Speech therapy is a treatment for children and adults with speech and language disorders. The disorder can be in the rectification of sounds, or in understanding or simply putting words together to make meaningful sentences.
It is important to give medical attention to speech disorder in children, at an early age. One needs to understand the kinds of problems that come under this disorder. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), a non-profit organization, has included the following:
- Voice disorder includes problems with the volume, rhythm, pitch, speed, and quality of the voice.
- Fluency disorders as stuttering, in which there is a tendency to repeat, prolong sounds, syllables, and have abnormal stoppages.
- Articulation disorders include phonetic difficulties in producing sounds in syllables, or saying words incorrectly.
- Dysphagia/oral feeding disorders are eating and swallowing difficulties.
- Receptive language disorder is the difficulty in understanding the meanings of words.
- Expressive language disorder is the inability to use language appropriately, because of limited vocabulary, and construction of unmeaning sentences.
Besides the ones stated above, there are some more reasons for children needing this therapy. They could be motor planning disorder, hearing impairment, weak oral muscles, cognitive development delays, autism, defects such as cleft lip or cleft palate, brain injury and swallowing difficulties. While choosing a therapist for your child, make sure that the therapist is certified by 'ASHA'.
Speech therapists use an array of methods to treat children, depending on their individual requirement. The focus is to build memory, alphabet, phonics, and articulation. Some of the general speech therapy activities are:
Language Intervention Activities
The therapists involve the child in a playful conversation, using books, pictures, objects, puppets, and role-play. The basic idea here, is to gap the child's understanding of vocabulary. Word combinations are often used to create awareness of the syntax and semantics of language. Correct pronunciation and repetition exercises are also used to build language.
These exercises deal with the production of sound and phonetics. The therapists correct the sound and syllables, during play activities. Demonstrations on the movement of tongue, to produce specific sounds, are given.
Oral Motor Activity
Commonly known as 'Feeding therapy', it includes all mouth muscle strengthening exercises. Some therapists use different food textures to help the kids understand the processes of eating and swallowing.
Parental involvement and attention is very crucial to the success of speech and language therapy. Therapists use clinically proven techniques, but you can try some simple ones at home. Only make sure, you take your doctor's approval before doing so.
- If your child is practicing a particular sound, keep pointing things around him that contain the sound. Do it while you take a walk, flip through magazines or illustrated books.
- Once he gets his sound correct, switch to words. Make it interesting by adding tongue twisters, or using silly or funny sounding words. Let the child make his own words.
- Encourage the child to make meaningful sentences. Give him comics, joke books, and short stories to read. Make sure he reads them aloud.
- Make long and clear conversations, during meal times, while doing any activity or while driving.
- Have your therapists refer you to some easily available speech therapy toys, CD's, videos and brain exercise tools.
Every child communicates. While some will do it with ease, others may need a little help. Patience, understanding, and unconditional support are sure to help your child to overcome this disorder.