SPEECH CONCERNS

Speech Therapy for Children

Speech concerns in children can fall into several categories including:

  • Articulation (speech sound disorder)
  • Childhood apraxia of speech
  • Voice
  • Stuttering

Articulation (speech sound disorder)

Quite often, people confuse articulation difficulties with language concerns. It’s important to remember that speech and language are two different skills.

Articulation difficulties occur when a child has challenges producing clear and accurate speech sounds. In typical development, a child’s speech becomes clearer and more easily understood with age. Most children make some mistakes with speech sounds as they learn new words. For instance, a child may say ”wun” for “run” or leave out sounds such as “boo” for “book”. By age 8 a child should be producing sounds accurately 100% of the time. An articulation difficulty happens when a mistake occurs past a certain age. Please refer to our speech and language milestones chart for more information.

Speech-language pathologists provide thorough assessments and individualized treatment plans for children with articulation difficulties. These children may experience frustration communicating and you as a parent may have difficulty understanding your child. Treatment is recommended if the sound production skills are not age appropriate.

Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS)

Childhood apraxia of speech is a motor speech disorder. It is NOT due to muscle weakness. The child has difficulty planning the movements involved in speech production e.g. moving tongue, lips and jaw in order to produce a word. Children with Childhood Apraxia of Speech do not have “typical” speech patterns and in most instances need treatment to make progress.

A speech-language pathologist will assess a child to rule out an articulation difficulty and determine if the child has CAS. Very specific therapy is recommended for CAS.

Voice

Your voice is affected by your general health, the environment, and how you use it. If your child has not already seen an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor for his/her voice problem, the S-LP will suggest a referral to one through your family doctor. The ENT will make the diagnosis and recommendations for treatment.

Some voice disorders, like nodules or muscle tension dysphonia may be treated with voice therapy by a speech-language pathologist. Other disorders, like reflux laryngitis, may be treated with a combination of voice therapy and medication.

There are some voice disorders that are treated with surgery (e.g.,polyps, or throat cancer). Even if surgery is required, S-LP treatment can help with preparation for the surgery and recovery afterwards.

Voice therapy at the Speech Therapy Centres of Canada is custom designed to meet the unique needs of each client. Therapy may consist of an established program or, the S-LP may combine several different techniques in order to achieve the highest level of success.

Stuttering

Stuttering (sometimes referred to as disfluency) is a communication difficulty that affects the fluency and flow of speech.

It is common for many children of all ages to experience disfluencies. This does not necessarily mean that there is a problem. However, frequent disfluencies can result in difficulties with communication and can be frustrating and upsetting for the person communicating as well as for the family. A speech-language pathologist (S-LP) can determine if your child’s disfluencies warrant therapy.

Stuttering may include repetitions of whole words, parts of words and initial letters of words and may also involve prolongations (stretching of sounds). Sometime speech may become blocked. The causes of stuttering are complex and varied.

Early referral to an S-LP is advocated as early intervention is frequently associated with more successful outcomes. In some instances, stuttering may begin or reoccur in older children. In all instances, the assessment includes a detailed evaluation of fluency and a determination of speech and language features. Other factors that may contribute to a child’s fluency issues will be evaluated e.g. confidence when speaking, challenges communicating with friends etc.

Once the S-LP recommends therapy she/he will use different approaches depending on age, level of severity and environmental factors (e.g. school environment). At the Speech Therapy Centres of Canada (STCC) we use a holistic approach to treatment, by looking at the child in the context of family, friends and school environment. In preschool children, therapy may include specific programs e.g. Lidcombe Program. In school-aged children, the approach may be slightly different. Other techniques and coping strategies may be selected. Confidence when talking and parent involvement are an important part of the process at any age.

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