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Speech therapy guidelines

Posted last July 28, 2011, 10:28 am for Estelle Novella Speech Therapy & Audiology in Health report article


 We often hear about Speech therapy, but what does it entail, and when is an assessment necessary?


Speech therapy is a field with a vast array of specialities, and the information in this article is by no means a full spectrum of what a speech therapist does. What I will attempt to do, is to give information on some of the more general and common difficulties we see relating specifically to children.


What is a Speech Therapist?


It is a professional person with at least a 4-year university degree, trained to identify, evaluate and manage communication disorders in babies, children and adults. A Speech Therapist can also be called a Speech-language Therapist or a Speech-language Pathologist. Some professionals are qualified as both a Speech Therapist as well as an Audiologist, and others practice as either a Speech Therapist or an Audiologist.


This month we will focus on Speech therapy, but in our next article you can look out for more information on issues to do with hearing and thus Audiology.


When is an assessment necessary?

The following guidelines can be used to help identify children with speech-, language- and auditory processing problems timeously.


Referral to a Speech-Language Therapist is recommended if the child presents with any of the following problems.


Articulation or Phonological Problems (Pronunciation):

~          Child’s speech is difficult to understand.

~          He/she changes sounds, or leaves sounds out of a word, e.g. sick for stick, or tat for cat.

~          Child can’t say certain sounds, e.g. s, l, th, f.

Remember that the [r] sound only has to be pronounced correctly at the age of 6.


Language Problems:

~          Limited vocabulary.

~          Use of gestures only, or more gestures than words.

~          Short or simplified sentences compared to other children.

~          Faulty sentence construction or grammar.

~          Unable to make use of descriptive language, e.g. the big, red ball.


Auditory Processing Difficulties:

~          Can’t follow instructions.

~          Can’t discriminate between words like house/mouse, or fin/thin.

~          Concentration and attention difficulties.

~          Unable to remember details from a story read to him/her.


Stuttering (Dysfluencies):

~          Many repetitions of sounds or syllables, e.g. my my my dog.

~          Definite arythmic speech.

~          Prolongation of sounds, e.g. mmmmommy.

~          Silent periods when it seems as if the child gets “stuck” in the middle of a word or sentence.


Stuttering has a tremendous effect on communication and social skills and thus therapy is essential.


It is important to know though, that some children undergo a period of normal dysfluency between the ages of 2 to 4 years of age. How that child’s speech is handled at that point is very important, as that could be the deciding factor whether it disappears, or whether it will become an actual stutter.


Consult your speech therapist for more information.


Voice Problems:

~          A voice that sounds strange, e.g.

-         a higher or lower voice

-         a softer or louder voice

-         a hoarse or nasal voice

~          Vocal abuse e.g. a child that shouts or screams a lot.


A combination of formal standardised tests and informal observation is used to establish a diagnosis, after which a treatment program is made to meet every individual child’s needs.


Therapy is administered as necessary, usually weekly, and mostly individually, although certain types of therapy can benefit from group sessions.


I hope this information helped to give you a better understanding of speech therapy, but feel free to contact us should you have any questions. I will also be sending more in-depth articles in the near future, so keep reading!


Estelle Novella

[email protected]