The Edvocate’s Guide to K-12 Speech Therapy

Speech therapy is a kind of therapy that assists kids in speaking more clearly, conveying their thoughts and feelings, and deciphering what other people are saying. Suppose your kid has a speech disorder that includes trouble articulating and pronouncing words. Speech therapy can help develop language development, communication, and pragmatic language skills.

Speech therapy is an intervention that focuses on improving a kid’s speech and ability to understand and express language, including nonverbal language. Speech therapists, or speech and language pathologists, are the language professionals who provide these services. Speech therapy includes two components: 1) coordinating the mouth to produce sounds to form words and sentences (to address articulation, fluency, and voice volume regulation); and 2) understanding and expressing language (to address the utilization of language through written, pictorial, body, and sign forms and the utilization of language through alternative communication systems like computers, and iPads. Also, the role of SLPs in treating swallowing disorders has broadened to include all aspects of feeding.

Does My Child Need Speech Therapy?

Some kids may have good pronunciation and may even be early readers. Still, they may need speech therapy to improve “pragmatic” language, or the process of utilizing verbal and body language appropriately in social situations for everyday purposes such as making requests, having conversations, and making friends. Other reasons kids may need speech therapy include medical conditions such as a brain injury that has affected their ability to communicate and an identifiable disorder such as Down syndrome. Speech therapy services often begin at a young age and continue as kids enter school and communicate with written language.

What Do Speech and Language Pathologists Do?

An SLP may find a language-based learning disability in learners who struggle to read and express themselves in written work. Also, language challenges make it hard for kids to understand and follow instructions. The SLP can help develop these skills. To administer direct treatment, SLPs perform evaluations and consult with educators to create language-rich classes. Therapy may be personal or include a small group of classmates who face comparable social and communication challenges. The goal is to make language fun and enable learners to succeed in school.

Speech Therapy Programs

It’s not uncommon for kids who have trouble talking to have feeding challenges. While kids with special needs may be the first to come to mind, it’s not unusual for other kids to have speech and feeding issues. Speech and eating need the fine motor aspects of moving the tongue, jaw, and lips in a coordinated fashion.

The SLP might bring out some toys and whistles and have “blow the cotton ball” relay races to strengthen muscles used in speech and eating. Utilizing crazy straws, a toothbrush that makes music, and blowing bubbles might also be fun strategies to help kids tolerate sensations in their mouths.

Teaching Language Pragmatics

Speech and language pathologists work with kids who have difficulty reading the social world cues, interpreting others, and utilizing words and body language to communicate efficiently and develop friendships. These learners may benefit from a treatment philosophy called Social Thinking that teaches about the relationship between how we think and behave and how others respond to us.

Treating the Nonverbal Child

Children who cannot speak need alternative communication methods. Early intervention and preschool SLPs teach kids (and their parents) how pictures and simple sign language enable them to communicate their needs.

School-aged kids may be able to utilize computers or iPads to communicate via text or a voice synthesizer. Speech therapists can use the same device to teach speech and language skills through engagement and motivation.

Finding Speech and Language Therapy Services

SLPs are available in public schools to assess and provide treatment. Parents may decide to utilize private speech therapy offered in a clinical setting. Ask the school guidance counselor or family doctor to recommend a program with kids of similar ages and developmental needs to your kids. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) website provides information about what ages kids usually develop language skills. This info helps parents who suspect that their kid has a language delay understand when to seek professional help.

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