Speech Therapists can help Children During Their Developmental Years

Early detection of any communication impairment in a child is critical. The ability to communicate is essential to learning during their developmental years.

Child speakingIf you suspect your child may have a delay in communication development, an evaluation will provide valuable information. It is never too early to have your child evaluated. For children as young as 12-15 months, an evaluation can ease concerns and provide a base-line for follow-up visits to ensure continued progress.

These are just a few issues that parents may recognize their children are experiencing.

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A Speech Therapist Should Be Consulted If Tongue Thrust is a Concern

When a tongue thrust in a child is recognized by a Pediatrician, Orthodontist or Dentist,  a Speech Therapist should be included in the assessment and treatment. A Speech Language Therapist can assess the root cause and assist in altering the behavior causing the problem.

Child with tongue thrustAs Maria Del Duca states in her guest post on Smart Speech Therapy “A tongue thrust occurs when one’s tongue is pushed against or between the front teeth during a swallow.  This should not be confused with a frontal lisp.”

A frontal lisp occurs when the tongue protrudes between the front teeth and the air-flow is directed forwards. A tongue thrust occurs during the swallowing process. So, the objective when treating a tongue thrust is to develop appropriate behavior for tongue placement during the swallowing process; and also when eating or even at rest. However, a lisp can develop if the tongue thrust is not corrected because the teeth structure can be altered by this unnatural swallowing behavior.

There are different types of swallowing dysfunctions, also referred to as Dysphagia. This comes from the fact that there are different phases of the swallowing process. One is the oral phase which is the part of the process that occurs in the mouth, called the Buccal phase. Another phase is in the throat called the pharyngeal phase. And then the esophagus, called the esophageal phase. A child with tongue thrust will have difficulty during the oral phase (Buccal phase) of the swallowing process.

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The Speech Language Pathologist is Key in Improving the Life of a Child with Autism, Asperger

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are severe disorders of development that can affect social interaction, communication, play, and learning.

ASDs represent three of the pervasive developmental disorders defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) and DSM-IV-TR (text revision):

  1. Autistic disorder
  2. Pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified
  3. Asperger syndrome.

During the past decade, there has been growing national awareness and concern about the increase in the occurrences of ASD. Approximately 1 in 88 children meet the diagnostic criteria for one of the disorders listed above.

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What Does a Parent Do When a Child Stutters or Stammers

A parent can become concerned when their young child has trouble getting their words out. This can be recognized as stuttering or stammering. Stuttered speech can include the repetition of words or parts of words, or, extending speech sounds.

The first question the parent asks is “is this normal?” The second question is “where do I go to make sure this is not a long-term problem?”

Child with speech therapistA young child beginning to develop their language skills may temporarily stutter. Learning to communicate through speech presents challenges to children as their speaking skills are trying to catch up with the speed of their mind and sometimes lack of personal patience. While most stuttering is outgrown, a stutter can continue into adulthood. Here are some considerations, as stated in the A Guide for Parents of Children Who Stutter:

  • When the child involuntarily prolongs sounds, is unable to produce certain sounds, or repeats a sound, we can say he or she is at risk for stuttering. Stuttering will usually begin between the ages of three and six. Onset is usually gradual but may be quite sudden.
  • At the time most children are developing complex speech and language skills, a lot is happening. It is a difficult process. They may repeat words and phrases and use many “ands” while they are formulating a sentence. This type of behavior is normal.
  • If the majority of your child’s “stutterings” are part-word repetitions (Mo-mo-mommy), if many of them consist of three or more repetitions per sound, (e.g., b-b-b-ball), if you child prolongs sounds for more than a second or so (ssssssoup), or shows signs of struggling to “get his words out,” we can start thinking in terms of the child’s “stuttering,” and begin to formulate what to do about it.

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A Speech-Language Pathologist Should Be Engaged to Diagnose and Treat Developmental Apraxia of Speech

There is a difference between a language disorder and a speech disorder. A child with a language disorder may have difficulty understanding what another person is saying or is not understood by others because they have difficulty expressing their thoughts. Development Apraxia of SpeechApraxia of Speech is an example of a speech disorder.

Developmental apraxia of speech (DAS), also known as childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), occurs in children and is present from birth. It is usually detected around 2 years of age when speech development appears to be delayed. A child’s speech may be unintelligible and sound like ‘babbling’ or jargon. The child may show symptoms by having difficulty saying what he or she wants to say correctly and consistently. However, DAS is not due to simply weakness or a paralysis of the speech muscles. The child will generally not have trouble chewing or biting down on objects.

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A Lateral Lisp May Not Be Recognized by the Child With The Lisp

A  lisp in a child can be developmental or from incorrect placement of the tongue on the roof of the mouth, such as a lateral lisp.  A lateral lisp is caused by the child directing air flow down the sides of the tongue rather than directly down the middle of the tongue.  This causes the pronunciation of the letters  ‘S’ and ‘Z’ to be muffled or slushy.

Father reading with daughterWhat may not be obvious to the parent is that the child with a lisp does not perceive themselves as speaking differently from the children or adults around them. Therefore, waiting for the child to “grow out of it”  is not advisable, because children very rarely outgrow a ‘lateral’ lisp. The longer a child continues to pronounce words incorrectly, the more difficult it can be to correct the problem as the child grows older.

The result of waiting too long can be especially problematic as the child enters school. The child has the probability of being teased by peers and will not understand why. The child will perceive themselves as speaking flawlessly.

Beth Fine, of Fine Communication in Manhattan, New York, New York, had a young patient that, as an 8th grade student, had her dreams of having leading roles in school plays shattered because of her lateral lisp. She did not perceive her speech to be any different from her peers. With speech therapy, the student became aware of correct tongue placement and corrected her lisp in  a relatively short period of time. Now a college student, she speaks in front of large groups of people and has chosen to be a mentor to other girls.

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Early Evaluation of a Child’s Communication Development is Critical

The ability to communicate is essential to a person’s life. The development of communication skills develop early in life when we are children. According to the National Institute of Health in an article called Speech and Language Developmental Milestones, “the first 3 years of life, when the brain is developing and maturing, is the most intensive period for acquiring speech and language skills.”

sad child

Early detection of any communication impairment in a child is critical because the ability to communicate is essential to learning. In Frequently Asked Questions: Speech and Language Disorders in the School Setting, the question is asked “How may a speech-language disorder affect school performance?”  The answer is “Children with communication disorders frequently do not perform at grade level. They may struggle with reading, have difficulty understanding and expressing language, misunderstand social cues, avoid attending school, show poor judgment, and have difficulty with tests.”  Deficits and delays in speech and language skills can negatively impact the normal progression of learning skills.

If you suspect your child may have a delay in communication development, an evaluation will provide valuable information. It is never too early to have your child evaluated. For children as young as 12-15 months, an evaluation can ease concerns and provide a base-line for follow-up visits to ensure continued progress.

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