Language Therapy

What Is Speech-Language Therapy?

Speech-language therapy is the treatment for most kids with speech and/or language disorders.

What Are Speech Disorders?

A speech disorder refers to a problem with making sounds. Speech disorders include:

  • Articulation disorders: These are problems with making sounds in syllables, or saying words incorrectly to the point that listeners can't understand what's being said.
  • Fluency disorders: These include problems such as stuttering, in which the flow of speech is interrupted by unusual stops, partial-word repetitions ("b-b-boy"), or prolonging sounds and syllables (sssssnake).
  • Resonance or voice disorders: These are problems with the pitch, volume, or quality of the voice that distract listeners from what's being said. These types of disorders may also cause pain or discomfort for a child when speaking.
What Are Language Disorders?

A language disorder refers to a problem understanding or putting words together to communicate ideas. Language disorders can be either receptive or expressive:

  • Receptive disorders are problems with understanding or processing language.
  • Expressive disorders are problems with putting words together, having a limited vocabulary, or being unable to use language in a socially appropriate way.
  • Cognitive-communication disorders are problems with communication skills that involve memory, attention, perception, organization, regulation, and problem solving.
Who Gives Speech-Language Therapy?

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs), often called speech therapists, are educated in the study of human communication, its development, and its disorders. SLPs assess speech, language, cognitive-communication, and oral/feeding/swallowing skills. This lets them identify a problem and the best way to treat it.

SLPs have:
  • at least a master's degree
  • state certification/licensure in the field
  • a certificate of clinical competency from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)

An ASHA-certified SLP has passed a national exam and completed an ASHA-accredited supervised clinical fellowship.

Sometimes, speech assistants help give speech-language services. They usually have a 2-year associate's or 4-year bachelor's degree, and are supervised by an SLP.

Why Do Some Kids Need Speech-Language Therapy?

Kids might need speech-language therapy for many reasons, including:

  • hearing impairments
  • cognitive (intellectual, thinking) or other developmental delays
  • weak oral muscles
  • motor planning problems
  • articulation problems
  • fluency disorders
  • respiratory problems (breathing disorders)
  • feeding and swallowing disorders
  • traumatic brain injury

Therapy should begin as soon as possible. Children who start therapy early (before they're 5 years old) tend to have better results than those who begin later.

This doesn't mean that older kids won't do well in therapy. Their progress might be slower, though, because they have learned patterns that need to be changed.