Imagine the joy on a child's face when they say clear words that bring a desired response from a caregiver or family member. Maybe it's "MORE" to get more ice cream!
JUMP TO SUMMARY (TLDR)
Now, picture the frustration and confusion a child experiences when words don't come easily. It is frustrating to be unable to tell other people things you want or need. For many children facing speech and language challenges, speech therapy can be key to opening more effective doors of communication.
In this blog post, I'll dive into the topic of speech therapy for kids. I will help you:
Understand what speech and language challenges or deficits could look like
Discuss how speech therapy can benefit little ones
Discuss a few different therapy approaches your speech therapist may use
Suggest how parents can support their child embarking on speech therapy
Understanding Speech and Language Challenges in Children
Speech and language disorders can manifest in various ways, including articulation difficulties, language delays, and fluency disorders like stuttering.
At my therapy clinic, I specialize in just those three types of common communication challenges. Articulation disorders involve difficulty producing certain sounds or system-wide substitutions of one sound for another. Language delays can manifest as a young child not yet talking, or just talking with far fewer words or with shorter sentences than other children their same age. Fluency disorders will interrupt the smoothness of speech and are often characterized by repeated sounds or syllables, prolonged sounds, or blocked speech. These brief descriptions of three common disorders may allow you to recognize potential signs in your child's communication patterns. Online speech therapy for kids can help kids with any of these disorders make progress.
These brief descriptions of three common disorders may allow you to recognize potential signs in your child's communication patterns.
Speech and language challenges can impact a child's overall social and academic development. Your child may struggle to express their thoughts and needs, leading to frustration and isolation. Addressing these challenges through speech therapy as early as possible can help your child overcome barriers and unlock their full potential in various aspects of life.
Recognizing signs that your child may benefit from speech therapy is something a lot of parents wonder about. These signs can include:
Difficulty pronouncing certain sounds
Not yet talking at age three
Trouble following simple directions
Limited vocabulary compared to peers
Repeating sounds while trying to start a word
Speech that is difficult to understand after the age of three.
If you notice any of these signs, it's worth considering an evaluation by a speech therapist who can assess your child's communication skills and determine if therapy is needed. In the meantime, you can also download this free Speech and Language Milestones handout, to see if your child between the ages of one to six is on track with their communication development.
Benefits of Speech Therapy for Kids
Speech therapy for kids focuses on enhancing the child's communication abilities. Some ways the therapist and the child's team make this happen include:
Helping the child develop clearer speech sounds
Expanding the child's vocabulary
Setting the child and their family up on AAC (Alternate or Augmentative Communication)
Improving grammar and sentence structure
Managing a stutter through parent coaching
Through specialized techniques, evidence-based therapy approaches, and speech exercise tasks, speech therapists work with children to improve their specific communication challenges. Children can gain self-confidence when they are empowered with skills to better express their thoughts to other people, whether in playtime with friends or family, in academic settings, or in the community.
Speech therapy is an individualized healthcare or school-based service. After hearing your concerns during a consultation, a speech therapist, or SLP (speech-language pathologist), will recommend either a speech therapy evaluation or suggest a couple of home activities that parents can do on their own. The benefit of a consultation is that you will know if an evaluation is warranted. If so, the SLP will conduct the evaluation, then inform you of the results and create a tailored treatment plan based on your child's specific needs and goals.
After hearing your concerns during a consultation, a speech therapist will recommend either a speech therapy evaluation or suggest a couple of home activities that parents can do on their own.
What's in a treatment plan? A proposed treatment plan at AnetSpeech covers an estimated duration of six months of therapy, the suggested frequency of treatment (how many sessions per week), and suggested goals that target the specific barriers the child experiences. In some cases, one session a week will be recommended, but there are times when more sessions per week are recommended for specific disorders or severity of impairment. The benefit of a treatment plan is that parents can have a better idea of the time and expense commitment that speech therapy for their child may involve.
After the evaluation, your speech therapist will likely have identified one or two treatment approaches they would like to use with your child, so initial therapy focuses on rapport building and exploring these evidence-based treatment approaches to determine which are tolerated best by your child. The benefit of this rapport-building time is that your child will be more likely to engage in the hard work of therapy if they trust their new therapist. And time spent determining the optimal approach for your child blends both evidence-based research approaches with your child’s ability to engage in that approach.
