Therapy Blog: A Parent's Guide to Speech Pathology

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Speech pathology can be commonly referred to as speech/language therapy. If your child has been newly referred for speech pathology or you’re just starting out on your therapy journey, you may be wondering just what it’s all about.

Your child may be referred for speech pathology to support them with their communication. It is lesser known that speech pathologists can also support feeding and swallowing disorders in children.

Speech pathology can help children with a range of communication delays and disorders. Children can experience communication delays when they follow typical developmental patterns but they are delayed for their age.  These will need to be properly diagnosed by a qualified Speech Pathologist as every child is different.

What are speech disorders?

If your child has problems making sounds, this could be the result of a speech disorder. There are different types of speech disorders:

  • Articulation disorders – children can experience difficulties making sounds, blends and syllables clearly and accurately so that they can be understood by others.
  • Fluency disorders – these include problems such as stuttering or prolonging sounds and syllables that break the flow of speech.
  • Resonance or voice disorders – problems with pitch, volume or quality of voice to the extent that it makes it difficult for children to interact and can cause pain or discomfort.
  • Dysarthria disorders – children can experience impaired or weakened movement of the muscles that are used in speech including the tongue, lip and vocal folds.
  • Childhood Apraxia of Speech – children can also experience difficulties sending accurate messages from their brain to their mouth, lips or tongue in the right ways when speaking.

What are language disorders?

A language disorder is a problem with understanding or putting words together to communicate wants, needs, thoughts and ideas. There are also different types of language disorders:

  • Receptive language disorder – problems with understanding or processing language.
  • Expressive language disorder – when a child has difficulty putting words together in sentences, has limited vocabulary or has difficulty using different grammatical forms.
  • Cognitive-communication disorder – problems with communication skills that involve memory, attention, organisation, regulation and problem solving.
  • Social communication disorder – children can experience difficulties understanding or demonstrating ‘rules’ of communication such as speaking styles, taking in the perspectives of others and nonverbal communication.

What are feeding disorders?

If your child is diagnosed with a feeding disorder, they can have problems with eating and/or drinking. They might have challenges with swallowing, chewing, coughing, gagging, digesting and refusing food. These difficulties are also known as a swallowing disorder or dysphagia.

Who can provide speech pathology?

Speech pathology services are delivered by qualified Speech Pathologists who are university trained and qualified allied health professionals. They will often work as part of an allied health team, to provide a holistic approach to help children and families meet their therapy goals.

What can I expect from a speech pathology session?

When your child starts speech pathology, your Speech Pathologist can work with you and your child in many different ways based on their goals. Lots of the strategies that your Speech Pathologist will use can seem like play to your child and they usually have a lot of fun in sessions. Here are some of the activities your child may be involved in during a speech pathology session:

  • Enjoying story time with their favourite characters – princesses, superheroes and animals are all firm favourites!
  • Using pictures like flash cards and objects to build understanding and vocabulary.
  • Singing, rhyming and signing or using gestures.
  • Using mirrors to help children learn facial control and how their mouth moves to create certain sounds.

Why do some children need speech pathology support?

There are many reasons why a child might need support from a Speech Pathologist and each child is different. Some of the reasons might include:

  • Any of the disorders or delays mentioned above
  • Weak oral muscles
  • Cleft lip or cleft palate
  • Acquired brain injury
  • Breathing disorders
  • Hearing impairments

Benefits of speech pathology

Speech pathology can help children in so many ways. Effective therapy can support cognitive and emotional development to help children with:

  • Confidence and self esteem
  • Making friends
  • Learning and communicating at school
  • Independence
  • Expression
  • Quality of life

Find a Speech Pathologist

At Xavier, our team of experienced Speech Pathologists have availability to support children and young people throughout Brisbane and the greater Brisbane area – with spots filling up fast. Call our friendly team today on 1800 XAVIER for further info, leave your details via our online form or email intake@xavier.org.au