Your child may need speech therapy if he has difficulty pronouncing sounds or words (speech/articulation) or has difficulty using words to communicate (language). Because the muscles and structures used for speech (lips, tongue, teeth, palate and throat) are also used in eating, a speech and language pathologist (SLP, also known as a speech therapist) may also be needed to address feeding and swallowing difficulties (dysphagia).
Speech therapy for children and teens with communication disorders and social challenges.
Our words build bridges to each-other and share our thoughts and feelings.
Why is Therapy Important
Children who have developmental delays or special needs often need help to improve their language, speech, and communication skills. Children who cannot express their wants and needs can become frustrated and turn to inappropriate behaviors to try and express themselves. A speech therapist can help your child to become a successful communicator by working on articulation and language skills, so he can more easily share his wants, needs and feelings. If your child has feeding issues, a SLP can help make meal time an easier and more enjoyable experience for your child.
Learn more about Feeding Groups & VitalStim Therapy.
What Happens in Speech and Language Therapy?
First, the SLP will evaluate your child and determine exactly what kind of challenges your child is facing. Once the problem is identified, he’ll develop a plan of action that might include regular speech, language or feeding therapy sessions and exercises that your child can practice at home and at school. Whether your child has a stutter, auditory processing challenges that affect enunciation, feeding issues due to a congenital condition, or another oral motor or speech-related difficulty, his SLP will create a custom treatment plan to ensure a positive speech, language or feeding experience.
Articulation: An SLP can help your child learn to produce sounds correctly so he or she can be clearly understood by others. Articulation problems can arise from muscle incoordination or structural (i.e. cleft palate) problem in the lips, tongue, and palate. Articulation difficulties can also be caused by motor planning and sequencing problem (apraxia of speech). In this case, the speech muscles do not get the proper signal from the brain to produce speech and do not work in the correct order. Articulation difficulties can be very frustrating for the child because they know exactly what they want to say. They just cannot say it.
Language: The SLP can help your child learn how to produce (expressive language) and understand (receptive language) spoken language. Language consists of vocabulary, grammar and sentence structure, and pragmatics. Pragmatics is the way that language is used. It includes the unspoken rules of language such as taking turns in a conversation, eye contact, and social interaction. Children with autism have difficulty with using language in a social context. Children who are typically developing are able to learn these unspoken rules easily. Children who have delays or developmental disabilities, however, often have a more difficulty learning the rules of language and how to use them.
Hearing Impairment: Because hearing is part of learning how to speak, children with hearing loss often have speech and language delays. In the past, sign language was the primary option for a hearing impaired person. However, with the advancement of hearing technology (hearing aids and cochlear implants), children with hearing impairment can learn to listen and speak with auditory-verbal therapy provided by a speech-language pathologist. “The Earlier, the Better” is the motto for successful communication for children with hearing impairment.
Stuttering: While it is normal for preschoolers who are acquiring language to repeat some words and syllables, atypical dysfluencies (stuttering) are disruptions in speech that make a child struggle to speak smoothly. Stuttering can range from mild to severe and can include part- and whole-word repetitions, sound repetitions, and silent “blocks”. Secondary characteristics can include eye blinking, lip tremors, tongue clicking, arm/hand flapping, avoidance behaviors, etc. Fluency techniques are taught by a speech-language pathologist to help the child speak more smoothly. For severe cases of stuttering in children over the age of 7, the child may also benefit from an assistive device called a SpeechEasy paired with traditional therapy.
Voice disorders: Children who have frequent laryngitis or hoarseness may be using vocally abusive behaviors such as yelling, talking too loud, or talking at a pitch that is not appropriate for their voice. These behaviors can damage the vocal chords causing vocal chord nodules or other voice disorders. The SLP can help the child learn to speak with good vocal hygiene through various strategies and behavior modifications.