Here's a mini-road map that takes you from parent concern to consultation, all the way to working therapy sessions:
Fine-tune Treatment Approach Selection
Approaches for Speech Therapy for Kids
Different speech disorders benefit from different treatment approaches. For example, therapy for Childhood Apraxia of Speech is best served by motor-planning approaches, such as DTTC (Dynamic Temporal and Tactile Cueing) or ReST (Rapid Syllable Transition Treatment) used for Childhood Apraxia of Speech. On the other hand, if your child's has a phonological impairment they will likely benefit from an approach like Cycles, Minimal Pairs, or other approaches shown to improve phonological disorders. Language intervention strategies for younger children often utilize a parent coaching approach, and once children are old enough to interact directly with the teletherapist, I often move to story or book-based activities, supported by play-based activities.
To further demonstrate how one of these approaches works at AnetSpeech, I'll talk here about a parent coaching model that works as well during teletherapy as an in-person session. I discuss how things went the previous week, demonstrate or discuss a focus technique that targets one of the child’s therapy goals, then provide think time for the parent to determine how and when they can implement the focus technique in the upcoming week. For stuttering in young children I also use a parent coaching approach, as this has been shown to effectively support the young child’s efforts to communicate, while older children are shown specific techniques directly. Speech therapists provide guidance, support, and ongoing assessment to ensure progress and adjust the therapy as needed.
A collaboration approach is also a component of speech therapy for kids. Speech therapists work closely with parents, educators, and other professionals to provide holistic support for your child. We collaborate with you to understand your child's challenges, set realistic goals, and provide strategies for reinforcement at home. Private and school speech therapists can provide home practice activities. Additionally, school speech therapists can coordinate with teachers to incorporate speech therapy techniques into the classroom environment, ensuring consistency and continuity of support across different settings.
How Parents Can Support Their Child’s Speech Therapy
Parents can check in with their child's speech therapist frequently. This will help you know what to expect at home and how to support your child's current skill mastery. A great therapist will also demonstrate how the technique or home practice can actually be done by the parent. Be the parent who sticks around during your child’s teletherapy session. Ideally, as your child gains skills for specific sounds, vocabulary, language grammar, or stuttering techniques, home practice can solidify those skills that are mastered during speech sessions. This is also called 'carryover' because the child carries skills mastered during speech therapy sessions to environments outside of speech time.
Never chastise them for mistakes, but praise them for their effort. Model for them correct productions. For example, if your child says 'I wuv wed cahs,' instead of correcting them or pointing out their articulation errors, you can model the correct production in a friendly, connecting way, by saying something like "Yes, you love red cars!" Your involvement with your child and acceptance of their communication work plays a crucial role in their progress.
A great way to use home speech exercises or activities is to incorporate them into a home routine when that skill will be practiced. It's not necessary or ideal to require practice all throughout the day.
A great way to use home speech exercises or activities is to incorporate them into a home routine when that skill will be practiced.
Parents can incorporate speech homework into their child's day-to-day life. For example, quick speech homework tasks can be added to home routines, such as:
Before or after meals
Routine car trips
Evening book reading
At bath time or teeth brushing
Identifying one or two everyday home situations helps you as a busy parent to more easily remember that you will practice modeling specific skills or your child will practice their speech homework.
An overall suggestion is to surround your child with language and imagination-rich experiences that stimulate their speech and language development. Besides establishing an evening quiet time for joint book reading, parents can sing songs for other routines in the home. Instead of playtime being a tablet or a tv, consider more face-to-face interactions that involve a demonstration of imagination. Use toys to build a castle and then battle a monster to get inside and rescue someone.
Have children help measure ingredients for a home baking project.
Let them join in while you wash your car in the driveway, then turn into a space monster who shoots a huge water pistol at the child earthling, requiring them to say their articulation word of the day five times to stop the water pistol! It does take intentionality, but even busy parents can reinforce the progress made in speech therapy sessions and foster their children's speech development at home.
Regularly incorporating speech skills into home daily activities supports your child's carryover outside of the speech room and their communication skills growth in general.
In this blog post, I've explored the benefits of speech therapy for kids and provided insights into recognizing when your child may need it.
In short, I've:
Highlighted three common communication challenges
Described a few treatment approaches for each of these
Included some tips for parents to use at home after therapy.
Seeking help is not a sign of weakness.
If you have noticed signs or have concerns regarding your child's speech and language development, I encourage you to take the proactive step of setting up a consultation to see if your child needs an evaluation. Remember, seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a proactive measure to empower your child and set them on a path of successful communication. By connecting with a qualified speech therapist you can help your child gain critical skills for life communication. Virtual therapy at AnetSpeech has seen children make progress with articulation disorders, language delays, and stuttering issues. Consultations at AnetSpeech are free and convenient. Consider booking your consultation now.