Young girl working with a speech therapist

Communicating Clearly: How Speech Therapy Works

Communication is more than just words. It’s a skill that allows us to express our thoughts and feelings, share experiences with friends and family, engage in the workforce, and participate in our communities.

One of its most prominent forms is speech—the use of sound and language to deliver messages. For some, speech communication is natural and fluid, for others, it can be a struggle that requires additional help.

Speech therapy is “the process of habilitating or rehabilitating physical, habitual, and cognitive skills involved in communications,” says Speech Language Pathologist, Colleen Przybyla, M.S., CCC-SLP. “People with communications disorders might be of any age and may seek a speech pathologist for a variety of different reasons.”

Like most treatments, speech therapy operates on a case-by-case basis. Although there are various questions on how to approach it, the goal is always the same—to help an individual communicate clearly and effectively.

According to Przybyla, many communication disorders involve some or all of the following issues:

  • Speech Sounds – A person’s ability to pronounce comprehensive and audible sounds fluently. Mispronunciations, stuttering, or apraxia; a condition impacting a person’s ability to coordinate the rapid fine motor movements of speech can all have an impact on a person’s ability to clearly deliver their message.
  • Language – How well a person understands and uses words to convey their messages. This also involves literacy and reading comprehension.
  • Social Communication Skills – Interacting with others, while acknowledging and understanding social cues such as knowing when to speak, using body language, vocal intonation, volume, and avoiding inappropriate language/topics.
  • Voice – The quality and volume of how a person’s voice carries the message. Structural or tissue abnormalities can cause changes in voice, as well as overuse or abuse of voice.

“For the early years, language development tends to correspond with … age, therefore, we expect first words to appear close to the age of one,” says Przybyla, M.S., CCC-SLP.  “Children begin to string words together into phrases by the age of two. By the age of three, they are typically naming everything in their environment, using a more expansive vocabulary and they are able to form simple three-to-four-word sentences.”

A pediatrician will conduct a basic interview with parents regarding communication milestones during your child’s regular checkups. If there is concern of a delay, parents can start the path to seek an evaluation and possible treatment by recommending a viable speech therapist. Regardless of age, it’s never too early or late to seek the professional help of a Speech Language Pathologist. Speech-related issues can be found in both children and adults whether communication difficulties are congenital, developmental, disordered, or acquired.

Parents can seek further information from their child’s pediatrician, local school district, or their state’s Early Intervention program. Early Intervention programs provide intervention services from birth until the age of three. However, the amount of coverage differs by location. Resources found in Michigan may not be the same as those in other states. Be sure to research your state to see what services are available to you.

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Photo credit: Fat Camera

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