What is Speech and Language Therapy?
Our goal in speech therapy is to increase your child’s ability to effectively communicate, interact, and express their needs and/or wants.
Speech and Language Therapy Services
A speech therapist utilizes evidence-based interventions to target a variety of areas including:
- Expressive and/or Receptive Language Delays
- Pragmatic Language Deficits
- Articulation/Phonological Disorders
- Apraxia of Speech
- Voice Disorders
- Fluency/Stuttering Disorder
- Early Literacy Skills
- Cognitive Delays
- Augmentative and Alternative Communication
- Oral Motor Skill Delays
- Feeding Difficulties and Disorders
Occupational Therapy is available in:
Aurora, IL, Oswego, IL, Springfield, IL, Champaign, IL and Austin, TX
How does Speech and Language Therapy work?
Speech therapy is the assessment and treatment of communication and speech disorders. It is performed by speech-language pathologists (SLPs), which are often referred to as speech therapists. Speech therapy usually begins with an assessment by an SLP who will identify areas of need and type of communication disorder/deficits and formulate recommended goals and objectives to address them. Speech therapy techniques are used to improve overall communication. Speech and language therapy may be needed for disorders that develop in childhood or speech impairments in adults caused by an injury or illness, such as a stroke or brain injury.
How can Speech and Language Therapy help my child?
For your child, speech therapy goals and interventions vary depending on your child’s disorder, age, and needs. Goals will be individualized to your child’s specific needs. An SLP can help your child with…
1. Articulation Skills/Speech Intelligibility
Articulation is the physical ability to move the tongue, lips, jaw, and palate (known as the articulators) to produce individual speech sounds which we call phonemes. For example, to articulate the /b/ sound, we need to inhale, then while exhaling we need to turn our voice on, bring our slightly tensed lips together to stop and build up the airflow, and then release the airflow by parting our lips.
Intelligibility refers to how well people can understand your child’s speech. If a child’s articulation skills are compromised for any reason, intelligibility will be decreased in comparison to other children their age. SLP’s can work with your child to teach them how to produce the specific speech sounds or sound patterns that they are having difficulty with, and thus increasing overall speech intelligibility.
2. Expressive Language Skills
While speech involves the physical motor ability to talk, language is a symbolic, rule-governed system used to convey a message. In English, the symbols can be words, either spoken or written. We also have gestural symbols like shrugging our shoulders to indicate “I don’t know” or waving to indicate “Bye Bye” or the raising of our eyebrows to indicate that we are surprised by something.
Expressive language then refers to what your child says. Speech-language pathologists can help your child learn new words and how to put them together to form phrases and sentences (semantics and syntax) so that your child can communicate with you and others.
3. Receptive Language/Listening Skills
Receptive language refers to your child’s ability to listen and understand language. Most often, young children have stronger receptive language skills (what they understand) than expressive language skills (what they can say). An SLP can help teach your child new vocabulary and how to use that knowledge to follow directions, answer questions, and participate in simple conversations with others.
4. Speech Fluency/Stuttering
Stuttering is a communication disorder that affects speech fluency. It is characterized by breaks in the flow of speech referred to as disfluencies and typically begins in childhood. Everyone experiences disfluencies in their speech. Some disfluencies are totally normal but having too many can actually significantly affect one’s ability to communicate.
In stuttering, we most often see the following types of primary behaviors: repetitions, prolongations, interjections, and blocks. We may also see secondary behaviors, typically in more severe cases of stuttering such as tension in the neck, shoulders, face, jaw, chest; eye blinks, nose flaring, other odd facial movements; clenched fists, stomping of feet; jerking or other unusual motor movements in arms, hands, legs, feet.
SLPs can teach your child strategies on how to control this behavior and thus increase his speech fluency and intelligibility.
5. Voice and Resonance
Voice disorders refer to disorders that affect the vocal folds that allow us to produce voice. These can include vocal cord paralysis, nodules or polyps on the vocal folds, and other disorders that can cause hoarseness or aphonia (loss of voice).
A common voice disorder in young children is hoarseness caused by vocal abuse. Vocal abuse refers to bad habits that lead to strain or damage to the vocal folds such as yelling, excessive talking, coughing, throat clearing, etc. Speech-language pathologists with experience in voice and resonance disorders can work with children to decrease these behaviors and repair the strain/damage of the folds.
6. Social/Pragmatic Language
Social/ pragmatic language refers to the way an individual uses language to communicate and involves three major communication skills: using language to communicate in different ways (like greeting others, requesting, protesting, asking questions to gain information, etc), changing language according to the people or place it is being used (i.e. we speak differently to a child than we do to an adult; we speak differently inside vs. outside), and following the rules for conversation (taking turns in conversation, staying on topic, using and understanding verbal and nonverbal cues, etc). SLPs can work with your child to teach them these social language skills so that they can more appropriate;y participate in conversations with others.
7. Cognitive-Communication Skills
Cognitive-communication disorders refer to the impairment of cognitive processes including attention, memory, abstract reasoning, awareness, and executive functions (self-monitoring, planning, and problem-solving). These can be developmental in nature (meaning the child is born with these deficits) or can be acquired due to a head injury, stroke, or degenerative diseases. SLPs can work with your child to help build these skills and/or teach your child compensatory methods to assist them with their deficits.
8. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
Speech-language pathologists can be trained in pediatric swallowing and feeding issues in addition to speech and language issues. This is because, as SLPs, they have intimate knowledge of the structures and functions of the oral cavities and beyond. In fact, some SLPs have training in myofunctional disorders including tongue thrust. SLPs are also trained to address communication and oral motor deficits that can accompany a feeding disorder, including “picky eating”.
