What is Pediatric Speech Therapy?

Pediatric speech therapy, or speech language pathology, is a form of treatment that encompasses many methods of intervention and focuses on improving a child’s speech and language abilities. Within speech and language pathology, there are major differences between speech and language. Speech refers to the production of sounds and words, while language refers to how we understand and use words in order to communicate with others. How we understand words is referred to as receptive language, while how we use words is referred to as expressive language.

Speech therapy can benefit people of all ages, including children. When it comes to treating children, early identification of a speech and language disorder is key. The earlier you catch a problem, the easier it is to treat. Speech therapists can start working with children from infancy, all the way through to adulthood. Early intervention programs are funded by the state to provide coaching services to support families with children who present with developmental delays between birth- five years old.

If you suspect any issue with your child’s speech development, contact your pediatrician as soon as possible. They will likely have your child’s hearing tested to ensure that your child is hearing language, and then refer you to a speech-language pathologist (SLP) for a speech/language evaluation to further explore your child’s speech and language difficulties. A speech language pathologist (SLP) is a professional who specializes in treating disorders related to communication and swallowing. They treat a variety of issues, including those related to speech production, fluency, feeding and swallowing.

Oftentimes, children demonstrate frustration and inability to communicate wants and needs. With treatment, children can learn how to effectively communicate with adults and with other children in their day to day lives. Through the skilled intervention of a speech therapist, a child can learn how to accurately produce speech sounds, and improve understanding and comprehension of language. They can also improve their ability to produce language and in turn better communicate their wants and needs with those around them.

Ultimately, the goal of pediatric speech therapy is to help children learn to effectively communicate. Whether that’s improving vocabulary to better understand their parents, or learning how to pronounce words better to effectively talk with other children, speech therapy can help your child improve their communication skills.

Does My Child Need Speech Therapy?

Whether or not your child needs speech therapy is determined on a case by case basis. If you think your child is struggling with their speech production or comprehension, get in touchwith our expert pediatric speech pathologists to see how we can help. Speech therapy is often recommended when children have difficulty with either producing or understanding language. In general, if your child is experiencing any of the following issues, they would likely benefit from speech therapy:

  • Childhood Apraxia of Speech – Coordinating movements in the mouth to produce speech
    • Groping/uncoordinated movements in jaw, lips or tongue
    • Vowel distortions
    • Inconsistencies in speech sounds
    • Impaired prosody (rhythm of speech)
    • Limited babbling and delay in first words
  • Dysarthria – Difficulty speaking due to muscle weakness
  • Speech Sound Disorders
    • Articulation – Accurately produce sounds
    • Phonological – Understanding sounds letters make
  • Social Pragmatics – Interacting with peers and adults
    • Decreased language processing
    • Avoids social interactions
    • Difficulty with social behaviors such as eye contact, body language and facial expressions
  • Fluency Disorders – Disorders that cause issues with speech flow, such as stuttering and cluttering
  • Cognitive-communication disorders
    • Problem solving
    • Critical thinking
    • Memory
    • Orientation and attention
  • Expressing Language – Using language to convey meaning and share thoughts, wants, needs, and ideas with others
  • Receptive Language – Understanding what is said to you
    • Identifying objects or pictures
    • Difficulty following directions
    • Understanding gestures
    • Reading comprehension
  • Voice Disorders – Vocal volume, resonance
    • Organic-physiological voice disorders resulting from respiratory, laryngeal or vocal tract alterations
      • Structural disorders may include edema, vocal nodules, changes in larynx due to aging
      • Neurogenic disorders may include vocal fold paralysis or vocal tremors
    • Functional- voice disorders resulting from inefficient use of voice
      • Vocal fatigue
      • Muscle tension dysphonia/aphonia
      • Ventricular phonation
  • Learning Disabilities
    • Reading
    • Writing
    • Spelling
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Augmentative Alternative Communication
    • Low tech- communication boards, visual schedules, Velcro, adaptive materials such as grips, ‘jumbo’ materials, sensory fidgets, etc.
    • Mid-tech- voice amplifier, braille software, adapted switches screen magnifier, etc.
    • High-tech- alerting devices, electronic tables (i.e. iPad), smart board, text to speech, etc.
  • Feeding/Swallowing Disorders
    • Compensatory strategies for safe feeding and swallowing
    • Coughing/choking
    • Structural disorders (cleft lip/palate, tongue-tie, etc.)
  • Oral-Motor muscle weakness

Pediatric Speech Therapy with Niagara Therapy

If your child is struggling with any of the above issues, Niagara Therapy is here to help. Once your child’s pediatrician has sent over a referral, you can schedule a speech and language evaluation here at Niagara Therapy, where a speech therapist will complete testing to determine areas of difficulty. If your child qualifies for speech therapy, we can begin intervention immediately!

We have a strong pediatric team of highly skilled therapists who are trained in many skilled intervention techniques, and offer advanced interventions for assembling thoughts and organizing speech, as well. Our speech therapists are knowledgeable in treating speech-sound disorders, social/pragmatic language disorders, fluency disorders, receptive/expressive language disorders, voice disorders, selective mutism, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Augmentative and Alternative Communication training. Children who struggle to communicate are encouraged to use a multi-modal approach to communicate with others. These modes may include verbal communication as well as sign language, Picture Exchange or AAC devices.

Contact Us Today

Regardless of what your child is going through, Niagara’s experienced team of pediatric speech pathologists is here to help. We treat a range of issues with a variety of evidenced-based treatments and practices in one on one sessions from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. Don’t hesitate to send us a message or give us a call at 814-464-0627814-464-0627, or contact us online so we can help your child meet their goals today.

Let us know what’s on your mind!