Children learn early on the importance of listening and speaking. This all starts with learning to use phonemes, which are the smallest units of speech to construct different words. Many children are able to hear and speak in the age’s normal ways at normative ways. However, some children struggle with hearing and speech. They are mostly the focus of speech therapy.
Early detection and intervention are key. So, speech therapy is essential for helping people overcome major communication barriers that are often frustrating to deal with.
What Is Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy is the therapeutic practice of helping children and adults overcome obstacles in speech and language. It is also commonly known as as speech pathology, and those who practice it are called speech pathologists. Speech therapy does not just deal with stuttering, stammering, or an inability to piece words together. It goes far beyond that. Speech therapy has been successfully used to treat various disorders, including:
- Dysphagia (a condition which makes swallowing incredibly difficult);
- Child language disorders;
- Apraxia (a complex neurological condition that impacts motor skills, including causing difficulties when moving the tongue to speak);
- Speech sound disorders.
Generally speaking, the earlier you detect a speech-language condition, the better chances are that the individual will have a successful outcome with speech therapy.
Symptoms of Speech Disorders
Typically, children must meet certain developmental milestones to ensure that they are on track with the majority of their peers. By the age of about 3 or 4 years old, a child should be able to:
- Tell stories;
- Speak in short sentences of about 5 or 6 words;
- Speak succinctly enough for strangers to be able to comprehend them;
- Know some basic grammar and syntax rules.
Not all children learn at the same rate and might eventually catch up to their peers. But there are some major indicators that a child might be struggling with speech-language comprehension and/or hearing. These include:
- Birth – 3 months: Does not interact or smile;
- 7 months: Does not babble;
- Between 7 – 12 months: Doesn’t make many sounds or gestures;
- 7 months – 2 years: Seems to not understand what others are saying;
- 12 – 18 months: Can only say a few words;
- 1 and 1/2 – 2 years: Cannot form sentences;
- 2 years: Cannot say more than 50 words;
- Between 2 – 3 years: Struggles with playing and speaking with other children;
- 2 and 1/2 – 3 years: Struggles with reading and writing skills.
The best way to detect these symptoms is to spend time speaking, reading, writing, and playing with your child. The more time you spend doing this, the better you will be able to catch discrepancies early on in their development. Then, you can seek help from a speech therapist if necessary. Additionally, some children will show signs of frustration when trying to communicate, including pointing at objects or holding their breath.
Causes of Speech Disorders
There are many potential causes of speech-language disorders, but science still has not found a singular root cause.
- Learning disabilities tend to be among the most commonly diagnosed causes of speech disorders. Learning disorders can become progressively more frustrating for children as they go through school. Also, these disorders can develop into literacy issues by the time an individual reaches adulthood.
- Additionally, hearing loss, developmental delays, intellectual disorders, Auditory Processing Disorder (which is characterized by a difficulties decoding speech sounds), and selective mutism are all disorders that have been linked with speech disorders.
Other Issues Related to Speech Disorders
In adults, speech and language issues is in close connection with a wide array of disorders and medical conditions. These include:
- Aphasia: A communcation disorder stemming from damage done to the brain, often due to a stroke;
- Huntington’s Disease: A genetic disorder in which neurodegeneration begins when a person is in their 30s or 40s;
- Traumatic Brain Injury;
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a disease which attacks the motor neurons in the brain.
Adults who had speech-language disorders as children and did not receive speech therapy are more likely to have profound speech issues for the rest of their lives. They struggle to effectively communicate with others. However, most of the time they develop agitation and frustrations.
Speech Therapy Options
Over the past few decades, speech therapy has become more popularly in the field, both clinically and within schools. There are speech therapies that gear toward various needs. This includes speech therapy for those who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Speech therapists often specialize in working with either children or adults.
- Speech-Language Therapy works to unite the social aspects of speech with speech mechanics. This makes it a beneficial treatment for those with ASD.
- Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is showing to be effective for nonverbal individuals with autism. Therapists work with clients to construct associations between words and their associated objects and meanings.
- Other types of therapy for speech include Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Sensory Integration Therapy.
Speech Therapy in Popular Culture
Speech disorders have been depicted in pop culture, but one of the best examples comes from a 2015 Indian movie called Su.. Su… Sudhi Vathmeekam.
In the film, the main character, Sudhi, tells his friend Mukesh about his struggles with stammering. This led him to marry his speech therapist who continues to inspire him to overcome obstacles.
Wrapping Up the Words
Speech therapy has evolved into a widely-used and varied practice that benefits children and adults with various speech-related disorders. Many individuals have successfully developed speech and language skills with the help of speech pathologists. So, there is hope for progress.
If your child or adult loved one is struggling with speech, there is no shame in reaching out to a speech pathologist for help. Communication skills can be cultivated with the guidance of a trained and compassionate therapist.
The images are from depositphotos.com.