Every child learns differently and at their own pace, and speech and language are no different. It can be difficult to determine whether or not a child needs speech therapy or whether they just need a little more time than the other kids their age to learn. Here’s what you should know about speech therapy and when children may need it.
What Is Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy is a type of treatment that focuses on communication and speech problems and disorders. It’s conducted by speech-language pathologists, also known as speech therapists. Speech therapists help those who have difficulty speaking and communicating clearly. They can help with phonetics, articulation, voice disorders, problems with swallowing and upper aerodigestive functions, hearing and auditory processing issues, and more. They can also help if the trouble is caused by a disorder which can develop in childhood or by an injury or illness.
Why Would Children Need Speech Therapy?
The first three years of life are the most crucial in regards to speech and language development. You often hear it’s easier to learn language when you are younger, and this is because it is when your brain is best primed to be able to learn sounds and language skills.
Children have different rates of development in regards to their speech and language skills, but generally, people have the same rough timeline for achieving milestones such as first words, understanding what is being said to them, making the right sounds for languages, and more. How your child’s speech and language development progresses depends on a number of factors, such as how much talking they hear daily, their natural ability to learn speech and language, and how others respond to their attempts at learning.
Because every child learns at a different rate, it can be hard to tell when a child should start speech therapy. This depends on several things. Children typically try out new words every month, use gestures to indicate what they want or see, and show signs of understanding tone and what is being said to them. While having delayed progress in these areas doesn’t necessarily mean that your child is developing difficulties and needs speech therapy, they are risk factors to be aware of and monitor.
However, if your child is having difficulty reaching these milestones and with learning new words, understanding language, and communication, this can be an indicator that they might need some help, like speech therapy. If you notice any developmental delays like this, it’s good to bring your child to a professional so that they can analyse your child’s progress and see if they are at risk for a speech or language disorder.
Children would need speech therapy, because if these developmental issues are not treated early on, they can develop into full blown speech or language disorders. While sometimes, a child simply needs more time than others to learn or they may be able to overcome the speech or language issue themselves, others would need a speech therapist’s help.
What Children Need Speech Therapy?
Any child who has trouble speaking or speaking clearly can benefit from speech therapy. Children who suffer from hearing issues, breathing or swallowing disorders, autism, vocal nodules or hoarseness, weak muscles around their mouth, cleft lip/palate, or who stutter or otherwise have delayed speech all would likely see improvement with treatment.
Some other indicators that your child may need speech therapy are if you can’t understand what they’re saying or if their speech is slurred. If they can’t tell the difference between sounds, this is another area that speech therapists could help them out in. If your child is getting frustrated with their speech, either through not being understood or being able to control it, they also may need speech therapy.
How Does Speech Therapy Work?
The speech therapist will conduct an assessment in order to determine the cause of the speech troubles and how best to treat your child. They’ll analyze what your child understands, what they can say, how clear their speech is, and how well their mouth, tongue, and general oral-motor status work together. They’ll ask about milestones and development and conduct tests. After this, they can determine the best course of action for your child.
Speech therapy treatments for children depend on their disorder, their age, and what they need, which means that every treatment is personalized to suit your child best. It can happen in a small group or one-on-one.
Speech therapists use a variety of methods to treat speech and communication disorders and troubles. They may interact with your child via play and use pictures, books, toys, and more in order to make it more interesting and accessible for your child. During their time together, the speech therapist will use the play tactics or talking in order to demonstrate the proper sounds and teach your child how to make them.
They’ll also give you tips on how to help your child work on their speech outside of therapy and give your child some things to work on in between sessions. Working on speech both in sessions and at home is key in order for your child to improve.
How Long Does Speech Therapy Last?
How long a child is in speech therapy depends on their personal circumstance and case. Speech therapy can last a few months or extend into adulthood, depending on the severity of the speech disorder, how frequently the child goes to therapy, and how old they were when they started it. Earlier is always better in regards to improving communication and having a successful outcome.
Does Speech Therapy Really Work?
Speech therapy does indeed work. It can improve language comprehension and production skills, improve fluency in those who stutter, help teach certain sounds, and teach family members techniques to help support them.
How well speech therapy works depends on what speech or communication disorder is being treated, your age, and how much the tactics are practiced not just within the speech therapy sessions but at home too. As with anything, early treatment is best, though speech therapy is not restricted to children, by any means. Anyone, regardless of age, can go to speech therapy, and many adults do, with successful results.
Are You Looking Into Speech Therapy?
Here at Wasatch Peak Physical Therapy, we know the benefits of speech therapy for clear speech and communication. If you think your child could use a speech therapist, we can happily help. We offer speech therapy for all age groups. If you would like to learn more or have any questions about any of our other services, please feel free to contact us at Wasatch Peak Physical Therapy today!