By the age of 3 years, on average, all children start forming very basic sentences to communicate with parents and people around as an important milestone in physical and mental growth. But, for some children, this process takes longer than this and they may have problems related to speech-language disorders. Sometimes, these inabilities are linked with bigger issues like brain damage, autism or spectrum disorder etc. Speech-language disorders may either be related to speech i.e. how one says words and makes sounds, or it may be language related i.e. how one uses words to form sentences and share ideas to communicate. Another challenging situation sometimes faced by children and their parents is swallowing capability. Speech impairments can also be faced by adults due to some illness like stroke or brain injury. To seek relief and help improve speech, language and swallowing capabilities, speech therapy is the go to place.
What is Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy is a process of assessing and treating communication disorders in children and adults resulting from a wide range of reasons such as cleft palate, brain injury, cerebral palsy, hearing loss or developmental delay. Children or adults suffering from communication disorders may also be a prey to mental health and behavioral issues. Speech therapy may also be helpful for people who find social interactions hard due to lack of confidence or any underlying emotional issues. It helps them speak more clearly boosting their confidence during social interactions.
Speech therapy is performed by trained and experienced educated individuals called Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs), commonly known as speech therapists. SLPs employ techniques tailored for everyone’s particular challenge after assessing the nature and severity of condition. Duration of speech therapy depends on various factors including age, type and severity of speech and language disorder, underlying medical condition and frequency of therapy sessions. But it is always “earlier the better”.
Who needs speech therapy?
Broadly speaking, speech therapy may be needed by people with speech problems, language disorder and swallowing inability. But, more specific conditions where help from SLP should be sought are described in coming sections.
This refers to making errors in sounds and inability to speak clearly such as lisps. Child with this speech disorder may experience inability to properly form sounds of certain words and may drop, swap, distort, or add word sounds.
This refers to trouble with flow, speed and rhythm of speech, such as stuttering and cluttering. People with Dysarthria may experience such fluency disorder and may either speak very fast merging words together i.e. cluttering, or have problem speaking fluently i.e. stuttering.
It is related with blockage or obstruction of regular airflow in nasal or oral cavities altering voice quality often associated with swollen tonsils or cleft palate.
Receptive language disorder
This is a condition where children or adults have trouble processing and understanding the language and what others say. People suffering from Aphasia may experience similar problems involving a person’s inability to read and write also.
It refers to the trouble a person experience while conveying information and expressing through language. People with expressive disorder have trouble forming sentences that can effectively convey what they want to say to others.
Cognitive communication disorder
This refers to a person’s inability to memorize, solve problems or even trouble speaking and listening to conversations. Brain injuries causing memory loss can be one of the conditions.
Swallowing issue as difficulty in eating and drooling may be experienced by people with conditions like, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) or dysphagia as muscles lose their strength gradually.
How speech therapist helps?
SLPs use techniques and strategies that may be one or a mix from the following set of techniques
Different age appropriate activities are designed to model the sounds child has difficulty producing, including demonstrations of tongue movements to create sounds and syllables.
Employing this technique, SLPs use books, pictures and games to introduce practice exercises for language improvement.
This involves exercises and drills to strengthen the muscles of mouth through facial massage and various tongue, lip and jaw exercises.
It can be a set of different breathing exercises to deal with resonance disorder.
Finding the right therapist for the best outcomes is always challenging. Always look for public reviews on social media, or Google, Yelp etc. to find more feedback on a therapist prior to deciding on your therapist. There is always multiple therapy clinics near ones homes, but do a little homework prior to finding the best one.