Let’s talk speech!

Speech therapy is a helpful intervention for children who struggle with speaking. It aims to improve their communication skills and to overcome the challenges that arise from speech impediments. The goals of speech therapy include enhancing pronunciation, strengthening the muscles utilized in speech, and learning to speak properly.

Speech therapy can address a wide range of speech problems and disorders, ranging from minor issues like a hoarse voice to partial loss of speech caused by brain damage. Depending on the nature of the disorder, other medical or psychological treatments may also be employed.

Speech therapy can treat language disorders, speech disorders, voice and swallowing problems.

Cognitive communication disorder refers to any condition or injury that hinders a person’s ability to mentally process their communication with others. Conditions such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders can all be classified as cognitive communication disorders since they negatively impact the mental facets of verbal communication, including memory, processing, and attention span. Difficulties associated with cognitive communication disorders can include challenges with attention, memory, organization, problem-solving, reasoning, and executive functions.

Common symptoms that may indicate a cognitive-communication disorder entail your child possibly:

  • Having difficulty maintaining regular normal sleep and wake cycles
  • Experiencing a decline in established social or language skills (in one or both of their languages)
  • Struggling to pay attention in school or at home
  • Forgetting things often or have difficulty remembering basic information (birthday, home address, and so on)
  • Having problems organizing themselves at school or completing projects at home
  • Exhibiting sudden shifts in personality

If your child experiences a marked decline in their cognitive and communications skills, see a specialist right away. Reach out to us anytime for a free consultation.

You should reach out to a speech therapist if you have any of the following concerns for your child:

  • Speech Delays
  • Developmental Delays
  • Articulation Concerns
  • Difficulty during mealtimes
  • Difficulty with eating and swallowing
  • Bottle-feeding and breastfeeding trouble
  • If you believe your child might present with a tongue or lip tie
  • Therapy Guidance following a Frenulectomy or Frenectomy tongue or lip procedure

It’s important to understand that every child learns language at their own pace. Some children start talking very early on, while others may be quieter but excel at reading from an early age. This is especially true for bilingual children who are learning to speak in two or more languages simultaneously. Therefore, it can be challenging to determine if your child requires pediatric speech therapy. In general, if your child struggles with understanding questions, following instructions, learning new words and phrases, or forming simple sentences, they may have a speech-language disorder. If you have any concerns AT ALL about your child’s speech or language skills schedule a free brief initial phone consultation by contacting us! Please complete the following red flags checklist and have it handy during the consultation.

Red Flags Checklist

The ins and outs of Speech & Language

Language is a system of communication that we learn to use in order to express our ideas, wants, and needs. It encompasses both spoken (listening and speaking) and written (reading and writing) forms, as well as other symbol systems such as American Sign Language.

Children acquire language and speech skills by actively listening to the language spoken around them and then practicing what they hear. Through this process, they gradually understand the rules and patterns of the language code. Language learning is a gradual process that occurs over time rather than an instantaneous one.

Speech is the spoken form of language.

Speech delays refer to a delay in the development or use of speech mechanisms by young children. Speech delays can manifest in a child’s expression of language, a child’s understanding of language, or a child’s pronunciation of language.

The first few years of life are extremely crucial for learning speech and language. Even a minor hearing loss can prevent children from understanding the speech and language around them and can lead to significant developmental delays.
Therefore, parents should ensure that their children receive regular hearing evaluations from an audiologist who is certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), especially if there is a history of ear infections, frequent colds, upper respiratory infections, or allergies.

Language disabilities can often occur without any known physical cause. However, there can be instances where there is a physical cause for the disability.

Sometimes children may not be exposed to enough language to learn language rules. Other times, children may not have an opportunity to talk because their parents respond to gestures instead of speech. However, most language disabilities occur without a known cause.

As a parent, there are many ways to assist your child in developing their language skills. The simplest and most effective way is to engage in conversations with them and read to them regularly. Encouraging them to communicate without putting pressure on them to speak is also beneficial. You can make the process enjoyable by turning it into a game or activity. If you require more advice on how to support your child’s expressive language development, please contact our office to schedule a free consultation.

It can be immensely helpful to seek the assistance of a speech-language pathologist who specializes in child development. This professional can evaluate your child’s language development, create a structured language learning plan, and implement it through individual or small group sessions. With a master’s or doctoral degree, certification from ASHA, and state licensed, a speech-language pathologist can also guide parents on how they can support their child’s language development.

Social pragmatic language skills are the skills we use in our everyday interactions with others. These skills encompass how we express ourselves verbally, as well as nonverbal cues like body language and eye contact. The ability to use pragmatic language is vital for expressing our thoughts, feelings, and ideas to others appropriately. Individuals who struggle with pragmatic language skills may find it challenging to express themselves or understand the intentions behind others’ communication. Some difficulties may include:

  • Responding to questions
  • Using gestures (waving, pointing, etc.)
  • Taking turns when talking
  • Talking about their emotions or feelings
  • Staying on topic
  • Using different words for different purposes
  • Addressing authority figures (teachers, doctors, etc.) in a polite and appropriate manner

Individuals who struggle with social-pragmatic difficulties can benefit immensely from pragmatic language therapy. This therapy can help them become more aware of social situations, learn to interpret social cues accurately and respond in a socially appropriate manner. Additionally, certain individuals may also benefit from learning strategies that can improve their working memory, mental flexibility, impulsivity, and ability to plan, organize, and manage time.

