The Basics of Speech Therapy

Posted on October 21 2016

This article addresses the five basics of speech therapy. A brief description of each area is discussed with references to get more detailed information. Speech therapy is a very involved and vast field which includes speech, language and eating/swallowing. All these things make up our bag of communication tools and speech therapy works to be sure these tools are effective.

What is speech therapy?

What are the signs of a speech or language issue?

What are the different speech and language disorders?

Who can diagnose a speech or language issue?

What does a child do during speech therapy?

What is Speech Therapy?

Speech therapy is an intervention service designed to improve communication through verbal and/or nonverbal communication strategies. Speech therapy addresses issues in speech, language and swallowing/eating. Speech is the physical production of sound. Language is the hearing and understanding of words as well as the act of putting words together to communicate. In addition, speech therapy addresses issues with eating and swallowing.

What are the Signs of a Speech or Language Issue?

It is usually a parent that sees the first signs that a child’s speech or language isn’t developing properly. It may be that your child is already 2 ½ and isn’t speaking words or that your child can’t seem to repeat something they’ve just heard or they simply don’t respond at all when spoken to. Sometimes children refuse food and gag on most foods. These are early warning signs that your child may be in need of some speech therapy.

Here are several resources to find typical speech and language development by age:

American Speech Language Hearing Association

http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/chart/

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Diseases (scroll all the way to the bottom of the page for the chart)

https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/speech-and-language

Reading Rockets

http://www.readingrockets.org/article/speech-and-language-developmental-milestones

What are the Different Speech and Language Disorders?

Speech Disorders Include:

  • Articulation disorders:difficulties producing sounds in syllables or saying words incorrectly to the point that listeners can't understand what's being said. One such disorder is Childhood Apraxia of Speech which is not due to muscle weakness or paralysis. Another disorder is Dysarthria which is a result of impaired movement of the muscles for speech production. There are also Speech Sound disorders which result in a certain speech sound being spoken incorrectly past the typical age that sound should be mastered.
  • Fluency disorders:problems such as stuttering, in which the flow of speech is interrupted by abnormal stoppages, partial-word repetitions ("b-b-boy"), or prolonging sounds and syllables (sssssnake).
  • Resonance or voice disorders:problems with the pitch, volume, or quality of the voice that distract listeners from what's being said. These types of disorders may also cause pain or discomfort for a child when speaking.

Language Disorders can be either receptive or expressive. A receptive language disorder is when a child may have difficulty understanding the words or sentences used by others. Often children with receptive language disorders will show poor attention to speech, are confused by complex or long sentences and have trouble following spoken directions.

An expressive language disorder presents when a child has difficulty coming up with the right words when talking. They may have trouble joining words correctly into sentences and have small vocabularies.

Causes for language disorders can include hearing loss, cognitive disability, emotional disturbance, a lack of exposure to language or brain trauma. Most often the cause of a language problem is unknown.

Oral feeding disorders are indicated in the way someone eats or drinks. Problems chewing, swallowing and often times coughing or gagging on food become an issue. These challenges are included in speech and language disorders.

Who Can Diagnose a Speech or Language Issue?

A speech therapist or speech and language pathologist are a great place to start if you are concerned your child may have a speech or language disorder. Often times there are community programs or programs at your local public school that will help determine if a child has an issue. If you need help finding a professional resource contact your pediatrician for a referral.

What Does a Child do During Speech Therapy?

The first visit to a speech therapist will be an evaluation. The child will be asked to speak and perform other tasks to determine what issues may be present and then a plan will be created with milestones and goals to correct and support the challenges.

No one child is the same so the length of time they see a speech therapist will vary. Techniques can also vary; however, some standard types of exercises will be strengthening and coordination exercises, sound repetition/imitation, teaching the brain and body to communicate better and breathing exercises.

Early Intervention is Key

Trust your instincts with your child and as soon as you suspect there may be an issue talk to your pediatrician or a speech therapist. Getting your child help at an early age will help their future. The basics of speech therapy laid out in this article should give you a jumping off point to start your journey to a brighter tomorrow.

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