The ability to speak is a great gift but there are children who have difficulty in their speech. This could be due to conditions such as cerebral palsy, hearing loss or autism. Some children will understand communication but they cannot communicate on their own. This will call for speech therapy to improve speech, language and oral motor skills.
Many conditions, including cerebral palsy, autism, hearing loss, developmental delays, may cause difficulty with speech and language development. Some children may not understand language. Some children may understand language but be unable to communicate effectively due to difficulty with speech. Sometimes children experience challenges in other areas of communication, such as hand gestures and facial expressions.
Speech therapy is a clinical program aimed at improving speech and language skills and oral motor abilities. Children who are able to talk may work on making their speech clearer, or on building their language skills by learning new words, learning to speak in sentences, or improving their listening skills. Children who cannot talk may learn sign language, or how to use special equipment such as a computer that speaks for them. Children who talk but have challenges with more discreet communication issues such as facial expression or gestural language use, may work on these areas of communication.
Children with speech related difficulties usually need speech therapy that is offered by a speech pathologist or speech teacher. They work with children suffering from all sorts of development delays. They help the child with articulation, expression, reception, fluency among other skills.
Speech-Language Pathologist. Speech Pathologist. Speech Teacher. Known by many names, people refer to these specialists most often as speech therapists. They work with children with a variety of delays and disorders spanning from mild articulation delays to more complex disorders such as autism, Down syndrome, hearing impairment, motor speech disorders, and other developmental delays.
An SLP can help your child with…
- Articulation Skills/Speech Intelligibility
Articulation is the physical ability to move the tongue, lips, jaw and palate (known as the articulators) to produce individual speech sounds which we call phonemes. For example, to articulate the /b/ sound, we need to inhale, then while exhaling we need to turn our voice on, bring our slightly tensed lips together to stop and build up the airflow, and then release the airflow by parting our lips.
Intelligibility, refers to how well people can understand your child’s speech. If a child’s articulation skills are compromised for any reason, his intelligibility will be decreased in compared to other children his age. SLP’s can work with your child to teach them how to produce the specific speech sounds or sound patterns that he is having difficulty with, and thus increasing his overall speech intelligibility. You can read more about articulation development and delays here.
- Expressive Language Skills
While speech involves the physical motor ability to talk, language is a symbolic, rule governed system used to convey a message. In English, the symbols can be words, either spoken or written. We also have gestural symbols like shrugging our shoulders to indicate “I don’t know” or waving to indicate “Bye Bye” or the raising of our eye brows to indicate that we are surprised by something.
Expressive language then, refers to what your child says. Speech-language pathologists can help your child learn new words and how to put them together to form phrases and sentences (semantics and syntax) so that your child can communicate to you and others. You can read more about the difference between speech and language here.
Not everything is left to the therapist. Mothers can also use ingenious ways to help their child improve their speech.
There are many ways of “tempting” your child to speak. Here are 8 Communicative Temptations I have found helpful in therapy. After getting the idea of how this works, I’m sure you will be able to come up with some of your own “temptations”. If you do and they seem to work for you, please share them with us.
- Eat something your child loves in their presence without offering them any.
When your child indicates that they would like some, model a more advanced way for them to make the request, whether it is using a sign, a word or a simple phrase. For example, if your child points and grunts to the candy, model the sign for candy then wait and see if your child will imitate the sign candy. If your child simply keeps pointing and grunting take his/her hand and help him make the sign for candy then reward him/her with the candy.
- Play with something your child loves but don’t offer to share.
For instance if your child loves playing with play dough and wants to participate in the fun, you could model the /p/ sound for “please” or “play,” or you could model the signs for please or play. If your child can already say one word model a two word phrase for him/her to imitate like, “play please.”
- At meal time and snack time give your child bite size portions, rather than dishing up a whole serving for them, then wait for them to request more.
If no attempt is made model the sign “more,” help them make the sign, or model the /m/ sound for them to imitate.
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