Speech therapy is the assessment and treatment of communication problems. This involves both speech and language issues as well as oral motor and feeding issues for both children and adults. The assessment and treatment are performed by speech-language pathologists or better known as speech therapists.
In fact, in the United States, 5-10% of Americans have communication disorders and almost 8% of children have a communication or swallowing disorder (asha.org). Speech and language disorders affect as many as one in 12 kids and teens (ages 3-17) in the U.S. (nidcd.nih.gov). Kids with these disorders often have trouble when they learn to read and write or when they try to be social and make friends. Speech therapy can help most children improve, especially if they start speech therapy early on. Adults can also have these disorders. It may have started in childhood or they may have communication disorders due to brain injuries, stroke, cancer, or dementia (webmd.com).
In terms of speech and language development, the first three years of life are crucial. It is the most intense period of speech and language acquisition. Healthcare practitioners tend to use a checklist of developmental milestones that infants and babies are expected to reach. An example is the one put out by the CDC:
If you have concerns about your child’s ability to reach these developmental milestones or if your child is experiencing delays in their speech and language development, discuss this with your doctor. More than likely, they will refer your child for speech therapy.
However, speech therapy does not just benefit children. Adults may experience speech and language disorders for a variety of reasons and can also benefit from speech therapy.
Speech therapy usually begins with an assessment or evaluation conducted by a speech-language pathologist (SLP) who will identify the type of communication disorder and the best way to treat it.
Speech Evaluation Process
If you suspect that your child may have a speech, language, feeding, or swallowing delay or disorder, it is important to bring up your concerns with your pediatrician and request a speech evaluation.
A comprehensive speech and language evaluation can take from 1-2 hours. The evaluating therapist will ask questions regarding the child’s medical history as well as when their developmental milestones were achieved. The therapist will then use standardized tests or norm referenced assessment measures to identify the presence and severity of a speech and language disorder. This part of the assessment includes asking the child questions using a variety of pictures and/ or toy manipulatives. If a feeding and swallowing assessment is necessary, the evaluating therapist may ask the caregiver to prepare a few different food items and textures to observe being presented to the child. Following the assessment, the evaluating therapist will write up a report, which will include the findings and whether speech therapy is necessary. A meeting will then be set up by your district administrator to discuss these findings and make a final recommendation for your child.
Speech Therapy for Children
A child may receive speech therapy in a one-on-one setting or as part of a small group within a classroom setting. The speech therapist will use therapeutic exercises to help treat the specific issues. These exercises will vary depending on the child’s disorder, age, and needs and can include: language activities, articulation activities, feeding and swallowing therapy as well as oral motor exercises. Within the child’s speech sessions, the speech therapist may:
Speech Therapy for Adults
Speech therapy for adults will also begin with an assessment to determine the needs and best course of treatment for that client. With the adult population, speech therapy can help with speech, language, and cognitive communication. In addition, speech therapists can also work on swallowing if an injury or medical condition (Parkinson’s disease or oral cancer) has led to swallowing difficulties. The exercises for adults may involve: problem solving, memory and organization skills, and other activities geared at improving cognitive function. The speech therapist may also work on conversational tactics to improve social communication, breathing exercises to improve resonance as well as exercises to strengthen the oral muscles.
The amount of time that one may need speech therapy will depend on a number of factors, including their age, type and severity of the speech disorder, how often one receives therapy, underlying medical conditions, and treatment of the underlying medical conditions.
Some speech disorders begin in childhood and will improve with age, while others may continue into adulthood and require long-term therapy and maintenance. For instance, a communication disorder caused by a stroke or other medical condition may improve with treatment or as the condition improves.
The success rate of speech therapy is dependent on the type of disorder being treated and the age of the child or adult being treated. How early you start speech therapy can have an impact as well. Speech Therapy for young children has been shown to be most successful when started early and practiced at home with a parent or caregiver.
In conclusion, speech therapy can treat a wide range of speech and language delays and disorders in children and adults. However, with proper speech therapy, one should be able to improve their communication and boost their self-confidence.
At New York Therapy Placement Services (NYTPS), Inc., we’re here to help you find the right speech therapist. Our Speech Therapy Placement Coordinators are waiting for your call. Please visit our website to learn more about our Speech Therapy services: