Speech-Language Pathologists, or SLPs, are specialists that help children in a wide-range of ages with speech, talking and communication. Some may think that they only need to see a speech-language pathologist if their child has a lisp or stutter. Speech-Language Pathologists do so much more than you originally thought–from mild articulation delays to more complex disorders such as autism, Down syndrome, hearing loss, motor speech disorder and other developmental delays.
It is best to catch and correct a speech-language delay or disorder when the child is young. If you think your child may have trouble with communication, talking or speech, it is best to see a professional so they can begin working with your child to correct the delay or disorder as soon as possible. A child’s ability to communicate with others directly correlates to their quality of life.
Take a look and see how an SLP can help your child:
- Articulation Skills / Speech Intelligibility
Articulation is defined as the physical ability to move the tongue, lips, jaw and palate to produce individual speech sounds. Intelligibility refers to how well people can understand your child’s speech. If your child’s articulation is compromised, his intelligibility will be decreased. SLPs can work with your child to produce the specific speech sound or pattern that he / she is having difficulty with. This will have a direct and positive effect on his/her overall speech intelligibility.
- Expressive Language Skills
Speech involves the physical motor ability to talk. Language is defined as a symbolic, rule governed system used to convey a message. Language can be anything from spoken or written words and symbols to gestural symbols like a thumbs-up to indicate “I am or that is ok” or waving your hand to indicate “goodbye”. Expressive language refers to what your child says. SLPs can help your child learn new words, put them together to form phrases and sentences, and in turn, help your child communicate with you and others.
- Receptive Language / Listening Skills
Receptive language is your child’s ability to listen and understand language. Typically, you will see children with stronger receptive language skills than expressive language skills. SLPs have the tools to help teach your child learn new vocabulary and how to use that knowledge to follow directions and answer questions.
- Speech Fluency / Stuttering
Stuttering is a communication disorder that affects speech fluency, characterized by breaks in the flow of speech such as repetitions, prolongations, interjections and blocks, and typically begins in childhood. Everyone experiences this to an extent but too many breaks in speech can affect one’s ability to communicate. In more severe cases, you may see tension in the neck, shoulders, face, jaw, chest, eye blinks, nose flaring, clenched fists or other unusual movements in the arms, hands, legs and feet. SLPs can aid your child by teaching strategies on how to control this behavior.
- Voice and Resonance
Voice disorders affect the vocal folds that allow us to have a voice. This can come in many forms including vocal cord paralysis, nodules or polyps on the vocal folds, and other disorders that cause hoarseness or loss of voice. Resonance is defined as the quality of the voice that is determined by the balance of sound vibration in the oral, nasal and pharyngeal cavities during speech. Obstruction of one of the cavities can cause abnormal resonance. Hoarseness is common young children and is caused by vocal abuse such as yelling, excessive talking, coughing and throat clearing. SLPs work with children to decrease or eliminate these behaviors and repair the strain/damage of the folds.
- Social / Pragmatic Language
Social / pragmatic language is the way an individual uses language to communicate and involves using language to communicate in different ways (greeting, protesting, asking questions, etc), changing language according to the people or place it is being used (inside vs. outside voice) and following the rules for conversation (taking turns in conversation and using verbal and nonverbal cues). SLPs teach your child these social language skills so that they can more appropriately participate in conversations with others.
- Cognitive-Communication Skills
Cognitive-communication disorders are the impairment of cognitive processes including attention, memory, abstract reasoning and awareness. Children can be born with these deficits or they can be acquired due to a head injury, stroke, or degenerative disease. SLPs can help build skills and / or teach your child methods to assist them in their deficits.
- Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
AAC is all forms of communication (other than oral speech) used to express thoughts, needs, wants and ideas. AAC is used when we make facial expressions or gestures, use symbols or pictures, or write. SLPs number one goal is communication. For some children that have severe delays or disorders, having traditional oral speech is not possible or practical. In these cases, SLPs may work with a child and his/her family to come up with an AAC system that can be used in place of speech or used as a bridge to speech.
- Swallowing / Feeding Issues
SLPs can be trained (in addition to speech and language issues) in pediatric swallowing and feeding issues. SLP’s have intimate knowledge of the structures and functions of the oral cavities.
SLPs are often the first professionals to identify the root cause of reading and writing problems through a child’s difficulty with language. SLPs help children build the skills they need to be successful readers by:
- preventing written language problems by fostering language acquisition and emergent literacy
- identifying children at risk for reading and writing problems
- assessing reading and writing
- providing intervention and documenting outcomes for reading and writing programs
- assuming other roles when needed such as providing assistance to teachers and parents, and advocating for effective literacy practices.
- Educating and Empowering YOU on how to best help your child.
The best thing an SLP can do for your child is to educate you and empower you on how to best help your child. You are the one who spends the most time with your child, so you can have the biggest impact on their growth and improvement. Once you equipped with the knowledge, skills and confidence, you can be the best “speech therapist” for your child. So do not hesitate to ask questions, take notes, do homework and work closely with your child’s SLP. Together, you and your SLP can make an amazing team for your child’s speech and language needs.