Roughly 40 million Americans go through life with speech and communication disorders. The problem with dealing with a speech impediment is that it can prevent people from accomplishing as much as they otherwise might. Without being able to speak or communicate with clarity and confidence, there’s only so far a person can go.
If your child has difficulty expressing themselves, or even trouble with reading or spelling, pediatric speech therapists may be able to help.
What Speech Therapy Can Help With
Most people think that pediatric speech therapists can only help those with lisps or stuttering problems. If your child has difficulty with other forms of communication, including reading and spelling, speech therapy might not come to mind first.
But while speech therapists do work with children with definable speech impediments, they also help with other communication difficulties, including dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, and dyspraxia. More specifically, a speech therapist is a speech-language pathologist.
How Pediatric Speech Therapy Works
Speech therapists first work with a student to determine exactly what language or communication problem the child has. Then they discover what’s causing the problem, and decide what the best form of treatment would be. Therapists may work with your child one-on-one, but they also work with small groups or entire classes.
Speech therapists can help diagnose and treat the following conditions and problems:
- Fluency problems: difficulty with the flow of speech. This is often demonstrated in the form of stuttering.
- Articulation problems: an inability to speak clearly, or without making errors in certain sounds.
- Resonance and voice problems: trouble with the quality, volume, or pitch of a student’s voice.
- Oral feeding problems: difficulty with eating or swallowing, or drooling.
- Expressive language problems: difficulty speaking or expressing language.
- Receptive language problems: difficulty understanding or receiving language.
- Pragmatic language problems: difficulty using language in ways that are socially appropriate.
Speech Therapy Strategies
Speech therapists will use certain strategies for helping a child overcome their area(s) of struggle, and these strategies are tailored specifically for the individual students.
Articulation therapy involves the therapist demonstrating how to make the sounds the child struggles with. This may include showing how to move the tongue to form certain sounds.
Language intervention activities help the student build skills in several different ways, such as demonstrating an exercise and then giving the student feedback. Pictures and books may be used, or the therapist may engage in play-based therapy. Language drills may also be used for practicing the skills being taught.
Feeding and swallowing therapy involve exercises the child will learn to strengthen the muscles in their mouth. This could include facial massage, as well as various controlled movements of the jaw, tongue, and lips. Different food textures might be introduced to spark awareness during chewing and swallowing.
Benefits of Pediatric Speech Therapy
Children with language difficulties will often benefit socially, academically, and emotionally from speech therapy. By helping kids speak more clearly and express themselves more effectively, they will feel more confident and less frustrated when they need to speak to others.
Children with reading difficulties from conditions like dyslexia can be taught to hear and distinguish between different sounds within words. This will improve reading comprehension, thus encouraging children to read more.
While it’s never too late to take speech therapy, it’s especially beneficial for children when they start early-on. Communication difficulties can put a serious strain on a child’s social and academic life.
A student’s time with a speech therapist may last anywhere from a few months to a couple of years, depending on their unique needs and challenges. You will probably see improvement in your child’s speech and communication abilities early on, but they need the time to solidify their training.
Even if a child’s communication difficulties can’t be completely reversed, a therapist will give them strategies for dealing with their unique obstacles effectively. Activities to practice at home will likely be provided, so their new skills are reinforced and they get the most out of their training. The kids who make the most tangible progress are usually those whose parents are involved in the process.