There was recently a story shared on social media about a young boy with autism and his father who were on an international flight. The father started the journey with an apology to their seatmate for his child’s challenging behaviors that would likely occur during the long flight. What the father didn’t know was that they were seated next to the exact right person during that flight – a speech language pathologist (SLP). Over the course of the 8-hour flight, the SLP worked with the boy to help him find a way to communicate and his frustration and outbursts decreased as he was able to connect with her and express himself. As she remarked, ‘Communication is a basic human right, and I was overjoyed to help someone find it. What a privilege and a gift.’
I loved this story for several reasons – obviously any time someone shares a heartwarming story about helping a child it will resonate with folks, but what spoke to me was the powerful example of the profound impact speech language pathologists have on people’s lives. While this is a wonderful example of what SLPs can do and how they can help, there is so much more that people often don’t know about.
We’ve already determined that SLPs are experts in communication, but what does that really mean?
- Speech sound disorders – Perhaps you’ve noticed that your child isn’t pronouncing words clearly or maybe a teacher has mentioned that he/she occasionally stutters in class. Should you be concerned? Typically developing children may have trouble with some sounds, words, and sentences while they are learning. However, most children can use language easily around 5 years of age. Some common types of speech disorders include:
- Articulation – trouble with pronouncing sounds or saying words.
- Voice – issues with hoarseness, pitch or voice quality – these may cause pain or discomfort.
- Fluency – problems such as stuttering or prolonging sounds and syllables.
- Language disorders – A child can have trouble with the expression or understanding of language.
- Receptive – Challenges understanding or processing language. It may appear that your child just isn’t paying attention or seems especially disinterested when others are talking.
- Expressive – Issues with putting words together or limited vocabulary. Perhaps your child is very quiet and rarely raises his hand in school. Children with expressive language disorders can seem withdrawn and have troubles keeping up a conversation.
- Dysphagia/oral feeding disorders are disorders in the way someone eats or drinks, including problems with chewing, swallowing, coughing, gagging, and refusing foods. There can be physical and psychological issues at the root of a feeding disorder and these types of challenges can lead to health, learning and social problems. It’s not unusual for children to have some troubles early on as they learn to drink and eat – perhaps they seem overly picky about certain foods or continuously spill when learning to drink from a cup, but it’s when these challenges continue or grow worse over time that they could signal an issue.
Language or speech disorders can also be present with emotional or behavioral disorders, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or anxiety. Children with developmental disabilities including autism spectrum disorder may also have difficulties with speech and language. We know that the word ‘disorder’ can sometimes sound scary or overwhelming, but the good news is that there are methods to help with all the issues described above. An SLP is skilled at determining the causes of disorders and an early and thorough assessment is always the best course of action to ensure your child is getting the individualized treatment that they need. We at Galvin Therapy Center are here to help!
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association – https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/Speech-Sound-Disorders/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/language-disorders.html
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