When you think of a speech/language disorder, what comes to your mind? A child who stutters? One who says, “wabbit” for “rabbit?” An autistic child who has only a few words in his spoken vocabulary? Speech-language pathologists work with a wide range of issues. These issues fall into several main categories:
Articulation disorders include any type of speech sound errors.
A language disorder is a deficit in receptive language (comprehension), expressive language (speaking), or both. The child may have deficits in vocabulary, have
difficulty formulating complete sentences or difficulty answering questions. He may exhibit poor grammar or misuse pronouns. His speech may sound fairly normal, but he may not use it
appropriately in social situations. Language delays are often one of the characteristics associated with autism, although there are many other causes of language disorders as
A child (or adult) who stutters has difficulty with the fluency of his speech. He or she may repeat sounds or syllables. He may stretch out sounds at the beginning of words or “get stuck” when speaking. He may avoid social situations that he fears will cause him to stutter. Many children exhibit short periods of disfluency between the ages of two and four as their language skills are rapidly increasing. This can be perfectly normal. If the symptoms are severe, or if the patterns continue beyond four, it may be indicative of a stuttering problem that needs speech therapy.
The most common voice disorder in children is a hoarseness caused by vocal abuse. This is typically seen in little boys that scream a lot. It is also common in singers. This vocal abuse can cause physical damage that requires surgery. A speech pathologist can work with the child to help him or her learn speaking methods that will be gentle on the vocal folds, allowing the damage to heal.
Another common voice issue with children is hyponasality or hypernasality. These are generally affected by cleft palate (repaired or unrepaired) or hearing impairment.
Speech-language pathologists also work with some issues that are not directly related to speech, such as swallowing disorders.
If you suspect that your child may have a problem in any of these areas, a speech and language assessment may be advisable. A speech pathologist can help determine whether your child’s speech behaviors need remediation, should be watched and rechecked later, or are within normal limits for his age.