Speech and Language Disorders Are Experienced by Many Children—But Are Treatable

Speech and language disorders are evaluated and treated by speech-language pathologists. Speech is the ability to produce speech sounds using the mouth, lips, and tongue. A child may say sounds the wrong way, repeat sounds and words, or be otherwise difficult to understand. Language is the ability to use and put words together—and to understand others’ words. A child may have trouble understanding questions, following directions, or naming objects. Early speech and language treatment sets a child up for future school and social success.

Joann shares some of the following warning signs for parents to watch for in young children:

  • Does not babble (4–7 months)
  • Makes only a few sounds or gestures, like pointing (7–12 months)
  • Does not understand what others say (7 months–2 years)
  • Says only a few words (12–18 months)
  • Says p, b, m, h, and w incorrectly in words (1–2 years)
  • Words are not easily understood (18 months–2 years)
  • Does not put words together to make sentences (1.5–3 years)
  • Says k, g, f, t, d, and n incorrectly in words (2–3 years)
  • Produces speech that is unclear, even to familiar people (2–3 years)
  • Repeating the first sounds of words, like “b-b-b-ball” for “ball” (any age)
  • Stretching sounds out, like “fffffarm” for “farm” (any age)

For school-age children, warning signs may include the following:

  • Has trouble following directions
  • Has problems reading and writing
  • Does not always understand what others say
  • Is not understood by others
  • Has trouble talking about thoughts or feelings

Joann offers parents these tips to encourage a child’s communication development:

For young children:

  • Talk, read, and play with your child.
  • Listen and respond to what your child says.
  • Talk with your child in the language that you are most comfortable using.
  • Teach your child to speak another language, if you speak one.
  • Talk about what you do and what your child does during the day.
  • Use a lot of different words with your child.
  • Use longer sentences as your child gets older.
  • Have your child play with other children.

For elementary-age children:

  • Have your child retell stories and talk about their day.
  • Talk with your child about what you do during the day. Give them directions to follow.
  • Talk about how things are the same and how things are different.
  • Give your child chances to write.
  • Read every day. Find books or magazines that interest your child.

Communication, Swallowing Disorders Common in Adults Following Stroke and Other Illness

Speech and language problems in adults can result from various causes. They include brain injury, stroke, and diseases that affect the brain such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. They can also stem from breathing problems, cancers in the head and/or neck region, and voice damage.

Speech and language disorders that may be acquired in adulthood include the following:

  • This involves problems speaking, understanding, reading, writing, telling time, and/or using numbers. Often misunderstood, aphasia does not affect a person’s intelligence. The most common cause of aphasia is stroke.
  • Cognitive-communication disorders. Problems with thinking and communication can affect each other. Some examples are difficulty paying attention, remembering, organizing thoughts, and solving problems.
  • Apraxia of speech. Speech difficulties arise from problems planning motor movements. It is caused by damage to the parts of the brain that are involved in speaking.
  • Speech difficulties (e.g., slurred speech) due to weakness of muscles involved in breathing and/or speaking.
  • Voice disorders. Changes in pitch, loudness, and vocal quality that negatively impact communication. These may result from nodules on the vocal cord, overuse/misuse of voice (e.g., yelling), diseases such as Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis, and other causes.

Speech-language pathologists can help adults with these and other communication problems.

Speech-language pathologists treat dysphagia in various ways, including these:

  • Helping people use their muscles to chew and swallow
  • Finding better positions for people to sit or hold their head while eating
  • Identifying strategies to make swallowing better and safer
  • Advising people on their dietary choices, including softer foods or thicker drinks

The large majority of parents report significant improvement after treatment. Families and individuals can learn more and find help at http://IdentifytheSigns.org and www.asha.org/public. Talk with your child’s physician or your physician about a referral to speech therapy. Contact the Windom Area Health Rehabilitation Department today at 507-831-0634 to schedule an appointment with Joann Anderson CCC-SLP.

Blog Written By: Joann Anderson, Speech Language Pathologist

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