What is speech therapy?
Speech therapy aims to help children with different kinds of speech difficulties improve their communication and language abilities, including non-verbal communication. It is a common misconception that speech and language practitioners only see children for stutters or lisps, as in fact therapists can improve communication skills for different kinds of disabilities, disorders and difficulties, for example dyslexia.
Why is it done?
If a child has a speech disability or difficulty pronouncing words, speech therapy can be used to help improve language development, encourage communication, and teach language skills.
Therapy can help with articulation problems, issues with fluency (e.g the flow of speech), problems with the quality, pitch, or volume of the voice, and even feeding problems, such as swallowing or drooling. Speech therapists can also help with how language is perceived or its reception, for example in those who have trouble interpreting and understanding language, or in those who have problems using language in socially appropriate ways.
What does it involve?
Children may work with a speech therapist for an extended period of time, for example over a number of years, or over shorter time periods, such as a few months. Therapy aims to give the child strategies to manage and cope with their speech problem, and help them to learn to speak more clearly. This in turn helps children in their self-confidence, so speech therapy does not solely treat the disorder or difficulty in itself, but the emotions stemming from a language disorder.
Treatment is tailored to the child based on the difficulty they are experiencing. It can involve a combination of therapy, such as articulation therapy (modelling sounds and mouth movements), and exercises which can help to strengthen muscles in the mouth. Other activities include building skills through language drills, play therapy, or reading.
Alternatives to this treatment
Generally, speech difficulties and disorders are corrected through therapy and worked on with a qualified therapist. There are many different types of therapy and what works for one child may not work for another. Therefore it is best to consult a trained professional who can advise best on the therapy which is suitable for your child.