Did you know that 5% of children have noticeable speech disorders when they enter first grade?
Speech disorders are characterized by a difficulty in correctly producing speech sounds, distorting or omitting certain sounds, or difficulty producing a few sounds, but with no noticeable pattern.
If you have a child who babbles, stutters, has difficulty putting sentences together, or struggles with sensory processing, pediatric speech therapy could help. Sometimes, speech difficulties like these are the result of conditions like autism, Down syndrome, sensory dysfunction, cleft-palate, verbal apraxia, or a head injury.
Whatever the case for your child, pediatric speech therapy can help your child learn to express themselves more effectively and to better understand others who communicate with them.
The following are five ways in which pediatric speech therapy can help your child.
Speech Fluency and Stuttering
Stuttering is a fairly common disorder that prevents people from speaking fluently. It’s characterized by reoccurring breaks interrupting the flow of speech, which are referred to as disfluencies. This typically begins in childhood. While everyone experiences disfluencies in speaking, having too many too often can dramatically impact a person’s ability to communicate.
Stuttering involves behaviors like prolongations, repetitions, interjections, and blocks. Secondary behaviors can include:
- Tension in the face, neck, jaw, shoulders, or chest
- Unusual facial movements, such as eye blinks or nose flaring
- Clenched fists
- Stomping of the feet
- Strange motor movements, such as jerking in the arms, hands, feet, or legs
Fortunately, pediatric speech therapy can help diminish or eliminate the various behaviors associated with stuttering.
Articulation and Intelligibility
Articulation refers to the physical capability of moving the lips, tongue, jaw, and palate. These features are known as articulators and are central to the physical process of speaking. A person uses their articulators to produce individual sounds, which strung together in an ordered manner create speech. Individual speech sounds are called phonemes.
Intelligibility refers to how well people can understand someone’s speech. If a person’s articulation skills are weak or underdeveloped, they won’t speak as intelligibly as they might need to communicate effectively.
Pediatric speech therapy can help solve this problem, by helping a child understand the movement of their articulators and improve their articulation.
There’s much more to communication than speech alone. Besides using language, people communicate using their bodies and facial expressions, such as waving to indicate “goodbye” and shrugging their shoulders to say “I don’t know.”
In addition to learning to speak clearly, speech therapy can help a child learn to understand, respond to, and use expressive language skills beyond the spoken word.
Receptive language, or a person’s ability to listen to and understand what others are saying, is necessary for being able to communicate effectively. Typically, younger children possess stronger listening skills than expressive skills. This means that they are better able to understand what others are saying instead of being able to communicate what they’re thinking or feeling themselves.
By helping your child develop their vocabulary, pediatric speech therapy can empower them to effectively follow directions, engage in conversation, and answer questions.
Resonance and Voice Disorders
Voice disorders affect the vocal cords, which make it possible for people to have unique-sounding voices. These disorders can include nodules or polyps on the vocal cords, vocal cord paralysis, and other problems that can cause aphonia (loss of voice) or hoarseness.
Resonance is a voice’s sound quality, which is defined by the balance of sound vibration in the various cavities and passageways involved in speaking. If there is an obstruction somewhere in a cavity used for speech, abnormal resonance can occur. This simply means that a person’s voice can sound odd, such as nasally, if resonance is not in balance.
A common disorder among young children is severe hoarseness from vocal abuse, which involves hurting their voices by yelling, coughing, or talking too much or too loudly. Pediatric speech therapy can help children overcome bad habits that are putting a strain on their voices and repair any damage done to their vocal cords.
The above benefits are just a few of the ways pediatric therapy can help your child communicate better. Remember, the ability to speak clearly will greatly improve a person’s success and quality of life. Make sure your child has every advantage possible to communicate clearly.