What is speech and language therapy?
Speech-language therapy is the therapeutic treatment of speech and language difficulties and disorders.
This therapy that helps to prevent, diagnose and/or rehabilitate an individual's speech and language difficulties.
What happens if my child needs speech and language therapy?
Speech and language therapy is provided through a consultative model and therapy input will be agreed according to your child's assessed needs.
We help family members and school staff to develop strategies that they can use to support the child's communication development in all aspects of home and school life.
In many cases the therapist will not work directly with your child but will focus on developing the skills of parents, teachers and carers to enrich the language environments, to encourage and develop talking and learning.
Pre-school and school aged children with speech and language difficulties at a level requiring speech and language therapy input will have an individual play/education plan written by their class teacher.
The speech and language therapist will provide input into this plan as required. This may be through advice on broad strategies or specific tasks to be rehearsed and practiced daily by parents and key workers.
The speech and language therapist will monitor the child's progress and adjust the programme to reflect your child's changing needs.
This approach to therapy will enable your child to develop communication in the most natural and meaningful way in their everyday environment.
How long will my child have speech and language therapy support for?
For many children speech and language therapy is not a cure, as they may have long term communication difficulties.
Children are usually discharged from our service when the therapist feels confident that the child is learning language skills in line with his/her general development and that the recommended environmental strategies to support communication are being used effectively.
The therapist will discuss the discharge process with parents and support staff and agree the procedure for re-assessment or further consultation as appropriate.
This will be confirmed in a written discharge report.
What can parents do?
- Talk to your child and name objects, people, and events in the everyday environment.
- Repeat your child's strings of sounds (for example dadadada or bababa) and add to them. Talk to your child during daily routine activities such as bath or mealtime and respond to his or her questions.
- Get down to your child's level when talking
- Follow your child's lead when playing. Introduce new vocabulary words during holidays and special activities such as outings to the zoo, the park, and so on
- Engage your child in singing, rhyming games, and nursery rhymes.
- Read with your child
- Model back the correct words without pressure for the child to correct themselves.
How will speech-language therapy benefit my child?
The benefit of speech-language therapy for children with communication difficulties are numerous, the main reasons are highlighted below:
- Your child will be easier to understand.
- It will be less frustrating interacting for both parent and child.
- Increased self-esteem.
- Reduction of parent's anxiety
- Better communication at school, resulting in better learning.
- Improved social relationships.
My child often doesn't seem to follow what I'm saying or asking him to do. How do I know if he has a problem with his understanding?
If a child doesn't seem to follow what you say or ask him to do, it could be due to a difficulty with hearing, understanding or attention.
The only way to know which difficulty, or combination of difficulties a child may have is to:
- Investigate if the child has any hearing difficulties, or has a history of ear infections or glue ear. Glue ear can affect the way a child hears speech sounds – some say it can be like listening to someone talking under water. As many as 25 per cent of children can experience some element of hearing loss at some stage due to glue ear or ear infections
- Assess a child's understanding of language to see if it is at a level expected for their age
- Assess a child's level of attention and listening. This is done by observation whilst the child is playing and/or during the assessment of understanding of language
My child can't say some words properly. How do I know if my child's speech errors need therapy or are just part of normal development?
All children make speech errors as they are learning how to talk. Most children tend to make the same types of errors and correct them at about the same ages. However some children don't seem to be able to correct their errors and some make speech errors that don't follow a normal pattern of speech development.
Some children also have speech disorders that are caused by neurological difficulties. Examples are dysarthria and verbal dyspraxia.
A speech and language therapist can assess your child's speech sound system and let you know if their errors are normal for their age or if they would benefit from speech therapy.
Why is early intervention so critical?
Emergent literacy instruction is most beneficial when it begins early in the preschool period because these difficulties are persistent and often affect children's further language and literacy learning throughout the school years. Promoting literacy development, however, is not confined to young children. Older children, particularly those with speech and language impairments, may be functioning in the emergent literacy stage and require intervention aimed at establishing and strengthening these skills that are essential to learning to read and write.
My child has literacy difficulties. Do speech and language therapists help children who are finding it difficult to read and write?
Speech and language therapists can help with phonological awareness skills (sound awareness), which are a pre-requisite for literacy development. Phonological Awareness consists of a child's ability to:
- Recognise and generate rhyme
- Manipulate sounds such as blending, segmenting and deleting sounds
- Segment words into syllables
- Identify the first, middle and last sounds in words
Research suggests a strong link between a child's phonological awareness skills and a child's potential reading development. Consequently the UK's National Curriculum's Literacy Strategy currently focuses on phonological awareness skills in the development of children's reading and writing. There is evidence to suggest that a few hours of phonological awareness training can increase a child's readiness to read by up to two years.
My child's Teacher says that she is disorganised at school, and her behaviour is beginning to be challenging. She says that she would like her to be referred for a speech and language therapy assessment. How can disorganisation and behaviour difficulties be linked to speech and language difficulties?
Behaviour is communication. Often children that are 'acting out' are doing it because they are frustrated. Frustration can be due to difficulties in understanding what is being said to them, and/or difficulties in being able to express their thoughts and feelings. It is actually quite common for children to appear 'naughty' in class when the reason they aren't following the teacher's instructions is simply because they haven't understood what they're being asked to do.
Children can also appear disorganised at school because they aren't sure what they should be doing, or what is expected of them in an activity. They may try and copy other children or simply give a few things a try to see if they can get it right. They may miss important information like knowing what books they need to take home with them, and what activities to do for homework.
My child doesn't seem to be talking the same as other children his age. Is he just a 'late talker' and will catch up in time?
Some children are 'late talkers' and do catch up with other children of their own age, but some don't. It really depends on the child and what type of talking difficulties he/she might be experiencing. If a child isn't communicating at a similar level to his/her peers, it is always best to have the child's communication assessed to see if there are any difficulties that can be helped.