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Speech Therapy

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KEY POINTS

  • Speech problems are problems with the way your child’s speech sounds. Language problems include problems with gestures, use and understanding of words, or writing. Speech therapy is treatment that can help your child with problems with speaking, thinking, or other language skills.
  • The most common treatment combines language and speech therapy to help your child learn to understand and use words.
  • If your child cannot speak, language therapy will focus on learning to use gestures, sign language, picture boards, or an electronic device to communicate.

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What is speech therapy?

Speech therapy is treatment that can help your child with problems with speaking, thinking, or other language skills.

When is it used?

Speech therapy may be used to help children who:

  • Have birth defects such as a cleft palate or cleft lip
  • Are late starting to talk
  • Have hearing problems
  • Stutter or are not able to say words clearly
  • Have slowed development
  • Have other language problems

The earlier speech therapy is started the better. Children who start therapy before age 3 usually improve faster and do better than children who start at an older age.

Speech therapy may also be used to treat babies or children with swallowing problems.

How does speech therapy work?

Your child's speech therapist may be at a hospital, clinic, or your child's school. A speech therapist will test your child and find out the speech and language skills that your child needs to work on. Depending on what testing shows, treatments may include:

  • Doing physical exercises for mouth, tongue, and other muscles your child uses to swallow
  • Practice with forming sounds and words to help with speaking
  • Learning to use devices such as voice-synthesizing computers and language boards that can help your child communicate

Speech therapists also work closely with you and other family members who help care for your child.

The therapist may work with your child alone or as part of a small group. During therapy, your child may do a variety of fun activities.

  • Language exercises: During these exercises the therapist plays with and talks to your child. The therapist may model the correct way to say words and have your child repeat words and sentences.
  • Articulation exercises: Articulation means the making of sounds. The therapist will show your child how to make the sound with his or her mouth and tongue. Your child may use a mirror to watch how the mouth and tongue move to make the correct sound.
  • Relaxation and breathing exercises: Breathing techniques and relaxation exercises may be done to help your child relax the face and mouth muscles.

How often your child has therapy depends on the speech problem. Your child may have therapy 1 or more times a week at first. Later your child may not need to go as often and will just need to practice at home.

How can I help my child?

Overcoming speech and language problems takes time and patience. Helping your child at home is very important. Work with your child’s speech therapist to learn the different skills and exercises your child needs to practice. Read to your child. Hearing you read you will help your child.

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2018-12-04
Last reviewed: 2018-11-26
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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