In a recent parent-teacher conference, the teacher expressed concern that your child may have a problem with certain speech or language skills. Or perhaps while talking to your child, you noticed an occasional stutter.
Could your child have a problem? And if so, what should you do?
It's wise to intervene quickly. An evaluation by a certified speech-language pathologist can help determine if your child is having difficulties. Speech-language therapy is the treatment for most kids with 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.
Speech disorders include:
Language disorders can be either receptive or expressive:
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, and a certificate of clinical competency from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
SLPs assess speech, language, cognitive-communication, and oral/feeding/swallowing skills to identify types of communication problems (articulation; fluency; voice; receptive and expressive language disorders, etc.) and the best way to treat them.
In speech-language therapy, an SLP will work with a child one-on-one, in a small group, or directly in a classroom to overcome difficulties involved with a specific disorder.
Therapists use a variety of strategies, including:
Kids might need speech-language therapy for a variety of reasons, including:
Therapy should begin as soon as possible. Children enrolled in therapy early (before they're 5 years old) 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.
It's important to make sure that the speech-language therapist is 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.
Sometimes, speech assistants (who usually have a 2-year associate's or 4-year bachelor's degree) may assist with speech-language services under the supervision of ASHA-certified SLPs. Your child's SLP should be licensed in your state and have experience working with kids and your child's specific disorder.
You might find a specialist by asking your child's doctor or teacher for a referral or by checking local directories online or in your telephone book. State associations for speech-language pathology and audiology also maintain listings of licensed and certified therapists.
Speech-language experts agree that parental involvement is crucial to the success of a child's progress in speech or language therapy.
Parents are an extremely important part of their child's therapy program and help determine whether it is a success. Kids who complete the program quickest and with the longest-lasting results are those whose parents have been involved.
Ask the therapist 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 can take some time and effort, so it's important that all family members be patient and understanding with the child.
Reviewed by: Amy Nelson, MA, CCC-SLP
Date reviewed: July 2011
|FRIENDS: The Association of Young People Who Stutter FRIENDS is a national organization that provides a supportive network for children and teens. It offers bimonthly digest, books, posters, and an annual convention. Call: (866) 866-8335|
|Stuttering Home Page This site offers information about speech disorders through chat rooms, articles, and awareness.|
|American Speech-Language-Hearing Association This group provides services for professionals in audiology, speech-language pathology, and speech and hearing science, and advocates for people with communication disabilities.|
|Association for Research Into Stammering in Childhood (ARSC) The ARSC is a British organization that funds scientific research into the causes of and treatments for stuttering in children and young adults.|
|National Stuttering Association (NSA) NSA offers educational information about stuttering, outreach activities, support groups, and more.|
|The Stuttering Foundation The Stuttering Foundation provides free online resources, services and support to those who stutter and their families, as well as support for research into the causes of stuttering.|
|Cleft Lip and Palate Cleft lip and palate are birth defects that occur while a baby is developing in the uterus. Find out more about cleft lip and palate and some of the challenges they present.|
|Cleft Lip and Palate Oral-facial clefts are birth defects in which the tissues of the mouth or lip don't form properly during fetal development. The good news is that both cleft lip and cleft palate are treatable.|
|Hearing Evaluation in Children Hearing problems can be treated if they're caught early, so it's important to get your child's hearing screened early and evaluated regularly.|
|Hearing Impairment Hearing impairment occurs when there's a problem with or damage to one or more parts of the ear. The degree of impairment can vary widely. Find out its causes and what can be done to help correct it.|
|Speech Problems Do you know someone who stutters or has another speech disorder? Find out how speech disorders are treated, how you can help a friend or classmate cope, and lots more.|
|What Can I Do About My Speech Problem? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Stuttering Many young kids go through a stage when they stutter. Stuttering usually goes away on its own but in some cases lasts longer.|
|Stuttering Do you or does someone you know ever have a hard time getting words out? Get the whole story on stuttering and other speech problems in this article for kids.|
|Delayed Speech or Language Development Knowing what's "normal" and what's not in speech and language development can help you figure out if you should be concerned or if your child is right on schedule.|
|Going to a Speech Therapist You might visit a speech therapist if you're having trouble speaking or understanding others. Find out more in this article for kids.|
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