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What is a Speech Therapist and how do they help babies and children?

Speech therapists help people of all ages with different speech, language and swallowing disorders. Here are some of them:

 

  • Swallowing/feeding problems: speech therapist work with babies who struggle to suck or cannot latch properly with breastfeeding.
  • Articulation (say: ar-tik-yuh-LAY-shun) disorders: This when a child has trouble saying certain sounds or saying words correctly. "Run" might come out as "won." Or "say" may sound like "thay." Lisps are considered articulation disorders.
  • Fluency (say: FLOO-en-see)disorders: If a child repeats certain sounds and has trouble saying the complete word, he or she may have fluency disorder. For example, a child trying to say "story" might get stuck on the "st" and say "st-st-st-story." Or he or she might draw out certain sounds and say "ssssssstory." A stutter is a fluency disorder.
  • Resonance (say: REZ-uh-nuhns) or voice disorders: A child might have a voice disorder if people have trouble understanding him or her. The child might start a sentence loud and clear, but it's quiet and mumbling by the end. Sometimes these children sound like they have a cold or like they're talking through their noses.
  • Language disorders: A child who has trouble understanding people or has trouble putting words together to express thoughts might have a language disorder.


Who Needs Speech Therapy?


Lots of children see speech therapists. It's a great way to learn to speak more clearly. Sometimes a child has a medical condition that makes speaking more difficult. Here are some of them:


• hearing impairment
• weak muscles around the mouth
• cleft lip or palate
• vocal nodules/ hoarseness
• autism
• breathing disorder
• swallowing disorder


What's It Like?


Depending on what the problem is depends on the assessment, child who has a speaking problem, visiting a speech therapist for the first time will take a speaking test. This test is a way of finding out what types of speech problems a child has. The child will be asked to say certain sounds and words. These may be recorded and the therapist might write some stuff down during the test. The test will help the therapist figure out the child's needs and decide what treatments are needed.
The "treatment" for speech problems is practice. If a child has trouble with articulation or fluency, the therapist will spend time showing him or her how to make the proper sounds. The therapist will demonstrate the sounds and ask the child to try to copy them. That means copying the way the therapist moves the lips, mouth, and tongue to make the right sound.


If your therapist is helping you with a language disorder, your sessions may seem a little like school. He or she will help you with grammar — how to put words together properly to form clear statements and thoughts. If you have difficulties with understanding what you hear, you may play games that work on these skills.
For babies that struggle to suck, the therapist will first assess your baby's mouth muscles and suckling pattern, the therapist will give you exercises to improve the suck.


How Long Will Treatment Last?


Some treatments are short and others are longer. It depends on the problem the child is working on. A child might see the therapist once a week or a few times a week. Treatment can take a few weeks, a few months, or a few years.


If your child/baby has a swallowing or speech problem, the best advice is to practice, practice, and practice. Find time to work on the skills the therapist has shown you.

 

 

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The information in this article was kindly supplied by Nicole Da Rocha, Communication Pathologist and Audiologist.

For additional information kindly contact the South African Speech Language Hearing Association:

Tel: 086 111 3297

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Website: http://www.saslha.co.za/default.asp