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Speech therapy

What Is Speech Therapy?
If child has a speech disability that includes trouble pronouncing words, speech therapy may help improve language development, communication, and pragmatic language skills.

Speech therapy is an intervention service that focuses on improving a child’s speech and abilities to understand and express language, including nonverbal language. Speech therapists, or speech and language pathologists (SLPs), are the professionals who provide these services. Speech therapy includes two components:

  •  coordinating the mouth to produce sounds to form words and sentences (to address articulation, fluency, and voice volume regulation)
  • understanding and expressing language (to address the use of language through written, pictorial, body, and sign forms, and the use of language through alternative communication systems such as social media, computers, and iPads).

In addition, the role of SLPs in treating swallowing disorders has broadened to include all aspects of feeding.

Does My Child Need Speech Therapy?
Some children may have excellent pronunciation and may even be early readers, but they may need speech therapy to improve “pragmatic” language, or the process of using verbal and body language appropriately in social situations for everyday purposes such as making requests, having conversations, and making friends. Other reasons children may need speech therapy include medical conditions such as a brain injury or infection that has affected their ability to communicate and an identifiable disability such as Down syndrome. Services often begin at a young age and continue as children enter school and start to communicate with written language.

What Do Speech and Language Pathologists Do?
An SLP may identify a language-based learning disability in students who struggle to read and express themselves in written work. “Language difficulties can have a major impact on a child’s ability to write,” .

“In order to write, children must be able to put their ideas into words and organize those words into sentences. Also, language challenges make it hard for children to understand and follow directions. The SLP can help build these skills.” To provide direct treatment, SLPs perform evaluations and consult with teachers to create language-rich classrooms.

Speech Therapy may be individual or include a small group of peers who face similar social and communication challenges. In either situation, the goal is to make language fun, develop friendships, and enable students to succeed in school.

Speech Therapy Programs
“Speech and language pathologists not only assess and treat for articulation, language and cognitive difficulties, but some also focus on swallowing and feeding,”. It is not uncommon for children who have trouble talking to also have feeding challenges. While children with special needs may be the first to come to mind, it’s not unusual for other kids to have both speech and feeding difficulties. Both speech and eating involve the fine motor aspects of moving the tongue, jaw, and lips in a coordinated fashion, and that’s not always easy to do!”

The SLP might bring out some blow toys and whistles and have “blow the cotton ball” relay races to strengthen muscles used in speech and eating. Using crazy straws, a toothbrush that makes music, and blowing bubbles might also be fun strategies to help children tolerate different sensations in their mouths.

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