Some kids have trouble saying certain sounds or words. This can be frustrating because others may have trouble understanding what they're trying to say.
The good news is that kids can go to a special kind of therapist for help — speech therapists (also called speech-language pathologists).
What Do Speech Therapists Help With?
Speech therapists help people of all ages with different speech and language disorders. Here are some of them:
- articulation (say: ar-tik-yuh-LAY-shun) disorders: This when a kid has trouble saying certain sounds or saying words correctly. "Run" might come out as "won." Or "say" may sound like "thay." Lisps are considered articulation disorders.
- fluency (say: FLOO-en-see) disorders: If a kid repeats certain sounds and has trouble saying the complete word, he or she may have fluency disorder. For example, a kid trying to say "story" might get stuck on the "st" and say "st-st-st-story." Or he or she might draw out certain sounds and say "ssssssstory." A stutter is a fluency disorder.
- resonance (say: REZ-uh-nuhns) or voice disorders: A kid might have a voice disorder if people have trouble understanding him or her. The kids might start a sentence loud and clear, but it's quiet and mumbling by the end. Sometimes these kids sound like they have a cold or like they're talking through their noses.
- language disorders: A kid who has trouble understanding people or has trouble putting words together to express thoughts might have a language disorder.
Who Needs Speech Therapy?
Lots of kids see speech therapists. It's a great way to learn to speak more clearly. Sometimes a kid has a medical condition that makes speaking harder. Here are some of them:
- hearing problem
- weak muscles around the mouth
- vocal nodules/ hoarseness
- breathing disorder
- swallowing disorder
What's It Like?
A kid visiting a speech therapist for the first time will take a speaking test. Don't worry, it's not like a test in school that's going to affect your report card. This test is a way of finding out what types of speech problems a kid has.
The kid will be asked to say certain sounds and words. These may be recorded and the therapist might write some stuff down during the test. The test will help the therapist figure out the kid's needs and decide what treatments are best.
The "treatment" for speech problems is practice. If kids have trouble with articulation or fluency, the therapist will spend time showing them how to make the proper sounds. The therapist will demonstrate the sounds and ask the kid to try to copy them. That means copying the way the therapist moves the lips, mouth, and tongue to make the right sound.
Mirrors can be helpful here. The therapist might ask a kid to make these sounds while looking in the mirror. Some therapists use games to make this practice more fun.
If your therapist is helping you with a language disorder, your sessions may seem a little like school. He or she will help you with grammar — how to put words together properly to form clear statements and thoughts. If you have trouble understanding what you hear, you may play games that work on these skills, such as Simon Says.
How Long Will Treatment Last?
Some treatments are short and others are longer. It depends on the problem a kid is working on. Kids might see a speech therapist once a week or a few times a week. Treatment can take a few weeks, a few months, or a few years.
If you have speech problem, the best advice is to practice, practice, practice. Find time to work on the skills the therapist has shown you. Maybe spend some time before bed practicing in front of a mirror. Ask your parent to work with you.
Just like practicing your foul shot or memorizing your multiplication tables, hard work pays off!