I know you’re a Speech Therapist…but what do you do?
And it’s much, much more than the “R” sound…
In honor of Better Speech and Hearing Month, we are taking a close look at the multitude of ways that pediatric Speech Language-Pathologists (AKA Speech Therapists) help children to communicate. The theme of this year’s annual Better Speech and Hearing Month is “Communication for All.” This theme perfectly describes the role that Speech Therapists play in people’s lives. Speech Therapists play a variety of roles in helping children to improve their communication skills. And it’s a whole lot more than just helping kids to say the infamous “R” sound…
- Articulation Assessment and Therapy:
Probably the most well-known area of the speech therapy field. Articulation assessment and therapy involves identifying a child’s speech sound errors (e.g., speaking with a lisp, or substituting a “w” sound for an “r” sound) and treating those errors through a variety of different methods. From traditional speech therapy techniques to more specialized interventions such as The PROMPT Method.
- Language Assessment and Therapy:
While many children are identified strictly on the basis of articulation errors, other children experience difficulty with their understanding of and production of spoken language. This involves delays or deficits in vocabulary, syntax/grammar, descriptive language, etc. Children with a language disorder may have trouble following directions, expressing themselves in speech or writing, or understanding non-literal language. This category also includes “late talkers” who may not be producing any true words or enough words to meet early language milestones.
- Pragmatic Language (AKA “Social Communication”)
When assessing pragmatic language, Speech Therapists look at a child’s ability to use language correctly in various social scenarios. This includes: making appropriate eye contact, recognizing and using body language for social cueing, choosing appropriate conversation topics, and maintaining or shifting topics appropriately. This also includes correct functional use of language (e.g. saying what you mean to say). It also includes strengthening perspective taking skills and improving one’s ability to read social cues to interpret and appropriately respond to others’ behavior. For younger children, this can sometimes involve using strategies, such as DIR/Floortime principles, to increase engagement, interaction and joint attention skills and building these foundations for language through play and following the child’s lead.
- Fluency Disorder Assessment and Therapy:
Fluency disorders, commonly known as “stuttering,” include repetitions of sounds or words, prolongations of words, blocks when trying to produce a word, or any interjections or revisions in a child’s speech that are not considered to be typical. Fluency therapy involves understanding how speech is produced within the body and then using strategies to facilitate more forward flowing and smooth sounding speech, which sometimes includes decreasing speech rate.
- Reading/Writing Assessment and Therapy:
Research shows that oral language and speech are strongly correlated with reading skills. In fact, 50-80% of children with speech disorders will eventually experience reading and spelling delays. Without early intervention, students are likely to be unsuccessful throughout their school years. Speech Therapists can evaluate disorders in reading (phonological processing, rate, accuracy, and comprehension) and writing (spelling, use of descriptive language) and provide therapy that targets these skills from a multi-sensory perspective.
- Auditory Processing Assessment and Therapy:
Children with auditory processing disorders experience deficits in their ability to distinguish and discriminate speech sounds. In the classroom setting, you may see a child who has difficulty following multi-step directions, has poor reading and spelling skills, or appears to not hear the material presented. After a screening, the Speech Therapist may refer the child to an audiologist for a full auditory processing test battery before beginning speech therapy to target auditory processing.
- Voice Assessment and Therapy:
Children with voice disorders may have a hoarse voice, a hypernasal voice, or a hyponasal voice. Speech Therapists can teach a child how to use his/her voice in a more productive way. A Speech Therapist may also refer a child to an ENT to rule out any harmful growths which may affect vocal quality.
Have any questions or concerns about your child’s communication skills? Contact Emerge – A Child’s Place and speak with one of our Speech Therapists to learn if Speech Therapy could help your child.
This blog post was written by Erica O’Connor, MS, CCC-SLP.