Kids might need speech-language therapy for a variety of reasons, including:
- hearing impairments
- cognitive (intellectual, thinking) or other developmental delays
- weak oral muscles
- excessive drooling
- chronic hoarseness
- birth defects such as cleft lip or cleft palate
- motor planning problems
- respiratory problems (breathing disorders)
- feeding and swallowing disorders
- traumatic brain injury
Therapy should begin as soon as possible. Children enrolled in therapy early (before they’re 5 years old) tend to have better outcomes than those who begin therapy later.
This does not mean that older kids can’t make progress in therapy; they may progress at a slower rate because they often have learned patterns that need to be changed.
Finding a Therapist
It’s important to make sure that the speech-language therapist is certified by ASHA. That certification means the SLP has at least a master’s degree in the field and has passed a national examination and successfully completed a supervised clinical fellowship.
Sometimes, speech assistants (who usually have a 2-year associate’s or 4-year bachelor’s degree) may assist with speech-language services under the supervision of ASHA-certified SLPs. Your child’s SLP should be licensed in your state and have experience working with kids and your child’s specific disorder.
You might find a specialist by asking your child’s doctor or teacher for a referral or by checking local directories online or in your telephone book. State associations for speech-language pathology and audiology also maintain listings of licensed and certified therapists.
Helping Your Child
Speech-language experts agree that parental involvement is crucial to the success of a child’s progress in speech or language therapy.
Parents are an extremely important part of their child’s therapy program and help determine whether it is a success. Kids who complete the program quickest and with the longest-lasting results are those whose parents have been involved.
Ask the therapist for suggestions on how you can help your child. For instance, it’s important to help your child do the at-home stimulation activities that the SLP suggests to ensure continued progress and carry-over of newly learned skills.
The process of overcoming a speech or language disorder can take some time and effort, so it’s important that all family members be patient and understanding with the child.