A lot of parents look forward to their child’s developmental milestones. There’s nothing like hearing your little ones call out “mama” or “dada” for the first time. These are some of the most precious moments parents live for. But what happens when you suspect your child to have a speech delay at 3 years old or sometime during their formative years?
When it becomes obvious your youngster is falling behind in the speech department, speech therapy should be considered a solution. For those who’ve only heard but don’t really know what this treatment is like, you’re probably wondering what to expect. That’s what we’ll tackle today so you’ll be better equipped to guide your child on their unique developmental journey.
Why Does a Child Need Speech Therapy?
A child could need speech language therapy for reasons that include, but are not limited to:
A child with a fluency disorder tends to have disrupted speed, rhythm, and flow of speech. He or she could stutter words out or clutter them together when speaking.
Stuttering can keep a child from getting the correct sound out and often interrupt or block their speech. It could also cause them to repeat a portion of a word.
On the other hand, cluttering results in fast speech, with words jumbling together in a way that might confuse listeners.
A child who cannot form certain word wounds at an age where he or she is already expected to could have an articulation disorder. Instead of the correct word sounds coming out, your child might add, drop, swap, or distort the sound. As an example of distortion, your little one could say “tho” instead of “so”.
This occurs when something obstructs or blocks the natural flow of air in the oral or nasal cavities, effectively altering the vibration that determines voice quality. It can also occur when the velopharyngeal valve is unable to close properly. For example, a child with a cleft palate, swollen tonsil, or neurological disorder tends to experience a resonance disorder.
One of the worst things in the world for a parent is to see his or her child desperately trying to express something yet be unable to do so successfully. This difficulty in conveying information is known as an expressive language disorder.
A child who has this condition might have trouble forming sentences accurately. He or she might also have some kind of developmental disability, such as autism and hearing loss, which are often associated with expressive disorders.
The difficulty to express oneself wholeheartedly may also stem from a past traumatic experience or an underlying medical condition.
A child who is already supposed to understand and process certain words and phrases easily yet is struggling to do so could have a receptive disorder. To a listener who doesn’t know any better, he or she could perceive this as being brushed off or ignored.
A child suffering from this condition might seem uninterested in what you have to say, have a limited vocabulary, and have trouble following instructions. A receptive disorder tends to come with other language disorders, Down syndrome, head trauma, and hearing impairment.
Respiratory problems, chronic hoarseness, motor planning issues, weak oral muscles, and developmental delays also can result in speech and language issues that a speech language pathologist can only address.
When you notice or suspect signs of these disorders, don’t waste time getting in touch with a professional. You want to make sure there is no delay in therapy since the sooner it starts, the better the results will be for the long term.
What Happens During Speech Therapy for Toddlers
Most of the time, speech therapy commences with an evaluation by a speech language pathologist. This professional assesses the type of disorder your child has and finds the best treatment course for it.
Once that’s done, the therapist decides if a classroom, small-group, or one-on-one setting is ideal. The activities and exercises depend on the child’s disorder, age, and specific needs. When administering therapy, the speech language pathologist could:
- use books, pictures, and other objects as a form of language intervention and interact verbally or through play to stimulate the development of language
- use an accurate sound and syllable model during age-appropriate activities to help the child learn sounds he or she is having difficulty forming
- offer tips and techniques for parents, children, and caregivers on how to provide at-home speech therapy
Should You Get Speech Therapy for Your Child?
Speech delays can either be your child working on his or her own timeline or the result of a more serious issue. Since there’s no way to really know for sure, get in touch with an SLP as soon as you notice your youngster miss the mark on any speech milestone, especially one of the big ones. It could turn out to be nothing; then again, it could also easily turn out to be something. So, our advice is: better safe than sorry.