Deciphering Speech/Language Therapy

Deciphering Speech/Language Therapy

By Emily O’Brien

Many people seek the services of speech/language therapists—some during early childhood and others well into their senior years. In order to determine whether speech/language therapy is needed, one must first get a better understanding of what that form of therapy is and what the treatment entails.

According to the Nemours Center for Children’s Health Media, few common speech disorders are:
  • Articulation – Occurs when someone has difficulty properly pronouncing certain sounds or words. Instead of saying “supper,” it may come out “thupper.” Or instead of “rabbit,” it comes out “wabbit.” Lisps are articulation disorders.
  • Resonance or voice – Happens when other people have trouble understanding the person who is speaking. The speaker may start the sentence crystal clear and loud but finish it by softly mumbling.
  • Fluency – Occurs when someone has trouble saying a complete word and may get stuck on a given syllable. Instead of saying “carburetor,” it comes out “cacacarburetor.” Stutters are fluency disorders.
  • Dysphagia – oral/feeding disorders – Happens when someone has difficulty swallowing (a dysfunction often caused by structural weakness) and/or consuming food orally. This presents as extreme food selectivity by type, texture, brand, shape or color, or by a medical condition like poor oral motor skills or reflux.

Common language disorders are:

  • Receptive – Occurs when someone has trouble comprehending what other people say.
  • Expressive – Happens when someone has trouble expressing his or her thoughts

How Do You Know Whether Therapy Is Needed?

With children, there are many determining factors as to whether therapy would be beneficial. Early detection is vital. Since communication develops in infancy, long before the first word is uttered, any language or speech problem is likely to have a large impact on the child’s academic and social behavior. According to a survey conducted by the National Stuttering Association, 8 out of 10 children who stutter have been bullied or teased, and 40 percent of adults have been denied a job or promotion because of their stuttering. Early intervention can be beneficially life altering.

Medical conditions in adults, such as a stroke, traumatic brain injury, oral or laryngeal cancer, as well as other conditions, may prompt a need for therapy.

What Is Speech/Language Therapy?

Treatment is led by speech/language pathologists, informally known as speech therapists, who are educated to evaluate speech and language development and who specialize in communication and swallowing disorders. Speech therapists select treatment options based on the highest quality of scientific evidence available, according to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA).

How often therapy is required varies from patient to patient. Some may only need to go once a week for a few weeks, while others may need to attend multiple times per week for years, depending on the degree of impediment. Experts at the Stuttering Foundation as well as those at the Nemours Center say that a sizeable part of treatment is practice through repetition. Not only can pathologists aid with the physical aspects of a speech impediment, they often can help change a person’s attitude by lifting a self-imposed stigma.

Friends and family can assist in the speediness of recovery by assisting with practice, such as helping to hold a mirror up for the person or by offering emotional support. The best way to gauge the development of a child’s verbal communication skills is by whether, based on their age, they are reaching the majority of their milestones.

Learn more by visiting the following organizations online: the Stuttering Foundation,, ASHA and the National Stuttering Association.