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What is Speech Therapy used for?

The main purpose of Speech Therapy is to improve communication disorders and difficulties in children and in adults. Regardless of how small a concern may be, our core aim is to build up confidence and a solid foundation in speech and language. This extra help and guidance will allow children and adults to progress with their social communication and potentially structure new ways of expression.

It is common for parents to have slight concerns about their child’s language development. If you are a new parent or unaware of what it’s like to have speech difficulties, it can be hard for you to identify the first telltale signs.  Without the right source of information, it is difficult for you to fully support yourself or your child when it comes to improving their communication.

With that said, speech therapy isn’t purely here to help those who are in the early stages of speech development. We are no strangers in helping adults who need extra support becoming a stronger communicator.  Currently, there is still the misconception that speech therapy is there to only help individuals with noticeable disorders. However, this isn’t the case. Speech Therapists also help individuals who need guidance with their speech so that they can convey their thoughts clearly and concisely.

In this short guide, you’ll have a better understanding of the various speech disorders there are and the ways you can identify the key symptoms. To help you out a little bit more, at the end of each description we’ve included ways to help improve the detected speech issue. But as always, if you need extra guidance, a professional diagnosis is best to confirm your suspicions.

Types of Speech Difficulties and Disorders

Resonance disorders

With this disorder, the quality of sound vibration in speech is affected by the inconsistency/obstruction in the airflow passing through the throat, mouth and nose. “Normal” speakers tend to have good airflow through the mouth when pronouncing the majority of sounds. An individual with Resonance Disorder will have problems with the quality of their voice due to Velopharyngeal Dysfunction.

The common cause of resonance disorder is the craniofacial disorder like those with cleft palate. However, enlarged adenoids, neurological disorders and/or childhood apraxia of speech may also develop into the resonance disorder.

Symptoms

  • Excessive amount of sound/air coming from the nose when talking OR decreased airflow through the nose due to blockage (individual may sound like they have a constant cold)
  • Weak pronunciation with consonant sounds
  • Short utterance length due to the loss of air coming through the mouth
  • Pains when speaking
  • Their speech may sound muffled due to obstruction of airflow

Speech Therapy Treatments

Speech therapy is a great option for those who have mild resonance disorder. Typical sessions may consist of teaching the child/adult on how to use their lips, tongue and velopharyngeal valve correctly in order to communicate better.

 

Articulation Disorders

Articulation disorder is where individuals have difficulty articulating certain sounds and syllables. The spectrum of this disorder can range from a person slurring their speech to someone substituting a sound to something similar.

As speech difficulties can develop at any age, we believe that it is important to recognise the key symptoms during the early stages of the disorder.

Symptoms

  • Slight stuttering when trying to pronounce certain sounds
  • Sound substitution (e.g replacing the “s” in sorry for “thorry”)
  • Sound omission (e.g for the word “blue” the sound “oo” is pronounced instead)
  • Sound distortion (e.g the “r” in rascal is pronounced like “wascal” instead)
  • “Baby talk” is still prominent after the young child phase

Speech Therapy Treatments

Although there is no instant cure for Articulation Disorders, there are still a range of treatments available. Depending on the severity of the disorder, sessions will be tailored to restructure speech patterns in a relaxed environment.

 

Fluency Disorders

Fluency Disorder is where individuals have behaviours of repeating words, sounds and/or syllables when trying to communicate. As stuttering is the common form of Fluency Disorder, many of us are very aware of what the symptoms consist of.

However, Cluttering is another form of Fluency Disorder. Less spoken about than stuttering, this disorder is where an individual has an irregular or rapid rate of speech; causing them to delete or collapse certain syllables when speaking.

Symptoms  

  • Stuttering
    • Whole word repetitions
    • Part word/sound repetitions
    • Excessive struggling when pronouncing words
  • Cluttering
    • Rapid speech
    • Excessive deletion of syllables or word endings
    • Excessive use of filler words
    • Unnecessary pauses in sentences.

Speech Therapy Treatment

Just like all the other speech disorders mentioned above, there is an assessment made which helps decide which treatment is best suited for the patient. The sessions will work on specific goals that’ll help reduce and/or eliminate fluency difficulties without developing negative emotions/memory.

