Speech therapy involves helping people, most often children, with speech and language problems. The exercises are designed to help patients speak more clearly while also learning to better understand those around them. In older patients, this type of treatment is most often needed because of a brain or head injury. Some of the common reasons that children may need regular speech treatment are disorders related to the following:
- Auditory processing
- Language-based learning
- Articulation or phonological
- Down syndrome
Different techniques are used depending on the patient and the reason for the disorder. The following are some common practices in speech therapy.
This type of treatment program focuses on teaching the patient how to produce specific sounds and syllables. It involves physical demonstrations of how to use the tongue and mouth to produce different sounds. Depending on the child’s age, exercises are built into playtime or other activities so it is a less stressful learning environment.
First, you should talk with the speech therapist about the specific issues your child has. This will help them to target the treatment appropriately using some of the following techniques.
Elicitation – This is a process used to teach the child how to say a specific sound. For example, if the child cannot say the “g” sound, the professional will break down the process of making that sound and have the child copy it. Once they can imitate it well, the child can practice what is called “sound in isolation.”
Isolation – This means saying the particular sound alone without adding any other sounds. For example, if the child is practicing the “f” sound, he or she will repeatedly make only that sound multiple times in a row. Once the child can say the sound in isolation, they are ready for the next step: syllables.
Syllables – In this process, the child will add a vowel after the targeted sound, before the targeted sound, and before and after the targeted sound. The order for practicing the vowel sounds depends on the child’s problem areas. Both long and short vowel sounds should be practiced. Once the child can say the sound in syllables, they may begin practicing saying the sound in words.
Words – At the right time during speech therapy, the professional will move to practicing the sound in words. Word cards are used to practice the sound at the beginning, middle, and end of words.
Sentences – Once the child is more comfortable with making the sound in words, the treatment may progress to practicing in sentences. One way involves using the same sentence to insert multiple words using the target sounds or words. Older children may actually write their own sentences using the target words.
After these techniques, the therapist may move to having the child practice the sound in stories or in conversation, depending on the child’s comfort and progress.
This process is based in play and activity. It is focused on encouraging the child to talk more, as this helps them to naturally develop their language skills. The therapist uses activities to make sure the child pronounces words correctly.
Oral Motor Therapy
This is a type of physical exercise focused on developing the muscles in and around the mouth. These techniques may be used when speech problems are the result of a physical issue instead of a disorder or underdeveloped skills. Sometimes, this is used when the child has trouble eating or swallowing.
If your child or someone else in your family is going through speech therapy, talk to a professional about the techniques being used so you can reinforce what they are learning at home. As you see progress, ask what additional steps you can take to improve your loved one’s ability to understand and communicate with others.