Building Roots in Shodair’s Garden SpaceAugust 7, 2023
What is Speech Therapy and Does My Child Need It?
As your child develops, it’s common that their speech patterns will as well. They’ll begin to say words like “mom” and “dad”, “doggie” and “milk”. And they’ll also stutter over what will become some of your favorite words to hear like “sister” and “spaghetti.” But at what point do these mispronunciations or a child’s lack of speech begin to point toward a bigger issue? Is there a time or more specifically a “right time” to consider communication services like speech therapy? These are questions that we hear a lot. And to be honest, there really is no set right time (we know, insert eye roll). However, there are some good key indicators! First, though, we have to understand what speech therapy is and the associated services offered. And to do that, we turned to the experts – two of our licensed speech-language pathologists, Maggie Anderson and Angie Dailey.
WHAT IS SPEECH THERAPY?
The basis of speech therapy is first understanding that all behavior is communication. It is not uncommon for there to be an underlying communication disorder that is impacting a child’s ability to understand what is being said and participate fully in their environment by socializing and expressing their wants and needs. As such, the scope of speech-language pathology really is vast. In the speech pathology world, we like to break communication down into six targeted speech-language areas:
Speech: includes the areas of articulation, phonology, fluency, and voice.
Receptive Language: is how a person comprehends and processes language.
Expressive Language: is the organization, production, and content of what a person says.
Social Language: is a person’s ability to follow social rules to communicate and interact appropriately with other people.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): includes all forms of communication other than verbal speech.
Executive Function: skills are the basis for planning, organizing, initiating, and following through with all tasks.
Using these areas as a measuring stick, a speech pathologist will perform a 90-minute evaluation – assessing a child’s weaknesses, strengths, and possible areas that could be boosted with services. Once an evaluation is complete, if treatment is needed, we then work with a family to identify speech goals and begin regularly seeing a patient for 30 to 45-minute sessions. These sessions are what typically makes up what most people recognize as “speech therapy.”
“At the end of the day, language is a key building block for literacy and relationships. And like with any block, the more you practice setting it up, the stronger it’ll be.”
IS SPEECH THERAPY RIGHT FOR MY CHILD?
Identifying the Signs
At Shodair, we see kids ages 3-21 and treat a variety of speech and language disorders, such as articulation, fluency, social, receptive/expressive, and autism. Whether your child has already been diagnosed with a speech disorder or you’re beginning to recognize areas they may be struggling in (see above), the first step in assessing need is scheduling an evaluation. That said, we recognize that there can be a lot of uncertainty and fear that can come with taking that first step, so here are a few signs that you can begin to look for at home:
- – Not being able to put words together
- – Not using a wide variety of words (i.e. saying fewer than 50 words by 24 months)
- – Having trouble playing and talking with other children
- – Having problems reading
- – Being hard to understand, even to people who know the child well.
- – Stuttering
- – Pausing a lot while talking
Even with these factors in place, it’s important to remember that it is perfectly normal for kids to develop at different rates. For more information and possible signs of a language disorder, we recommend visiting asha.org.
Inpatient vs. Outpatient
The biggest difference between inpatient and outpatient services are location and duration. At Shodair, inpatient services are available to patients who have been admitted to a residential or acute unit and only extend throughout their stay. Outpatient services, however, are the primary way we see speech therapy patients and allow for a longer continuum of care. These services are available at Shodair’s three outpatient clinics (Butte, Helena, Missoula) and virtually. This flexibility allows our providers to care for families no matter their location around the state – even in their own homes!
HOW CAN I IMPROVE MY CHILD’S SPEECH SKILLS?
At the end of the day, language is a key building block for literacy and relationships. And like with any block, the more you practice setting it up, the stronger it’ll be. As parents, the easiest way to help your child to develop speech skills is to simply incorporate them into your daily routine. Here are a few of our favorite (and easy to implement) suggestions:
- – Read to your kids at night.
- – Have conversations with them, often.
- – Sing with your kids in the car.
- – Have family chat sessions at dinner.
- – Become a regular at the library.
- – Encourage your kids to talk.
- – Listen intently when they speak.
- – Give them love, patience, and kindness.
Maggie Anderson, Speech-Language Pathologist
Angie Dailey, Speech-Language Pathologist