What do we do in Speech and Language Therapy?
Students that receive speech and language therapy may work on a variety of communication skills. It is not just about correcting "how a student talks" but speech and language therapy supports a student's educational program by providing therapeutic treatment, intervention and/or management to students that need to develop and/or improve specific foundational communication skills necessary for success in the academic setting. This has become particularly important with the new Common Core Learning Standards for K-12 that address Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening skills across the curriculum.
Below are some of the areas of communication that may be addressed. Difficulty in any of these areas does not necessarily mean that a communication disorder exists. Students must qualify for services based on screenings, formal testing, observation and/or clinical judgment.
Language is made up of socially shared rules that include the following:
- What words mean (e.g., "star" can refer to a bright object in the night sky or a celebrity)
- How to make new words (e.g., friend, friendly, unfriendly)
- How to put words together (e.g., "Peg walked to the new store" rather than "Peg walk store new")
- What word combinations are best in what situations ("Would you mind moving your foot?" could quickly change to "Get off my foot, please!" if the first request did not produce results)
- How we communicate in social situations (i.e. body language, tone of voice, turn-taking)
Language Processing is the ability to understand what is being said/heard and includes the following:
- Auditory Sequencing and Memory (i.e., remembering information, such as directions, or a series of words, sounds or numbers in the same order that they were spoken.)
- Auditory Discrimination (i.e., perceiving the sound differences between similar sounding words such as "bit" and "bat")
- Auditory Figure Ground (i.e., filtering speech from background noise such as a noisy classroom)
Speech is a verbal means of communicating. Speech consists of the following:
- Articulation: This is speech production or how speech sounds are made (e.g., children must learn how to produce the "r" sound in order to say "rabbit" instead of "wabbit").
- Phonology: Refers to the rule patterns that are followed in combining sounds (e.g., phonemes) to make words in a particular language.
- Phonemic Awareness is the knowledge that words are made up of individual sounds and is a precursor to developing literacy skills. It includes rhyming, syllabification, identifying initial/medial/final sounds, segmenting words into sounds and blending sounds into words.
- Oral-Motor: The ability to carry out movements and certain functions for speech production with the lips, tongue, cheeks and other muscles around the mouth.
- Voice: Use of the vocal folds and breathing to produce sound (e.g., the voice can be abused from overuse or misuse and can lead to hoarseness or loss of voice).
- Fluency: The rhythm of speech (e.g., hesitations or stuttering can affect fluency).
When a person has trouble understanding others (receptive language), or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings completely (expressive language), then he or she has a language disorder.
When a person is unable to produce speech sounds correctly or fluently, or has problems with his or her voice, then he or she has a speech disorder.