Speech Language Therapy aids children who need a means of effectively communicating in their natural environment. Activities in therapy may include: making arts and crafts, participating in symbolic play, completing speech drills, identifying and labeling objects/pictures, and reading, writing, or playing games. Activities are fun and motivating so the child is able to take what they learn and utilize it outside of the therapeutic setting.
Each child is treated as an individual with the goal of obtaining functional communication skills in all settings. Initially, an extensive speech and language evaluation will be completed which focuses on five areas of communication; Voice, Articulation, Fluency, Oral Motor and Language skills. A language sample is also obtained to analyze the ability of the child to communicate in a natural setting (i.e. during play, conversation, etc.). During the entire evaluation, the child’s pragmatic skills are also closely observed to determine the appropriate use of eye contact, topic maintenance, turn taking, initiation of topics and symbolic play. The evaluation report provides extensive information regarding a child’s strengths and weaknesses in all areas of communication. Speech therapy will focus on research based strategies for intervention and remediation of specific communication disorders.
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM SPEECH THERAPY ?
- Infants and children at risk of developmental delay
- Children with suspected or diagnosed speech/language disorders
Speech disorders include the following problems:
- Articulation disorders include difficulties producing sounds in syllables or saying words incorrectly to the point that other people can't understand what's being said.
- Fluency disorders include problems such as stuttering, the condition in which the flow of speech is interrupted by abnormal stoppages, repetitions (st-st-stuttering), or prolonging sounds and syllables (ssssstuttering).
- Resonance or voice disorders include problems with the pitch, volume, or quality of the voice that distract listeners from what's being said. These types of disorders may also cause pain or discomfort for the child when speaking.
- Dysphagia/oral feeding disorders, including difficulties with eating and swallowing.
Language disorders can be either receptive or expressive:
- Receptive disorders refer to difficulties understanding or processing language.
- Expressive disorders include difficulty putting words together, limited vocabulary, or inability to use language in a socially appropriate way.
Speech is different from language. A speech disorder is typically related to a problem with sounds. A language disorder has to do with how well an individual understands or puts words together to communicate.
Speech Therapy is beneficial for disorders of oral motor function, articulation, fluency, voice or feeding.
Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy:
SLPs develop a treatment plan to help a child change his or her oral posture and articulation, when indicated. If tongue movement during swallowing is a problem, the SLP will address this as well. Treatment techniques to help both speech and swallowing problems caused by orofacial myofunctional disorder may include the following: increasing awareness of mouth and facial muscles, increasing awareness of mouth and tongue postures, improving muscle strength and coordination, improving speech sound productions, and improving swallowing patterns
SLPs provide treatment to improve articulation of individual sounds or reduce errors in production of sound patterns. Articulation treatment may involve demonstrating how to produce the sound correctly, learning to recognize which sounds are correct and incorrect, and practicing sounds in different words. Phonological process treatment may involve teaching the rules of speech to individuals to help them say words correctly.
Voice therapy involves teaching good vocal hygiene, reducing/stopping vocal abusive behaviors, and direct voice treatment to alter pitch, loudness, or breath support for good voicing. Stress reduction techniques and relaxation exercises are often taught as well.
SLPs teach people who stutter to control and/or monitor the rate at which they speak. In addition, people may learn to start saying words in a slightly slower and less physically tense manner. They may also learn to control or monitor their breathing. When learning to control speech rate, people often begin by practicing smooth, fluent speech at rates that are much slower than typical speech, using short phrases and sentences.
If feeding therapy with a SLP is recommended, the focus on intervention may include the following: making the muscles of the mouth stronger, increasing tongue movement, improving chewing, increasing acceptance of different foods and liquids, improving sucking and/or drinking ability, coordinating the suck-swallow-breath pattern (for infants), and altering food textures and liquid thickness to ensure safe swallowing.
It can involve improving reception and expression of language with respect to various components involving syntax, semantics and pragmatic language skills:
Receptive and Expressive Language Therapy:
The SLP will interact with a child by playing and talking while working on what words mean, how to make new words (i.e. friend, friendly, unfriendly), how to put words together and what word combinations are best in what situations. The therapist may use pictures, books, objects, or ongoing events to stimulate language development. Language therapy may incorporate asking/answering questions, following directions, identifying and labeling items, reading and/or writing.
Pragmatic Language therapy:
The SLP will incorporate activities to improve using language for different purposes, (i.e. greeting, informing, demanding, promising, requesting) changing language according to the needs of a listener or situation (i.e. giving background information to an unfamiliar listener) and following rules for conversations and storytelling (taking turns in conversation, introducing topics of conversation, staying on topic).