At Evergreen Home Healthcare, we are able to connect our clients with a variety of specialists to help their children with medical complexities. One such specialist is a speech therapist, also known as a speech pathologist or speech-language pathologist. Speech therapists offer a broad range of skills, so you may not realize just all the ways one could potentially help your child. In this post, we will go over some ways a speech therapist may be able to aid your child.
Articulation Skills and Intelligibility
Articulation is the ability to physically move the lips, tongue, jaw, and palate (the “articulators”) to produce speech sounds, called “phonemes.” Intelligibility is how well you can be understood by other people. The ability to articulate is critical to intelligibility, so children who have issues with articulation commonly struggle to be understood more often than their peers. A speech therapist can teach your child how to pronounce the specific sound patterns that they struggle with so that they can be more intelligible.
Speech is our physical ability to speak; language is composed of the symbols to convey meaning. Words are a symbol, as well as gestures like waving “hello” and “goodbye” and shrugging our shoulders. Children who struggle with expressive language may have difficulty with the meaning of words or how to string them together to form sentences. By working with a speech therapist, your child can learn semantics and syntax so they can better communicate.
Receptive language is your ability to listen to and understand language. Generally speaking, children can understand better than they can express. Working with a speech therapist can help your child learn ways to enhance their listening skills, allowing them better follow directions and have conversations.
Speech fluency is the natural flow of your speech. While it’s not uncommon for people to experience disfluencies (disruptions in their fluencies), when there are many, such as with people who have a stutter, it can create an obstacle in their ability to communicate. With stuttering, it is most common to see repetition, prolongations, interjections, and blocks. There are other, secondary behaviors that can often be seen with stutters, such as unusual facial or motor movements, foot stomping, clenched fists, or muscle tension. Speech therapists can work with children to help them gain better control over these behaviors and help them become more intelligible as a result.
Voice and Resonance
Speech therapists can also help children with voice disorders. There are a variety of disorders that impact the vocal folds, including paralysis, polyps on the vocal folds, and disorders that cause aphonia (loss of voice). Resonance is voice quality based on the balance of of sound vibration in the cavities of the mouth, nose, and pharynx. Resonance may be impacted if there is anything obstructing one of these cavities. It’s common for children to have a voice disorder due to “vocal abuse,” meaning bad habits that cause damage or strain to the vocal folds, such as talking a lot, yelling, and coughing. A speech therapist may be able to help children to reduce these types of behaviors and repair the damage to the vocal folds.
Social language is the way one uses language to communicate. These include the ability to communicate in a diverse range of ways (such as the difference between asking for help and saying “goodbye”), being able to change language according to the circumstances (like using an “indoor” voice versus an “outdoor” voice), and appropriately following a conversation (such as not interrupting and picking up on subtle verbal cues). Speech therapists can help teach these skills so that children can better communicate with others.
Cognitive communication disorders occur when cognitive processes related to communication are impaired, such as attention, memory, abstract reasoning, and self-awareness. This can occur congenitally or after trauma, such as a head injury. Speech therapists work with children to improve these skills or teach them ways to compensate.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Augmentative and Alternative Communication, also known as AAC, is the term used to describe all forms of communication outside of oral speech. Speech therapists aren’t simply focused on speech; they are looking to improve communication overall. Some children, particularly those with medical complexities, are not able to use traditional oral speech to communicate. In these cases, a speech therapist can help the family and the child communicate with AAC. This can help bridge the gap in communication and may help facilitate oral speech for the child, depending on the specific circumstances.
Many people don’t realize that speech therapists can also help with swallowing or feeding issues. Because speech therapists have extensive knowledge about the structures of the oral cavities, they have the knowledge base necessary to help with a variety of swallowing and feeding disorders.
If you are interested in how a speech therapist may be able to help your child, we would be happy to answer your questions. Contact Evergreen Home Healthcare in Fort Collins today!