Children with delays in speech and language development are often referred to a speech-language pathologist (SLP) for speech therapy. The focus of this treatment is to assist those who have not reached specific age-related milestones in improving their communication skills. SLPs work with these children to improve their understanding of words and their ability to use words to express themselves. They also help with the mechanics involved in producing words (pitch, volume, fluency, and articulation).
When your child meets with an SLP for the first time, he or she will be evaluated thoroughly. The SLP will test the child’s speech clarity, vocabulary, sentence structure, and social language skills. Assessment tools are used to determine whether your child has a specific speech or language impairment.
Who Benefits from Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy is helpful for children suffering from a variety of speech disorders. These include:
- Articulation disorders. These involve difficulty pronouncing words correctly
- Fluency disorders. These occur when the flow of speech is interrupted by an abnormal stoppage (e.g. stuttering).
- Resonance or voice disorders. Problems with pitch, volume, and voice quality.
- Dysphagia. Difficulty drooling, eating, and swallowing.
- Receptive disorders. Difficulty understanding language.
- Expressive disorders. Difficulty putting words together, limited vocabulary, or inability to appropriately use language.
- Autism spectrum disorders. A developmental disorder that affects communication and social interactions, characterized by repetitive behavior
Candidates for speech therapy include children with hearing impairments, developmental delays, weak oral muscles, chronic hoarseness, birth defects (e.g. cleft palate), autism or Asperger’s syndrome, respiratory disorders, swallowing disorders, and brain trauma.
Ultimately, the type of treatment plan pursued by your SLP depends on your child’s own unique needs. A variety of approaches may be utilized, including language intervention activities, articulation therapy, and feeding/swallowing therapy.