10 Ways a Speech-Language Pathologist Can Help Your Child
WRITTEN BY:Katie Yeh
Speech-Language Pathologist. Speech Pathologist. Speech Teacher. Known by many names, people refer to these specialists most often as speech therapists. They work with children with a variety of delays and disorders spanning from mild articulation delays to more complex disorders such as autism, Down syndrome, hearing impairment, motor speech disorders, and other developmental delays.
SLP’s, as they are called for short, are the specialists that help your child with speech, talking and communication. However you may be surprised at how broad this field of speech-language pathology really is and just how many skill areas SLPs are trained to build and expand in young children.
An SLP can help your child with…
1. Articulation Skills/Speech Intelligibility
Articulation is the physical ability to move the tongue, lips, jaw and palate (known as the articulators) to produce individual speech sounds which we call phonemes. For example, to articulate the /b/ sound, we need to inhale, then while exhaling we need to turn our voice on, bring our slightly tensed lips together to stop and build up the airflow, and then release the airflow by parting our lips.
Intelligibility, refers to how well people can understand your child’s speech. If a child’s articulation skills are compromised for any reason, his intelligibility will be decreased in compared to other children his age. SLP’s can work with your child to teach them how to produce the specific speech sounds or sound patterns that he is having difficulty with, and thus increasing his overall speech intelligibility.You can read more about articulation development and delays here.
2. Expressive Language Skills
While speech involves the physical motor ability to talk, language is a symbolic, rule governed system used to convey a message. In English, the symbols can be words, either spoken or written. We also have gestural symbols like shrugging our shoulders to indicate “I don’t know” or waving to indicate “Bye Bye” or the raising of our eye brows to indicate that we are surprised by something.
Expressive language then, refers to what your child says. Speech-language pathologists can help your child learn new words and how to put them together to form phrases and sentences (semantics and syntax) so that your child can communicate to you and others. You can read more about the difference between speech and language here.
3. Receptive Language/Listening Skills
Receptive language, refers to your child’s ability to listen and understand language. Most often, young children have stronger receptive language skills (what they understand) than expressive language skills (what they can say). An SLP can help teach your child new vocabulary and how to use that knowledge to follow directions, answer questions, and participate in simple conversations with others.
4. Speech Fluency/Stuttering
Stuttering is a communication disorder that affects speech fluency. It is characterized by breaks in the flow of speech referred to as disfluencies and typically begins in childhood. Everyone experiences disfluencies in their speech. Some disfluencies are totally normal but having too many can actually significantly affect one’s ability to communicate.
In stuttering, we most often see the following types of primary behaviors: repetitions, prolongations, interjections, and blocks. We may also see secondary behaviors, typically in more severe cases of stuttering such as tension in the neck, shoulders, face, jaw, chest; eye blinks, nose flaring, other odd facial movements; clenched fists, stomping of feet; jerking or other unusual motor movements in arms, hands, legs, feet.
SLPs can teach your child strategies on how to control this behavior and thus increasing his speech fluency and intelligibility. You can read more about stuttering Here.
5. Voice and Resonance
Voice disorders refer to disorders that effect the vocal folds that allow us to have a voice. These can include vocal cord paralysis, nodules or polyps on the vocal folds, and other disorders that can cause hoarseness or aphonia (loss of voice). You can learn more about voice disorders on American Speech-Language Hearing Association’s website.
Resonance refers to “the quality of the voice that is determined by the balance of sound vibration in the oral, nasal, and pharyngeal cavities during speech. Abnormal resonance can occur if there is obstruction in one of the cavities, causing hyponasality or cul-de-sac resonance, or if there is velopharyngeal dysfunction (VPD), causing hypernasality and/or nasal emission.” You can read more about Resonance Disorders in this article by Ann M. Kummer in the ASHA Leader Online.
