Common Child Speech-Language Disorders & How Fort Myers Speech Therapy Helps!
If you’re concerned that your child may have a speech-language disorder – you aren’t alone. The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) estimates 8 percent of U.S. kids ages 3 to 17 (about 1 in 12) have a disorder related to speech, voice, language, or swallowing. Kids younger than 3 can be diagnosed with speech & language disorders and delays too. As dedicated providers of Fort Myers speech therapy for kids, we can firmly attest to the remarkable positive impact of early intervention therapies. Children whose speech & language disorders are identified and treated very early are more likely to have no discernable communication issues as they get older.
- The type and severity of the underlying condition(s).
- The age of the child when intervention begins.
- The intensity of the intervention schedule (length and frequency).
- At-home reinforcement and consistency.
Our knowledgeable, dedicated team of Southwest Florida speech-language pathologists at FOCUS Therapy is well-prepared to treat children with a broad range of delays and disorders. That said, there are some pediatric speech-language deficits that are more common than others.
- Speech or articulation delays. While you might hear the terms “speech” and “language” used a bit interchangeably, they’re technically different skills. Speech is the mechanical or motor aspect of talking. Common speech and articulation delays among kids include things like stuttering, incorrectly combining sounds, or difficulty pronouncing words. Sometimes there is a physical reason for this (like a cleft palate), but the cause isn’t always clear. Some speech delays are related to global developmental conditions, like autism spectrum disorder or Down syndrome. Other times, they crop up as a singular issue. Speech and articulation delays may not require intervention, but it’s important to consult with a pediatric speech therapist before making that call.
- Expressive language disorders. These are conditions that involve problems with verbal expression. Often, these are conditions where kids may have difficulty formulating their thoughts or combining words to form a complete thought or sentence. Speech-language therapists can help kids with expressive language disorders by clearly identifying the issue, and then helping the child work on sound-letter associations, phonics, and pre-literacy skills.
- Receptive language disorders. Sometimes referred to as language processing disorders, these are conditions where the child can hear perfectly find, but they have difficulty decoding the meaning in their brains. Sometimes, language processing disorders may be initially misdiagnosed as speech delays, because they look very similar early on. Another reason parents and caregivers might miss receptive language disorders is because so much of early language is repetitive and can be memorized. For example, if you regularly say, “time for your bath!” your child may recognize the sound pattern and march themselves to the bathroom, but it doesn’t mean they necessarily understand the individual components of that sentence: “time,” “your,” and “bath.”
- Social and pragmatic speech disorders. Effectively using language in the correct context during social situations is a skill we call “pragmatics.” Kids who have social pragmatic communication disorder have difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication that can’t be explained by low cognitive ability. They might talk nonstop without recognizing the other person isn’t engaged or listening. They might interject at inappropriate times or with non sequitur responses. They may fail to “take turns” when talking, or fail to make eye contact, or breeze over certain social “rules” most of us recognize as inherent to communication in social settings.
- Voice disorders. About 5 percent of kids have chronic voice disorders. These involve difficulty with voice pitch, volume, quality, etc. One’s voice may sound hoarse or harsh, too high or low, too loud or too quiet, etc. Causes vary, but can include polyps and nodules on the vocal chord, infections, acid reflux, poor movement of vocal folds, etc. Speech therapy exercises can be helpful for children with weak voices and other voice disorders.
Why Early Intervention Fort Myers Speech Therapy Makes a Difference
Years ago, pediatricians tended to adhere to a “wait-and-see” approach, which basically involves hanging back and waiting to see if concerns about speech-language development were still lingering once a child hit school-age. That has largely shifted in favor of early diagnosis and treatment of speech-language disorders because research has shown more effective results with treatment the earlier interventions begin.
Researchers examining the reason behind early intervention’s effectiveness have largely concluded that the younger the child, the more malleable their brains. As noted by the CDC, these “neural circuits” are the connectors in a child’s brain. They are most easily adaptable during the first 3 years of life. For kids with speech-language delays and disorders, those neural circuits are often missing key connections. Early intervention helps reroute them.
Children begin recognizing recurring speech patterns during their first year of life. Babies 12-18-month-old can usually understand at least a few words in the absence of gestural or other cues. They can also usually produce at least a few intelligible words. These combined skills show them acquiring both expressive and receptive speech-language skills.
Of course, spotting a speech problem in a 2-year-old is a bit trickier than in a 6-year-old. That’s not to say evaluations should wait. It’s just that toddlers as a whole are only just starting to grasp speech patterns, so things like lisping and slurring and mispronunciations are fairly common. That’s why often with younger kids, our speech therapists are less concerned with the accuracy of their word articulation and more focused on whether and how they’re trying to communicate. If they’re older than 1 and not using any words, that could be cause for concern – particularly if they aren’t using gestures, displaying a understanding of what’s being said to them, or showing any notable response their own name. Those can be an indicator of bigger issue – possibly autism, but also maybe non-related speech-language delays or disorders. In any case, it’s better to have them evaluated sooner than later.
Another way to think about early intervention speech therapy: Early on, missed speech-language milestones will be counted in months. But let enough time go by without treatment, and the delay will compound by years. A child who receives Fort Myers speech therapy at 18 months may be 6 months delayed, while another child with similar delays but doesn’t start treatment until they are 3 will be 1.5 years behind. The earlier a child starts receiving therapy, the better chance they have to catch up sooner.
If you have additional questions about early intervention speech therapy for your child, we offer initial consultations as well as comprehensive speech-language evaluations and ADOS testing.
FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.
Why Act Early if You’re Concerned about Development? U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
More Blog Entries:
The Best Age for Fort Myers Speech Therapy? Mind the Milestones., Nov. 3, 2022, Fort Myers Speech Therapy Blog