Stuttering is a speech disorder that is characterized by the repetition of sounds, syllables, or words, prolongation of sounds, and interruptions in speech known as blocks. Individuals who stutter know exactly what they would like to say, but they have trouble producing a normal flow of speech. These speech disruptions may be accompanied by struggle behaviors, such as rapid eye blinks or tremors of the lips.

There is still no definitive answer to the question of what causes stuttering. It may vary from person to person, or it may only occur when several factors are combined. Additionally, what triggers stuttering may be quite distinct from what exacerbates or prolongs it. Some possible factors that may contribute to stuttering include poor coordination of the speech muscles, the speed of
language development, the way parents and others communicate with the child, as well as other types of communication and life stressors.

Stuttering typically begins at a very early age (usually between 2 and 5 years), but will occasionally appear for the first time in a school-age child.

You should seek a professional evaluation if your child stutters. Most children outgrow it, but early treatment can prevent chronic stuttering.

It’s possible that children may not be aware that they are speaking nonfluently. In such cases, it’s important not to draw attention to their speech pattern. Avoid saying things like “stop and start over,” “Think before you talk,” “Talk slower,” or “Cat got your tongue?” Instead, it’s important to listen patiently and carefully to what the child is saying, and not focus on how it is being said.

Articulation is the process by which sounds, syllables, and words are formed when your tongue, jaw, teeth, lips, and palate alter the air stream coming from the vocal folds.

A person experiences an articulation problem when they are unable to correctly produce sounds, syllables, or words, resulting in listeners being unable to understand what is being said or focusing more on the way the words sound rather than their meaning.

Most errors fall into one of three categories – omissions, substitutions, or distortions. An example of an omission is “at” for “hat” or “oo” for “shoe.” An example of a substitution is the use of /w/ for /r/,
which makes “rabbit” sound like “wabbit,” or the substitution of /th/ for /s/ so that “sun” is pronounced “thun.” When the sound is said inaccurately, but sounds something like the intended sound, it is called a distortion.

Articulation problems can arise due to physical causes like hearing loss, cerebral palsy, or cleft palate. Dental issues can also contribute to such difficulties. However, a significant proportion of articulation problems occur in the absence of any physical disability and may be the result of an incorrect acquisition of speech sounds.

Children should be able to appropriately produce all the sounds of English by 8 years of age.

As a child grows, their speech pattern typically becomes more intelligible. However, some children may require specific training to eliminate any articulation errors. The answer to whether or not a child needs training will depend on their individual speech pattern.

One way to help a child learn proper pronunciation is to lead by example. Avoid interrupting or constantly correcting the child, and don’t allow others to tease or mock them – even friends and relatives. Instead, demonstrate the correct way to pronounce words by using them correctly with emphasis. For instance, if the child says, “That’s a big wabbit,” you could respond, “Yes, that is a big rabbit. A big white rabbit. Would you like to have a rabbit?”

No. Accents refer to the way a person sounds while dialects are the way that accent combines with the specific grammar of that person. Although the English language is known as one singular language, it can be divided into different dialects. General American English (GAE) or Standard American English (SAE) is the mainstream English language that many Americans think of. However, there are other dialects such as African-American English (AAE) which is the primary language spoken in many communities in the United States. It is important to note that heavy dialects could lead to the misdiagnosis of an articulation disorder. Therefore, it is imperative that speech-language pathologists (SLPs) take into account the cultural and linguistic background of their clients when assessing and treating articulation disorders.

There is no magic answer, but understanding whether the communication patterns of a person require speech therapy depends in part on the goals. If the goal is to enter media, acting, or another avenue of public speaking, it might be expected that a certain dialect is spoken. If you’re just worried, though, whether or not your 8-year-old is being understood by his teachers, try the following:

  • Find an SLP who is extremely competent in the studies of dialects.
  • Look for an SLP who is aware of cultural differences that affect speech therapy environments.
  • If your child is bilingual, make sure the SLP is evaluating your child with a thorough history of family speech patterns and accounts for the influence of both languages.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch…what about feeding?

Pediatric feeding disorders, which are also referred to as avoidant or restrictive food intake disorders, occur when a child limits the amount or type of food they eat, or even avoids eating altogether. These disorders are quite common during childhood, affecting approximately one in four children at some point during their growth, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center (2023). Children with developmental disabilities are at a much higher risk of developing feeding disorders, with up to eight out of ten children experiencing such disorders (University of Rochester Medical Center, 2023). If left untreated, feeding disorders can lead to serious developmental delays. The child may grow slowly, fail to gain weight, and even experience social isolation if they cannot participate in social activities involving food and eating.

