days now! Snowberry! Are you OK??

He’s done been labeled. I mean, he’s getting some help, just don’t know what, exactly.

jerv's avatar

I had a couple years of speech therapy myself. Autism does affect language, speech, and (to a slight extent) motor skills.

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