How to Help Children with Speech Difficulties

With the arrival of our newest team members and speech pathology services, it’s important to discuss what’s considered as a speech difficulty, what exactly is speech pathology, and how a speech pathologist can help.

Let’s begin with a little background.

Speech, language and communication are quite similar, however, they have unique meanings. When defining ‘speech’ we refer to talking; that is, using our tongue, lips, jaw and vocal tract to produce the recognisable sounds we use to speak. ‘Language’ on the other-hand refers to the actual words we use and how we use them to convey and understand information. This includes knowing what words mean, creating new words for different meanings, and putting words together to make sentences and stories. Finally, ‘communication’ involves both speech and language - it is the exchange of information, ideas and needs between two or more individuals. Communication can be conveyed in different ways, such as speaking, writing, gesturing, and facial expressions.

What are some things that usually bring clients in to see our speech pathologists?

Speech is also referred to as ‘articulation’ or ‘intelligibility’ - it describes how accurately individuals produce speech sounds. Typically someone with a speech difficulty has trouble producing specific sounds, patterns of words, or intelligibility. Although more commonly presented early on in childhood, speech difficulties are not limited to children, as adults can also experience such problems.

So what are some red flags to look out for in your child's communication development?

  • If you or others have difficulty understanding their speech

  • Your child has difficulty following instructions or understanding new information

  • You often have to repeat or rephrase information or instruction to them

  • Their vocabulary and/or ability to form sentences and tell stories seems less developed than other children of the same age

  • They repeat sounds and words over and over, or make prolonged sounds within words (eg; stuttering)

  • Your child speaks either very loudly, very softly, or with a harsh or husky voice and these characteristics are of concern to you or your child

There are several factors that may cause child communication difficulties. Evidence suggests that children with a family history of speech, language and literacy difficulties are more likely to present with similar symptoms. Other children may present with communication impairments due to certain developmental diagnoses, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, developmental delay, and intellectual disabilities. However, some children may present with communication difficulties with no underlying family history or developmental disorders. The good news is, a speech pathologist can help!

What is a Speech Pathologist and how can they help, you may ask?

Speech pathologists work with people of all ages to assess, diagnose and treat communication difficulties, such as difficulties with speaking, using and understanding language, reading and writing, social communication skills, stuttering and using voice. Speech pathologists also assist people who have difficulties eating and drinking safely and effectively.

A speech pathologist can support you or your child in the following areas;

  • Speech delays and disorders: Articulation an producing speech sounds

  • Expressive and receptive language: Using and understanding language to participate in exchanging information, ideas and needs

  • Augmentative and alternative communication: Using pictures, communication boards and/or assistive devices to support communication

  • Fluency: Controlling and reducing stuttering

  • Feeding and swallowing: Support infants, children and adults who have difficulty eating, drinking and participating in mealtimes

  • Pre-literacy and literacy skills: Reading, writing and spelling skills

  • Voice: Managing loudness, pitch and quality of voice

  • Cognitive-communication disorders: Organising thoughts, planning, attention, memory and problem solving

  • Social communication disorders: Communicating for social purposes, adapting communication according to social context, and following communication rules

In the social world we live in, it’s important to be able to feel comfortable and confident speaking to others. Relationships are important and they build from a young age. It is therefore important for your child to be able to have a good head start!

To find out more about our speech pathology services or book an appointment with one of our speech pathologists, give our team a call on (03) 9882-8874.