Helping your child & Loved ones

After over 10 years of experience working for the NHS Children’s SLT services, I believe that finding the right speech therapist is important.  With that said, the involvement of the child’s parent in speech development and therapy is crucial for success. This is why we ensure that parents are fully equipped with guidance and information when it comes to helping their child succeed.

If you are interested in a learning more, be sure to check out our previous articles. If you believe that your child may have difficulties with their speech, please talk about your concerns with a professional speech therapist.

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Greedy Gorilla

This is the food game where you collect the ‘healthy’ foods on your place ‘mat’ and you feed the ‘junk’ food to the gorilla. The naughty gorilla then makes a burping noise!

The children (and adults!) find the Gorilla hilarious. As well as having fun listening to the Gorilla, the game can also be used to develop lots of the childrens’ speech and language skills:

Attention and Listening

Sometimes, children really struggle to concentrate on an activity for any length of time and quickly flit from one thing to the next. This affects their language development in lots of different ways. For example, adults may be providing lots of excellent language models and talking about what is happening but the child has lost attention and is not listening to all the utterances being said around him/her.

At first, just play the game with your child and only use 10 of the food items. The game is then over when all 10 items have been posted into the gorilla’s mouth or put on yours/your child’s mat. Next time you play, use 15 food items and/or add an extra player. Your game will then last longer and your child will have to concentrate for an increasing amount of time. They will be motivated to do this as s/he will want to continue to hear the naughty gorilla!!

Understanding

Food Words

‘Foods’ are an early category of words that children develop understanding of. This game gives you lots of different food pictures to label and talk about with your child e.g. ‘ice-cream’ ‘milk’ ‘bread.’

You can then lay out a selection of the different food pictures and ask your child for one to see if they have developed understanding of the food item e.g. “Give me the apple.”.

This learning can then be reinforced in your everyday activities when you talk about what you and your child are eating ie. “Mummy’s eating an apple”/”daddy’s eating a banana.”

Action Words

As you are labelling the different foods, you can introduce verbs/action words to your child e.g. “The gorilla’s eating a doughnut” or “I’m feeding the gorilla some chips.” When your child knows the basic action words, you can expand their knowledge by talking about “The Gorilla is …… ‘licking an ice-cream’/’biting an apple/sipping some pop/crunching on popcorn.’

As well as different types of foods and action words, you can also support the length of instructions which your child understands. ‘Key words’ are words which we have to know in order to follow a sentence e.g. if I put out a picture of a ‘banana’ and an ‘apple’, held my hand out and said “Give me the apple”, there would only be one key word (‘apple’) that the listener would have to understand, ‘give me the’ are irrelevant as they can be worked out by the hand gesture.

By giving your child a choice of ‘food’ and ‘people’, you can encourage them to understand sentences with two key words e.g. “Give the banana to mummy” “Give the sweetcorn to the gorilla.” The child has to make a choice with two words – the ‘food’ item and the ‘person’ to give the item to.

Talking Skills

Once a child understands the food and action words, they then need to be able to use the words in their talking: putting the words in the right order and moving their mouth into the right positions to articulate the words. The child can become the ‘director’ and can tell you what to do e.g. “Give the chips to the gorilla”.

Depending on your child’s level, you can make it easier for them by holding the ‘naughty gorilla’ up and asking “What should the gorilla eat?” They can then simply label the ‘food’ item.

Grammar

You can make your Gorilla into a ‘female’ or ‘male’ and give them an appropriate name e.g. “Geoff the Gorilla”/”Holly the Gorilla”. You can then reinforce the pronouns, ‘he’ and ‘she’ throughout the game e.g. “She is eating an apple/He is eating some peas.”

Turn-Taking

Lots of children find it difficult to wait their turn. Playing Greedy Gorilla with a sibling/friend, gives the child lots of opportunities to practice waiting to have their turn. As they are excited to hear the naughty gorilla, not only are they motivated to wait their turn but they also want to carry on playing the game until it is completed.

So overall, Greedy Gorilla is a very simple and fun resource that can be used with a variety of age groups. It can be used to develop a range of speech and language skills as everyone enjoys playing it: who cannot help smiling when a naughty gorilla burps!