Speech language pathology intervention helps children whose communication is affected by articulation, language, voice or feeding/swallowing difficulties.
Speech language pathology assessment and intervention encompasses all aspects of communication including speech, language, writing, reading, signs, symbols and gestures. Speech language pathologists also work with children who have difficulties with the mechanics of swallowing food or drink.
Being able to communicate effectively is something most Australians take for granted. Few of us understand what communication is, or have ever imagined what it would be like not to communicate effectively.
There are six areas of communication:
- Speech – the physical production of sounds
- Language – understanding verbal language: what words mean, putting sentences together, communicating clearly either verbally or in writing
- Reading – understanding written language
- Pragmatics – the social conventions for how we interact with each other
- Fluency – the smooth rhythm and pattern of talking
- Voice – the production of sound by vibrating the vocal cords.
Communication includes being understood as well as understanding others, either in speaking and listening, or in reading and writing.
Children who experience difficulties in the area of literacy often have an underlying language problem. A language disorder will have a direct impact on learning, including academic learning. Speech language pathology intervention aims to remediate the underlying language problem therefore allowing a child to learn to read and write.
Problems of speech can include difficulty producing speech sounds in words and sentences or the total inability to make the mouth movements required to say words.
Problems of language can include poor vocabulary skills, the inability to sequence words and sentences logically together to make meaningful conversation or the inability to understand and follow instructions.
Problems in pragmatics can include poor use of eye contact, not knowing how to break into a conversation, or using an inappropriately friendly voice with strangers.
Fluency problems can be seen in the three year old who has a mild stutter and the adolescent who does not speak in class because of a severe stutter.
Voice problems can include a harsh, raspy voice due to vocal nodules in a child or a complete loss of voice due to voice strain in a singer.
Our speech language pathologists use both low technology assistive devices (e.g. Picture Exchange Communication Systems, Key Word Sign) and high-technology assistive devices (e.g. iPad) to help children communicate functionally when they have little to no intelligible speech.
Speech language pathologists use specific approaches for different elements of speech and language. Two of these approaches are explained here.
Hanen: It Takes Two To Talk
It Takes Two To Talk is lead by a Hanen Certified speech language pathologist who has completed an It Takes Two To Talk Certification Workshop and who has current Hanen membership. It Takes Two To Talk is based on research which demonstrates the need for early language intervention and the importance of parents’ involvement in the intervention process. It Takes Two To Talk is a family-focused program for groups of parents with young children who have receptive and/or expressive language delays, including those with developmental delays, and those children who are at the early stages of communication and language development. In this program, parents learn how to become their child’s primary language facilitator, thereby providing parent-implemented early language intervention. Through a combination of group sessions and individual consultation using videotaping and feedback, It Takes Two To Talk helps parents learn how to create and take advantage of everyday opportunities to promote their child’s communication and language development.
The Lidcombe program is a behavioural intervention used by speech language pathologists at Skills for Kids with children who stutter and who are aged 3 – 6 years. The aim of the program is to facilitate fluency and eliminate the stuttering behaviour. During weekly visits to the speech language pathologist, the parent learns how to deliver the intervention in the child’s everyday life and how to take daily measurements of the child’s stuttering severity. The severity ratings taken both at home, and within the clinic are the key to conducting the program. The speech language pathologist monitors and adjusts the intervention to ensure that it is a positive experience for both the parent and the child. Once the child’s stuttering reaches a very low level, the parent delivers the intervention less often and sessions with the speech language pathologist are less frequent.