9. Swallowing/Feeding Issues
Augmentative and Alternative Communication, also known simply as AAC, refers to “…all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas.
We all use AAC when we make facial expressions or gestures, use symbols or pictures, or write” (ASHA Website). When SLPs are working with children, our number one goal is always functional communication. Sometimes, a child may have such a severe delay/disorder, that traditional oral speech is not possible or is not practical. In these circumstances, an SLP may work with a child and his family to come up with an AAC system to use instead of, or alongside of, verbal/vocal language.
It is very important to note that these AAC methods are not always used to replace speech. In many circumstances, AAC is used as a bridge to speech. Children can use AAC methods to communicate while still working on developing speech skills (when appropriate).
10. Educating and Empowering YOU on how to best help your child.
Hands down, the best thing an SLP can do for your child, is to educate you and empower you on how to best help your child. A speech-language pathologist may spend an hour or so a week with your child, but you spend hours and hours a week interacting with your child. You wake your child, get him ready for his day, read to him, talk to him, bathe him, and put him down to sleep at night. It is during these everyday routines that your child is learning the most and is given the most opportunities to communicate.
When you are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and confidence YOU can be the best “speech therapist” your child will ever have. So ask questions, take notes, do the homework, and work closely with your child’s SLP. Together you can make an amazing team and change your child’s life, one word at a time.
Frequently Asked Questions
This depends on what you are noticing in the home. A young child (9 months) who is not responding to sounds, alerting to his/her name, showing comprehension of simple words, or pointing to call attention to interesting objects, may be showing early signs of a hearing loss or language disorder.
Other general guidelines:
• First Words by 12-15 months
• Frequent Two-Word Combinations Heard by 21-24 months
• Frequent Three-Word Combinations Heard by 36 months
• Intelligible speech in conversation 90% of the time by age 4 years
• Grammatically complete sentences most of the time by kindergarten age
ABA therapists and speech therapists can work together to build comprehensive therapeutic strategies that target the improvement of an individual’s verbal communication capabilities. An SLP is a professional included on an ABA team since its members are focused on providing effective and efficient instruction, much of which is geared toward speech and language acquisition. SLP and ABA often complement each other. SLPs, for example, can help ABA therapists use alternative modes of communication, such as pictures and sign language, to help develop a certain behavior. ABA therapists can also learn to build strategies for treating behavioral challenges that affect speech and language. ABA therapists can help SLPs interpret the data related to certain behaviors and make more quantitative decisions for building receptive and expressive language skills. ABA therapists can also help SLPs understand appropriate, effective stimuli for prompting certain behaviors in people with communication disorders.
Generally speaking, understanding your child’s current communication level (preverbal, single word communicator, phrase or sentence level communicator, etc.) is very important in terms of what to model at home. When a child is beginning to develop a speaking vocabulary, he uses one word to represent an entire thought. It is entirely normal for the 12 to 18-month-old child to say “hot,” meaning “The stove is hot” or “Mommy’s coffee is hot” or to say “daddy,” meaning “Where is daddy?” or “Daddy just came into the driveway.” A somewhat older child whose language is delayed will also use one word to express an idea. While this is a necessary stage in the development of expressive language, there is an excellent technique that parents can use to help their child move naturally and easily into the next stage of language expression: the combining of two words to express thoughts. If your child is already using two-word responses, the same technique will help him to move to three-, four-, five- (and more) word responses.
The technique deals with the expansion of your child’s responses and is a simple one to learn and use. When your child makes an incomplete response (be it one word or three words), you interpret the total meaning he intends and then put this into simple, adult language. For example, if he says “cookie,” you would say “Bobbie wants a cookie,” or “Yes, you have a cookie in your hand,” depending upon the situation and the child’s intended meaning. If he says, “Daddy bye-bye,” you might expand this to “Yes, daddy went bye-bye in the car.” In this way, you are giving him a chance to hear (and learn) the correct total response although you do not expect him to use it for some time to come. If your child does not have frequent exposure to complete responses involving those things in which he is interested, he is likely to take much longer in developing his own more complete sentences.
For some parents, response expansion comes naturally and they are unaware that they are using a highly effective technique in helping their child develop skills. Listen to yourself. If you find that you are simply nodding or saying “Yes” when your child says “kitty,” stop yourself and expand his response by saying “Yes, there’s a kitty…the kitty is drinking his milk.” If you find you are simply getting a cookie because your child has said “cookie,” then you know that you will have to make a conscious effort to make response expansion a regular technique. Once you have developed a habit of expanding your child’s responses, you will find that it takes very little extra time and that the rewards in terms of your child’s language development will be substantial.
• Learn about typical speech and language development.
• Know developmental milestones and ask your physician for an evaluation if your child is not meeting them.
• Talk and read with your child regularly.
• Have your child’s hearing checked:
– Participate in early identification or screening programs.
– Avoid drinking and substance abuse during pregnancy.
– Use helmets, car seats, and safety belts to prevent brain injury.
– Spend regular time alone with your child and talk about the things he/she is interested in
The length of therapy cannot be predicted. Children may show immediate improvement, or it may be very gradual. The rate and pattern of improvement are different for every child. Progress is evaluated in three to six-month intervals.
This depends on the speech-language needs of the child. Frequency and time of therapy are typically determined at the evaluation. The frequency of sessions (the number of sessions per week) and duration of the session (length of time) is determined by the evaluation and reviewed with the family prior to the initiation of services.
Ready to enroll your child in BPI?
Occupational therapy is an evidenced-based practice that uses meaningful activities to help individuals reach their highest level of independence with those daily tasks that are essential for successful participation in their school, home and community.