What is speech pathology, and how can it support my child? Four benefits of speech pathology for children
Speech pathologists, or ‘speechies’ as they’re known in the health industry, assess and treat communication and swallowing problems in children.
The impact of their work can be life-changing because it can help prevent or reduce the lifelong consequences that often come with communication problems.
Whether it’s treating a stutter or stammer, a receptive language disorder where a child has trouble with listening and following directions, or successfully helping a new mum to feed her baby with a cleft palate, speech pathologists can help your child develop their skills and ability to communicate.
Importantly, speech pathologists also help parents and caregivers to develop the confidence to practice these newfound skills at home.
Below are four benefits of speech pathology that your child could experience.
1) Speechies are trained to work with children
When a child has a speech or language disorder, it can disrupt their ability to communicate and learn from others.
Speech pathologists are trained to help children of all ages and abilities to develop the ability to communicate, to meet their particular needs. Working one-on-one with children, they can assist in skill development and in building the capacity of those caring for a child so they’re able to assist with their child’s development.
Speech therapy exercises and activities vary but may involve interacting through talking and playing, using books and pictures to help stimulate language development, and modelling correct sounds and syllables for a child through age-appropriate play to teach the child how to make certain sounds. Treatment may also involve finding other means of communication, such as alternative communication devices.
To provide a holistic service, speech pathologists will often work alongside other professionals in the allied health industry, including occupational therapists, psychologists and physiotherapists.
Without this level of support, children with communication difficulties can experience mental health issues and behavioural problems, poor self-esteem and struggle with relationships and employment in the future.
2) Can help with more than just speech problems
The benefits of speech pathology aren’t restricted to Speech pathologists are university-trained allied health professionals who work with and improve the quality of life of anyone who has trouble communicating or with swallowing.
At Ability Action Australia, our speech pathologists work in a multidisciplinary team with other health professionals to provide a holistic service, and help people with a range of difficulties:
- Speech — saying the sounds in words
- Language — speaking and understanding others
- Voice — using the vocal cords to produce speech
- Fluency — stuttering and cluttering
- Literacy — reading and writing
Speech pathology for children can provide support in many different ways. For example, a child with cerebral palsy may have difficulty controlling the muscles in their face, throat, neck and head, which can lead to troubles with speech, chewing and swallowing. While speech therapy is different for every child with cerebral palsy, therapy will aim to help improve a child’s speech and communication by strengthening the muscles used for speech, increasing oral motor skills and improving their understanding of speech and language. It also can help with swallowing disorders like dysphagia.
A child with a developmental disorder such as autism or Down syndrome who needs help with their receptive language can also be supported by a speech pathologist. Symptoms of receptive language disorder include not seeming to listen when they are spoken to, appearing to lack interest when storybooks are read to them, and difficulty understanding the meaning of words and sentences.
3) Sessions are relaxed and play-based
Like other allied health professionals, speech pathologists recognise that playing is how a child learns — playing is essentially their job!
Play-based speech therapy is when a speech pathologist plans speech and language activities around a toy or activity. This creates opportunities for your child to practice the target skill while playing with toys and activities that are relevant to their interests.
For instance, stacking cups are really useful for early language development and can be used in speech pathology sessions for young children who are learning to talk as well as older children. A creative speech pathologist will use stacking cups in a whole variety of ways to boost their attention, develop conversation between you and your child, and even teach them about resilience!
Our speech pathologists can help children learn to communicate better through play — by reading stories, telling riddles and nursery rhymes and more. The child may not know it, but play really helps them to learn.
4) Can assess and diagnose your child if you’re unsure
In Australia, it’s very common to have difficulties with communicating. Children living with disability such as autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy often begin their life with a communication impairment, and one in five four-year-old children struggles with understanding or using language.
The benefits of speech pathology for children can be great when dealing with complex disabilities such as these, and the associated communication or swallowing difficulties.
Nevertheless, it can be difficult as a parent to decide whether or not your child needs the services of a speech pathologist.
Speech pathologists are trained over a period of four to five years in the diagnosis, management and treatment of children who are unable to communicate effectively or who have difficulty with feeding and swallowing.
For babies, toddlers and preschool/school-aged children, a visit to the speech pathologist is recommended in the following circumstances:
- They get frustrated trying to communicate
- They have difficulty understanding what is said to them, or following instructions
- Their speech is hesitant or lacks fluency
- They’re non-verbal and don’t have functional communication
- They have difficulties with reading
- They struggle to use language in social interactions and understanding social rules
- They have a limited diet, or difficulty chewing and swallowing food and fluids
When your child sounds different to other children of the same age, your three-year-old can’t be understood by adults, or if your child has a history of ear infections, you should also consider making an appointment to see a speech pathologist.
Therapy should begin as soon as possible. Children enrolled in therapy before they go to school and who practice skills at home with the involvement of a parent or caregiver tend to have better outcomes than those who begin therapy later.
Ability Action Australia’s speech pathologists help participants find ways to develop their ability to communicate. The benefits of speech pathology are varied:
- Speech pathologists are trained to help children of all ages and abilities to develop the ability to communicate, to meet their particular needs
- Our speech pathologists work in a multidisciplinary team with other health professionals to provide a holistic service, and help people with a range of difficulties, not just speech
- Play-based speech therapy is when a speech pathologist plans speech and language activities around a toy or activity
- Speech pathologists are trained over a period of four to five years in the diagnosis, management and treatment of children who are unable to communicate effectively or who have difficulty with feeding and swallowing
Talk to us
We can help your child progress with their NDIS goals and support you to feel more empowered in helping them to communicate better.
Whether you’re just getting started with an NDIS plan, evaluating your therapy options, or would like to know more about how we can help your child reach their goals, call us to speak to our friendly Ability Action Australia concierge service. They’ll be happy to help you in a simple and easy way to implement your child’s plan.