There are several signs that could indicate a feeding disorder, which all parents should be aware of. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Frequent coughing, choking, or gagging
  • Wet or gurgly breathing sounds
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Messy and/or unusually noisy feeding
  • Gagging on relatively small food portions
  • Consistent picky eating resulting in a very limited diet
  • Difficulty eating and touching a variety of textures
  • Difficulty eating age-appropriate foods
  • Chewing or biting difficulties
  • Difficulty drinking from a cup
  • Holding and pocketing foods

If your child is exhibiting any of these symptoms, is underweight, or requires dietary supplements, it may be an indication of a feeding disorder. Further, it is important to be aware that if your child consistently refuses to eat certain foods for more than a month, a feeding deficit may be present. In such cases, it is recommended that you get in touch with us for a free consultation to receive further advice and assistance.

Feeding therapy is a process where a qualified occupational or speech therapist helps a child learn how to eat or improve their eating skills. It involves a sensory-motor approach tailored to the child’s specific needs, which could be sensory, motor, or both. The therapist works on identifying and addressing the underlying barriers that prevent the child from eating an age-appropriate meal.

Feeding therapy is crucial for the healthy growth of toddlers facing any feeding or swallowing difficulties. The primary aim of pediatric feeding therapy is to establish strong, healthy eating habits and encourage children to enjoy regular mealtimes. By expanding your child’s diet, feeding therapy enables them to eat a broad range of foods, which, in turn, improves their nutrition intake and lowers the risk of malnutrition. Good nutrition is fundamental to the healthy growth and development of children of all ages, and establishing healthy eating habits is the primary goal of swallowing and feeding therapy. Pediatric feeding and swallowing therapy also instill confidence and self-esteem. As food is an essential part of many social events, both for toddlers and adults, children who cannot eat correctly also struggle to socialize. Hence, the core objective of pediatric feeding therapy is to build confidence and enable your child to participate in food-based social activities.

What is Occupational Therapy all about?

For children and youth, occupations refer to activities that help them learn and develop essential life skills. School activities are crucial for academic growth, while play is essential for creativity, enjoyment, and physical coordination. Self-care and caring for others are also crucial for

thriving. Activities like play help children develop emotional maturity, social skills, and self-confidence, enabling them to explore new experiences and environments. Occupational therapy is a recommended intervention that assists children in becoming more independent in these areas. The interventions are based on a thorough understanding of typical development and how disability, illness, and impairment can impact a child’s development, play, learning, and overall

Executive functioning is the process whereby the brain filters out distractions, controls base impulses, and focuses on a specific task or set of tasks. Executive functioning skills are the mental processes we use to plan, focus, remember orders or instructions, pay attention to things, and multitask. Fun fact: whenever you put your mind to something in order to achieve your goals, you use executive function skills! A child experiencing executive function difficulties may have a hard time focusing, following directions, and regulating their mood and emotions, among other difficulties.

Therapists generally recognize seven distinct executive functions:

  • Self-awareness
  • Inhibition
  • Non-verbal working memory
  • Verbal working memory
  • Emotional self-regulation
  • Self-motivation
  • Planning and problem-solving

Here are some symptoms to watch for in your child:

  • Trouble paying attention
  • Limited inhibitory control
  • Trouble organizing and planning simple tasks
  • Cannot shift from one task to another
  • Difficulty producing ideas and putting them into words
  • Forgetting homework often
  • Trouble starting homework independently
  • Difficulty estimating how long a task will take
  • Gets easily distracted
  • Has trouble remembering names and key details
  • Trouble listening to and following instructions
  • Cannot easily transition between different tasks

It is important to keep in mind that experiencing any of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that your child has an executive function disorder. However, it is crucial to be aware of these signs and symptoms. The earlier parents can recognize them, the sooner they can seek an evaluation and provide their child with the appropriate treatment.

An occupational therapy evaluation may be beneficial if your child:

  • Seeks sensory input (e.g. increased need for physical play, toe-walking, difficulty understanding physical boundaries with peers or adults)
  • Avoids sensory input (e.g. covers ears, avoids clothing textures, distressed when hands or body gets messy)
  • Demonstrates difficulty completing two-handed tasks or difficulty manipulating small toys
  • Has messy handwriting or demonstrates difficulty holding a crayon or pencil
  • Demonstrates a decreased attention span, increased impulsivity, or difficulty sitting still
  • Falls down often or frequently bumps into objects
  • Requires increased time to complete simple tasks
  • Demonstrates difficulty transitioning, inflexible thinking, or decreased frustration tolerance.

If you notice any of the aforementioned characteristics in your child, or if you have any concerns or questions, please schedule a free brief initial phone consultation with us. To help us better understand your child’s situation, kindly complete the red flags checklist and have it readily available during the consultation.

Red Flags Checklist

Activities of daily living (ADL) are tasks that we do every day. ADLs are most often actions that we take for granted, like playing with toys, brushing teeth, and dressing independently. However, many children have difficulties completing these activities. Occupational therapists determine the core problems that make the tasks difficult for the child. ADL tasks include:

  • Feeding
  • Grooming
  • Dressing
  • Toileting
  • Sleep
  • Social Participation
  • School Skills