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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How Can the Cause for Vocal Fry be Determined

Vocal Fry is a new trend in speech behavior, primarily among woman. The term ‘Vocal Fry’ stems from the fact that the oral sound is something like the sound of oil frying. Actually, Vocal fry is a low staccato vibration produced by a slow fluttering of the vocal chords.

This is a Vocal Fry Audio example

college girsl speaking in vocal fryIt has typically been a symptom of a voice disorder and not common. For instance, classically-trained singers know a lot about vocal fry because it is something they diligently try to fix if they are experiencing this speech disorder. However, Dr. Reena Gupta has found “relatively normal looking vocal cords” in young woman with this speech behavior.  The majority of women in college may now be using vocal fry in their regular everyday language, according to a recent study.

There are many theories as to why this trend is occurring in such a large demographic. One theory is young woman in college want to sound more forceful as they prepare to enter their careers. Vocal Fry may be an unconscious emulation of the way a man is perceived to sound in a leadership role. Another theory is that the young lady is merely copying the way pop stars speak, such as Britney Spears and Kim Kardashian.

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A Receptive or Expressive Language Disorder May be the Source for a Communication Issue

Communication is conducted primarily through receptive and expressive language skills. The expressive language skill can be summarized by how a person conveys meanings and intentions to another. Receptive language is the process of understanding that which is conveyed to us.

One talking and one listeningAs stated in Receptive vs Expressive Communication, “Expressive language involves making requests, giving information, and labeling things. Expressive language is more difficult because the individual has to recall the word or words they want to communicate and then be able to express. A lack of expressive language skills is often the cause of frustration and behavior in individuals with language disorders.”

The ability to follow directions, socialize and identify items are examples of receptive language. Difficulties in receptive language skills are not always recognized. A receptive language disorder may be overlooked as disagreement to a stated command, when the problem may really be a misunderstanding of the statement that was made.

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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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