Speech-language therapy is the treatment for speech and/or language disorders. A speech disorder refers to a
problem with the actual production of sounds, whereas a language disorder refers to a difficulty understanding or putting words together to communicate ideas. SLPs treat problems in the areas of articulation; dysfluency; oral-motor, speech, and voice; and receptive and expressive language disorders.
Speech disorders include the following problems, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA):
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, include 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.
Specialists in Speech-Language Therapy:
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs), often informally known as speech therapists, are professionals educated in the study of human communication, its development, and its disorders. They hold at least a master's degree and state certification/licensure in the field, as well as a certificate of clinical competency from ASHA.
By assessing the speech, language, cognitive-communication, and swallowing skills of children and adults, speech-language pathologists can identify types of communication problems and the best way to treat them.
Therapists use a variety of strategies, including:
Language intervention activities. In these exercises an SLP will interact with a child by playing and talking. The therapist may use pictures, books, toys, ball-pits, swings, objects, or ongoing events to stimulate language development. The therapist may also model correct pronunciation and use repetition exercises to build speech and language skills.
Articulation therapy. Articulation, or sound production, exercises involve having the therapist model correct sounds and syllables for a child, often during play activities. The level of play is age-appropriate and related to the child's specific needs. The SLP will physically show the child how to make certain sounds, such as the "r" sound, and may demonstrate how to move the tongue to produce specific sounds.
Oral motor/feeding therapy. The SLP will use a variety of oral exercises, including facial massage and various tongue, lip, and jaw exercises, to strengthen the muscles of the mouth. The SLP may also work with different food textures and temperatures to increase a child's oral awareness during eating and swallowing.
When Is Therapy Needed?
Kids might need speech-language therapy for a variety of reasons, including:
cognitive (intellectual; thinking) or other developmental delays
weak oral muscles
birth defects such as cleft lip or cleft palate
autism spectrum disorder
motor planning problems
respiratory problems (breathing disorders)
traumatic brain injury
Therapy should begin as soon as possible. Children enrolled in therapy early in their development (younger than 3 years) tend to have better outcomes than those who begin therapy later. This does not mean that older kids can't make progress in therapy; they may progress at a slower rate because they often have learned patterns that need to be changed.
Sunshine Center Speech Language Therapist
All of our clinical speech-language therapists are certified by ASHA. That certification means the SLP has at least a master's degree in the field, and has passed a national examination and successfully completed a supervised clinical fellowship. Additionally, all SLPs on staff are licensed in the state of Oklahoma, and have experience working with kids and your child's specific disorder. It is our goal to have a staff that covers the entire specialization spectrum required. Ask our therapists for suggestions on how you can help your child. For instance, it's important to help your child do the at-home stimulation activities that the SLP suggests to ensure continued progress and carry-over of newly learned skills. The process of overcoming a speech or language disorder may take some time and effort, so it's important that all family members be patient and understanding with the child.