Speech Therapy 101

Updated: Jan 16

What exactly is speech therapy?

Speech Language pathologists are able to work with children from infancy through adolescents who are suspected to have communication, cognitive, and feeding impairments.

In regards to language, speech pathologists work on following directions, understanding and using age appropriate vocabulary, speech intelligibility, and learning strategies- such as increasing attention, following schedules, and expressing wants, needs, and emotions in an appropriate way.

Speech therapists help children learn how to play and interact with others. They can help teach children of all ages the subtleties of body language, pitch change, and word choice so that children can better understand how to interact with their peers in order to make and maintain friends.

Communication is a tool that we often take for granted.... until it doesn't seem to be working quite right.

How is a communication impairment diagnosed?

A child can be diagnosed with a communication impariment in three different settings: the school system, a private or outpatient practice, or through birth to three/early intervention services. A formal evaluation is often able to compare children's speech and language skills to same age and gender peers. Pediatric speech language pathologists have the tools to observe communication skills as early as infancy through adolescents.

Is my child at risk for a communication delay?

Children can have speech and language difficulties for a variety of reasons. Below are some diagnoses factors which may increase chances of speech or language delay:

  • Prematurity

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Prolonged use of pacifier, or chronic thumb sucker

  • Family history of speech, language, learning difficulty

What does my child's diagnosis mean?

Expressive Language Impairment

An Expressive Language Impairment is difficulty using language with appropriate vocabulary, sentence structure, grammar, to relay meaning. When a speech pathologist targets expressive language they may be teaching a child to uses vocabulary to name items and actions, showing a child how to create more complex sentences, or helping a child use age appropriate grammar to share more complex ideas (think ed, ing, plural s endings to words) to change meaning.

Receptive Language Impairment/Delay

A Receptive Language Impairment consists of problems understanding language. For example, a child may not respond to directions, they may have trouble following the routine or schedules in daycare and school. Through speech therapy children can learn to better understand what is being asked of them. For example, a speech pathologist may be able to help children better follow directions, understand age appropriate concepts, and learn the meaning of new vocabulary better.

Mixed Expressive/Receptive Language Impairment

A mixed expressive/receptive language impairment is marked as difficulty in both the understanding and use of language. This is commonly diagnosis that can affect functional communication and academic performance. Therapy for this diagnosis includes a combination or receptive language intervention and expressive language intervention (see examples above).

Articulation Impairment:

You probably already know this one.. An articulation impairment is noted by difficulty producing one or multiple speech sounds. It is common for children to have difficulty producing /s/, /r/, or /th/ as these are some of the harder sounds in English.

Phonological Impairment: Phonological impairment is when a child has a different representation of a sound in their mind. For example, every time a child tries to produce a /k/ sound it comes out like /t/ (cat becomes "tat, candy becomes "tandy" kitty becomes "titty"). Phonological impairments can impede a chid's ability to learn to read or spell correctly. Speech therapist can work on phonological skills such as identifying minimally contrasted words, blending or segmenting sounds, and learning to produce words without inappropriate speech sound errors.

Childhood Apraxia of Speech: Childhood apraxia of speech is a motor planning or sequencing difficulty that stems from the brain. When children are apraxic they may have limited babbling, limited variety of speech as they begin to develop language, or highly unintelligible speech as they age. Sometimes children may produce their vowels differently, as if they have an accent. They will often repeat a word differently many times until they learn how to produce it (butterfly may be pronounced tutertee, tuter-fly, butterfly). Speech pathologist trained in apraxia know that a multi sensory approach (tactile, visual, verbal cues) works well. Research supports more frequent visits that are shorter in duration.

Wanting more information on how your child's communication skills compare to his/her peers? The American Speech and Hearing Association more information regarding child development.. Check out this link which has resources to better understand communication milestones from birth to 5th grade!



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