A common voice disorder in young children is hoarseness caused by vocal abuse. Vocal abuse refers to bad habits that lead to strain or damage of the vocal folds such as yelling, excessive talking, coughing, throat clearing, etc. Speech-language pathologists with experience in voice and resonance disorders can work with children to decrease these behaviors and repair the strain/damage of the folds.
6. Social/Pragmatic Language
Social/ pragmatic language refers to the way an individual uses language to communicate and involves three major communication skills: using language to communicate in different ways(like greeting others, requesting, protesting, asking questions to gain information, etc), changing language according to the people or place it is being used (i.e. we speak differently to a child than we do to an adult; we speak differently inside vs. outside), and following the rules for conversation (taking turns in conversation, staying on topic, using and understanding verbal and nonverbal cues, etc).
SLPs can work with your child to teach them these social language skills so that they can more appropriate;y participate n conversations with others. You can learn more about social/pragmatic language on the American Speech-Language Hearing Association’s (ASHA) site.
7. Cognitive-Communication Skills
Cognitive-communication disorders refer to the impairment of cognitive processes including attention, memory, abstract reasoning, awareness, and executive functions (self-monitoring, planning and problem solving). These can be developmental in nature (meaning the child is born with these deficits) or can be acquired due to a head injury, stroke, or degenerative diseases. SLPs can work with your child to help build these skills and/or teach your child compensatory methods to assist them with their deficits.
8. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
Augmentative and Alternative Communication, also known simply as AAC, refers to “…all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas.
We all use AAC when we make facial expressions or gestures, use symbols or pictures, or write (ASHA Website). When SLPs are working with children, our number one goal is always communication. Sometimes, a child may have such a severe delay/disorder, that traditional oral speech is not possible or is not practical. In these circumstances, an SLP may work with a child and his family to come up with an AAC system to use instead of, or along side of, speech.
It is very important to note, that these AAC methods are not always used to replace speech. In many circumstances, AAC is used as a bridge to speech. Children can use the AAC methods to communicate while still working on developing speech skills (when appropriate). You can learn more about AAC on ASHA’s site.
9. Swallowing/Feeding Issues
Speech-language pathologists, believe it or not, can be trained in pediatric swallowing and feeding issues in addition to speech and language issues. This is because, as SLPs, they have intimate knowledge of the structures and functions of the oral cavities and beyond. In fact, some SLPs have training in myofunctional disorders including tongue thrust. You can read more about swallowing and feeding disorders on ASHA’s site.
10. Educating and Empowering YOU on how to best help your child
Hands down, the best thing an SLP can do for your child, is to educate you and empower you on how to best help your child. A speech-language pathologist may spend an hour or so a week with your child, but you spend hours and hours a week interacting with your child. You wake your child, get him ready for his day, read to him, talk to him, bathe him, and put him down to sleep at night. It is during these everyday routines that your child is learning the most and is given the most opportunities to communicate.
When you are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and confidence YOU can be the best “speech therapist” your child will ever have. So ask questions, take notes, do the homework, and work closely with your child’s SLP. Together you can make an amazing team and change your child’s life, one word at a time.
Learning About Hearing Aids. The different styles of hearing aids, their benefits and features
How do hearing aids work?Hearing aids are electronic devices that collect sound, amplify it, and direct the amplified sound into the ear. While the style of hearing aid may vary, all hearing aids have similar components:
- A microphone to pick up sound
- An amplifier to make sounds louder
- A receiver (miniature loudspeaker) to deliver the amplified sound into the ear
- Batteries for power
Styles of hearing aids
- In-the-canal (ITC)
- Completely-in-the-canal (CIC)
- In-the-ear (ITE)
- Behind-the-ear (BTE)
Features available in hearing aids
- Automatic volume control means that the hearing aid automatically analyzes incoming sound and amplifies it based on your hearing loss. Soft sounds will be amplified more than loud sounds, allowing all sounds to be comfortable for you. With automatic volume control, you will not need a volume control button or wheel on your hearing aid.
