Speech Therapy Explained.
Would your child benefit?
Speech and Language Therapy is about teaching people to communicate to the best of their ability. Speech Pathologists strive to help people to use verbal communication if possible but communication can also include the use of written language, sign language, key word signs, electronic communication devices, picture exchange systems and communication boards. Your child might benefit from speech and language therapy if they have difficulties in the following areas:
Receptive and Expressive Language
Receptive language is the ability to understand words and the way they relate together to give meaning. Children with receptive language problems find it difficult to understand what people are saying to them and responding to the language of others.
Expressive language is the ability to put ideas into words to communicate with others. Children with expressive language problems find it difficult to formulate language to explain what they are thinking.
Speech Pathologists help families of children with receptive and expressive language disorders by teaching them how to make the most of all their daily interactions with their child to promote the understanding and use of language.
Children may be non-verbal for a variety of reasons. They may have neurological or structural abnormalities that affect the movement of their tongue and lips such as cerebral palsy or dyspraxia. They may be on the autism spectrum and have a lack of desire to communicate with others or they may have significant development delay affecting the onset of verbal language. Children with sensori-neural hearing impairment may not develop any verbal language.
Speech Pathologists provide guidance for families and carers about alternative means of communication for children who are non-verbal and support the child to use alternative communication at home, child care, preschool and school.
Articulation is the way we produce the sounds of speech. Most children can say most sounds correctly by the time they start school. A child may benefit from an articulation assessment if they are more difficult to understand than their peers. This might be because they substitute sounds or leave sounds out when they are talking.
Articulation problems range in severity from very mild with one or two errors that don’t interfere with communication to very severe articulation disorders which result in a person not being understood by others.
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have impairments in social communication, social interaction and restricted and repetitive interests and behaviours. The first sign that a parent might notice is that the child doesn’t respond when their name is called. Children with ASD usually have limited eye contact and don’t copy gestures like waving and clapping. They don’t seek to interact and share their interests with others like bringing a favourite toy to show.
Speech Pathologists can contribute to the assessment and diagnosis of ASD and provide intervention to address the core features of ASD. This may include activities to develop understanding of non-verbal communicative behaviours such as facial expression, gesture and body language; promoting the use of verbal and non-verbal communication to initiate and take part in social interactions and using communication to help regulate behaviour and emotions.
Many children with intellectual disability have difficulty developing speech and language skills. The child may need speech therapy for articulation or language learning difficulties or may benefit from alternative communication such as signing, a communication board or a communication device.
Speech Pathologists can help the child to be included at childcare, preschool or school by suggesting strategies to assist the child to understand what is expected of them and how they can communicate their needs to carers.
Literacy is the ability to read and write. There is a close relationship between language development and literacy development. Children need to be able to hear the sounds in words, understand vocabulary, understand how to put words together in sentences and how to construct stories in order to learn to read and write.
When a child falls behind in reading and writing at school, a Speech Pathologist can assess the child’s language and literacy to find any underlying problems. A therapy program may include activities to improve the child’s ability to analyse the sounds in words, to understand the meanings of words and how they relate together in sentences and to understand how sentences relate to each other in a story.
The first sign of stuttering is usually repetitions of sounds and syllables. The onset may be sudden or gradual. It is quite common for young children to start to stutter between the ages of 2 and 4 years of age when language is developing rapidly. The symptoms of stuttering can change over time.
The Lidcombe Program of Early Stuttering Intervention is the treatment of choice for young children who stutter.
Speech pathology aims to support family and carers to improve a child’s communication so that they can participate more fully in everyday life.