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What is Speech Therapy?

Speech therapy provides treatment, support and care to people who have difficulties with communication. It is aimed at improving speech and language skills and oral motor skills. Keep reading to find common questions answered by Experts.

Speech Disorders

Problems with the actual pronunciation of sounds is a speech disorder. This can include:

  • Articulation: This is characterized by difficulties in producing sounds in syllables or saying words incorrectly so much that it cannot be understood.
  • Fluency: Stuttering, partial word repetitions or prolonged sounds and syllables are all signs of this type of disorder.
  • Resonance or Voice: This disorder may cause pain or discomfort to a child when speaking. This is characterized by problems with the pitch, volume or quality of the voice that distracts listeners from what is being said.
  • Apraxia: This happens when messages from the brain to the mouth are disrupted, not letting the person form words correctly.
  • Dysarthria: This is a result from the inability to move muscles used for speech.
  • Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder (OMD): The tongue moves forward in an overdrawn way during speech and/or swallowing.
  • Stutter: This begins during childhood and sometimes lasts through adulthood. It is characterized by disruptions in making speech sounds.

Speech Therapy Tests

A variety of tests are available to be used when diagnosing children and adults with communication disorders. These tests include:

  • Denver Articulation Screening Exam (DASE): This is administered by a nurse and given to children between 2-7 years of age. DASE is the most commonly used testing to diagnose speech disorders. It finds the differences in speech sounds compared to other children their age. Those who score below their age group should be tested again within two weeks. If the test is still showing abnormal, they will be suggested to do a complete language testing.
  • Early Language Milestone Scale 2 (ELM Scale-2): The 10-minute test assesses speech and language development from birth to three years of age. Quickly identifying delayed speech or language disorders, the scale consists of 43 items arranged in auditory expressive, auditory receptive and visual divisions.
  • Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R): This measures a person’s vocabulary and ability to speak while pairing pictures with words they hear. Lasting 20-30 minutes, the test is relatively short. The examiner presents four numbered, black-and-white pictures and says a word. The examinee then points to the picture that best describes the word given.

Speech Therapy Methods

The method used by speech therapists depends on the particular speech or language challenge. Methods can include the following:

  • For articulation problems, therapists may work “inside the mouth” using pencils, fingers, straws and other items to help the child gain control over the mouth, tongue and throat.
  • A method to have the child attempt/imitate sounds repeatedly may be used for children who have disorders impacting the coordination of the mouth to produce language.
  • Speech therapists can also help children who have severe disabilities learn how to use special communication devices known as assistive technology.

Speech games, flash cards, hand puppets and reinforcements of all kinds can be used to keep sessions on track and encourage children to work harder. This type of motivation is tailored to fit each child’s needs. One-on-one treatment is very beneficial to most children with severe communication disorders. Family members at home are often asked to continue speech therapy between sessions with the therapist. This will encourage them to create opportunities for the child to use their new skills in conversation.

Speech Therapy Techniques at Home

It is proven that the impact parents have when playing a role in their child’s speech development makes a difference. Therapy happens when a parent and child are together, communicating about things that are most interesting, familiar and important to the child. Speech therapy involving the parent is:

  • A part of everyday activities.
  • Communication between parent and child, not just therapist and child.
  • Daily play and activities that are meaningful, instead of unfamiliar clinic-based activities.
  • On an ongoing basis in the child’s comfortable surroundings.
  • Motivating and fun.

Studies show that children’s communication skills improve when parents:

  • interact with them
  • respond to their attempts to communicate
  • talk about what is important to their child
  • emphasize words in a sentence
  • expand on what the child says

Research shows children with communication difficulties make the most progress when they receive early intervention from their parents. Parent-implemented intervention is effective not only because the parent plays a key role, but also because the therapy is ongoing. Every interaction with the child becomes an opportunity to help them learn.

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