- Directional microphones amplify sounds in front of you and minimize sounds coming from behind. This helps you focus on sound you are most interested in hearing. This technology can also be automated.
- Telephone coils (t-coils) are small coils inside some hearing aids that allow you to hear speech coming from the phone clearly. This feature is also useful with loop listening systems that are used in some large group areas.
- Feedback (whistling) control automatically analyzes feedback from the hearing aid and adjusts the amplification to minimize this unwanted squealing noise.
- Wireless technology. This feature can allow the adjustments (such as volume control and noise programs) that you make on one hearing aid to be automatically made on the other. Also, some hearing aids contain Bluetooth technology that allows users to hear their cell phones or radio signals directly in their hearing aids. This is great for clearer listening of these devices.
- Listening programs allow you to adjust the hearing aid for different listening environments and needs.
- Remote control. This feature allows you to adjust the hearing aids using a small handheld device.
Lifestyle and Communication NeedsWhen considering the type of hearing aids or features you will need, the audiologist will want to know about your lifestyle and activities. For example, do you…
- Work or stay home?
- Attend meetings, conferences, plays, movies, concerts, or worship services?
- Communicate in mostly one-on-one situations or mostly in large or small groups?
- Participate in sports?
- Enjoy watching TV, talking on the phone, or traveling in the car?
Because hearing aids are so small, your audiologist will also consider your ability to see and handle them.
After your hearing is tested, the audiologist will:
- Carefully explain your test results
- Ask you about your lifestyle and listening demands
- Describe the various styles and features available and what would be most appropriate for you
- Schedule you to return in 1 or 2 weeks for a hearing aid fitting, programming, and orientation
- Provide a copy of your test results
- Discuss the costs and possible available funding sources
- Provide a written contract that includes how much your hearing aids will cost and how much you will be charged for the fitting and follow-up fees. The contract should also provide a good description of the services that are included, as well as the date of purchase.
On the day you pick up your hearing aids, your audiologist will:
- Check to ensure that your hearing aids fit comfortably
- Evaluate your hearing aids to be sure they are set (programmed) for your hearing needs
- Show you how to insert and remove your hearing aids
- Teach you how to insert and remove the batteries and clean and care for your hearing aids
- Teach you how to use your hearing aid on the phone
- Discuss hearing assistive technology that may be helpful to you
- Schedule you to return for a follow-up visit
For more information about hearing loss, hearing aids, or referral to an ASHA-certified audiologist, contact:
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
2200 Research Boulevard
Rockville, MD 20850
Audiology Information Series © ASHA 2015
Occupational Therapy for Kids- Importance and Benefits
The early years of a child’s life are very crucial as in those years the cognitive, social, and physical development of the child takes place. The first 3 years are especially very critical because the brain evolves during this duration. But, not every kid successfully passes through these developmental milestones. There are some of them who do not mature as they should, and have restricted or delayed progression or advancement. If a child faces these problems and needs support to develop optimally, then occupational therapy may be of immense help. Not many know the fact that the therapy is not just for adults, but kids too. With the help of Occupational therapy, kids can have enhanced development, improved cognitive and communication skills, and minimized developmental delay. The therapy is carried out according to the child’s disability or condition. The practitioners evaluate the kid and then set out a therapy procedure to improve the processing and enable new learning.
There are several procedures that are used, and a lot of importance is associated with the therapy. Let’s discuss in details when does a child need occupational therapy, the benefits of the therapy, and some activities that can help the child lead a normal life.
Benefits Of Occupational Therapy For Children
Kids occupational therapy has numerous benefits. The therapy is used for a wide range of diseases and disorders and prepares the kids to lead healthy and normal life. Some of the benefits are as follows.
General Activities of Daily Life:
The list starts with providing aid to the young ones facing difficulties in daily activities like brushing, dressing, toileting, writing, drawing, etc. The therapy helps develop these self-help skills in the children.
