Speech therapy is a treatment for individuals with speech and language disorders to gain the ability to communicate through speech and language. Speech disorder refers to difficulties in producing words and sounds, whereas a language disorder involves troubles in understanding words and putting together sentences and ideas for communication.
Difficulties in speech and language of children may caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism, developmental delays and hearing impairments. Some children may have troubles in understanding language. Some children are unable to communicate effective due to difficulty with speech despite being able to understand language. Other challenges in other areas of communications like hand gestures and facial expressions are faced by children as well.
The three main areas that speech therapy focuses are comprehension, expression and articulation. For comprehension, the therapy helps children to understand people, places, things with names and complex language as well such as spoken directions, inferred meanings and humor in terms of both verbal and non-verbal language. Besides that, expressive communication are being worked on with the goals of communicating basic wants and needs and being understood through words, signs, pictures or a communication device. As for speech articulation, this form of speech therapy focuses on the sounds rather than the content to help a child to learn the sounds of a language. Speech therapists might use assistive devices such as augmentive and alternative communication (AAC) for any means of communication to assist with speech therapy. This includes using pictures, gestures, sign language, visual aids or speech-output devices like computers.
Methods Speech Therapists use
Speech therapy (or technically Speech Language Pathology) works on a child’s understanding of language and their expression of thoughts and feelings with all of the cognitive aspects of communication, speech and language. Sessions for speech therapy comprise of modelling proper speech and using repetition exercise to improve speech and language.
While motivation can be a roadblock for children, speech games, flash cards, toys, hand puppets and reinforces of all sorts are used to keep sessions on track and encourage children to work harder. A play based approach or books stimulates communication and increase chances of special needs children with global language issues to develop language skills.During play activities, correct pronunciation, articulation and expression will be modelled by therapists to physically show a child how to move their mouths or tongue to create speech properly. In addition, speech therapists may work “inside the mouth” for articulation problems using popsicle sticks, fingers, whistles, straws and other items to help the child gain control over the muscles of the mouth, tongue and throat. For children with severe disabilities, speech therapists guide them through assistive technology, by learning how to use special communication devices, such as a computer with a voice synthesizer, or a special board covered with symbols of everyday objects and activities to which a child can point to express his or her wishes.
There are various ways to encourage speech production and they can accommodate other types of therapeutic systems. However, children who have early intervention will improve enough to not require intervention later in life. Hence, early intervention is the key for improvement as with most other therapies for special needs children.