Sensory Processing Issues:
It is generally observed that children with sensory processing issues are unable to synthesize information in the basic five senses i.e. sight, smell, touch, hear, and taste. These children may experience over-sensitivity, under-sensitivity, or both at different places like school, home, or anywhere. These kids often feel difficulty in paying attention and get distracted by a loud fire alarm and other such things. They also try to avoid recess and activities going on around them. Occupational therapy can help those young ones regain the skills and addresses the issue in a proper manner.
Kids with Cerebral Palsy:
The occupational therapy is also beneficial for the ones suffering from cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and other disorders in which the kid needs a wheelchair. The OT practitioner teaches the kid to use the wheelchair in a proper manner and come for the lunch, make for the class on time, get things out from their locker, and more.
Kids with Autistic Spectrum Disorder:
The disease autism and SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) are somewhat related but are not same. Kids with SPD may not suffer from autism, but the reverse may be true. The kid suffering from SPD has trouble communicating other people, limited play skills, less interest in activities, etc. The occupational therapy practitioner can help gain these skills by observing the child’s behavior and developing a plan for them. The OT uses different sets of methods and plans, and there is no such single ideal program. These may include activities to help with interaction, puzzles to develop coordination and awareness and more.
Fine and Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor skill involves the movement of muscles in arms, legs, etc. whereas fine muscle skills involve the use of small muscles in forearm and fingers. Kids having trouble with these skills may experience difficulty in walking, bicycling, and other. Occupational therapy can be used to deal with the condition and eventually eradicate it.
Occupational Therapy Activities for Kids
There are a number of activities that can be arranged for children with several diseases depending on the condition. The therapy can be conducted in several places like hospital, home, schools, clinic, specialized center, etc. It is designed differently for kids of various age group.
For Toddlers and Infants:
The infants generally face trouble sleeping at night. The common exercises that are included are bath time activities, providing gentle massage, sand and water therapy, feeding therapy, activities using specialized toys to make them deal with light and sound, olfactory input activities, etc.
Sensory Integration Activities
These activities help child response more actively and accurately to the environment. The activities are designed in such a way that it creates a deep pressure on the child. These can be active or passive. You can create soft corners in the room using soft furnishing like a bean bag which provides a wonderful deep pressure with a calming effect. Another thing you can do is let him lie down on a mat or bed and cover him with blankets and pillows to develop pressure. Or, give them stress ball to squeeze, chew toys, etc.
These are designed for the child’s legs and arms so that they can work in an effective way. These are basically divided into two broad categories: bilateral and hand-eye coordination skills. For hand-eye coordination, ask your child to hit a ball with a bat, catch a ball, etc. Bilateral activities provide the ability to use both sides of the body in an accurate manner. You can ask your child to roll out pastry sheets from a play dough, ask them to pull a rope hand-over-hand, etc.
Visual Perception Activities
These activities help the child understand the information send by eyes to the brain. For form constancy and to help them understand shapes put objects on a tray and ask your child to recognize them. You can also use any object at home for this activity. Use books to teach them different fonts and same alphabets of different size to enhance their abilities. Ask your child to draw shapes, lines, alphabets, etc. You can also use jigsaw puzzle to aid development process.
Activities for Fine and Gross Motor Skills
Fine motor skills are required for those who have trouble using a hand, fingers, and forearm properly. The basic therapy includes simple exercises of arms, wrist, fingers, etc., so that they can perform regular work like holding a pencil with ease. Give them safety scissors and ask them to cut out shapes from the paper. For gross motor skills, help your child with core and shoulder activities. These activities may include swimming, hopscotch, wheelbarrow walking, walking over an unstable surface, etc.
Other activities involved in occupational therapy with kids that could keep them involved and improve their development process are: painting with pom-pom balls, making a playdough puzzle, smash the dough or cut out shapes from it, place a coin in a container, etc.