PhotoCC- By Steven Depolo
This is a follow up post to last week’s blog on speech disorders and will mainly focus on child language disorders.
There are two major parts to being a SLP: speech and language. The speech aspect entails the actual voice/ vocal cords, throat, tongue and mouth, where as, the language aspect deals more with actual communication. According to ASHA, a language disorder is “when a person has trouble understanding others (receptive language), or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings completely (expressive language)” (ASHA). Like speech disorders language disorders can be caused by stroke or other medical problems, or the person may be born with it.
Preschool Language Disorders
The preschool age is considered to be around 3-5 years old. During this time, children are learning the ways of communication, but may struggle in the areas of talking (expressive language), understanding (receptive language), and early reading and writing. When a child has difficulty with talking they tend to lack in the skill areas of: “asking questions, naming objects, using gestures, putting words together into sentences, learning songs and rhymes, using correct pronouns, and knowing how to start and keep a conversation going” (ASHA).
If the child has difficulty understanding they may lack in the skill areas of: “understanding gestures and what they mean, following directions, answering questions, identifying objects and pictures, and taking turns when talking with others” (ASHA).
If a child has difficulty learning to read and write during the early stages, they are having trouble with the basic ideas that we may take for granted, such as: “holding a book right side up, looking at pictures and turning book pages, telling a story with a beginning, middle, and end, learning the alphabet, and naming letters and numbers” (ASHA).
The cause of preschool language disorders are not always specific, but some factors that may effect a child are, family history of language disorders, premature birth, hearing loss, Autism, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol spectrum, Cerebral palsy, and brain injury. When a child is being treated for a language disorder treatment goals focus on increasing the child’s understanding and use of language. SLPs will work with teachers, caregivers, and family members to learn appropriate ways to communicate with the child, and help them use other ways to communicate by using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) if needed.
In other words, it is extremely important to always communicate appropriately and affectively to your child. Don’t stop talking to them and engaging them in whatever is going on around them.
Language-Based Learning Disabilities
Language-based learning disabilities are problems with “age-appropriate reading, spelling, and/or writing that are caused by a difference in brain structure that is present at birth, is often hereditary, and is often related to specific language problems” (ASHA). A very common learning disability is dyslexia, in which a student has difficulty deciphering printed words, but they may also suffer with speaking as well. Difficulties a student may encounter are: expressing ideas clearly, using unspecific vocabulary, learning new vocab, understanding questions and following directions that are heard and/or read, recalling number sequences, telling time, reading and comprehending material, telling the difference between numbers and letters, and telling left from right.
Treatment options for learning disabilities such as dyslexia are specific to each child. if the student is able to read words but is unable to understand the details of what has been read, comprehension is addressed. “If a younger student has difficulty distinguishing the different sounds that make up words, treatment will focus on activities that support growth in this skill area (rhyming, tapping out syllables, etc.)” (ASHA). Each individualized program relates to the child’s school work. Therefore, materials for treatment are taken from the contents of their classes. The SLP works with the teacher to develop new teaching strategies, and the student to find what comprehension strategies need to be used to result in better understanding and less frustration.
“A child with selective mutism does not speak in certain situations, like at school, but speaks at other times, like at home or with friends” (ASHA). Symptoms of selective mutism may involve: consistent failure to speak when there is an expectation for speaking, last at least 1 month, and interferes with school or social communication. Failure to speak does not relate to lack of knowledge. If a child is showing symptoms of selective mutism, they may be dealing with anxiety, fear of social embarrassment, self-esteem issues, or a speech, language, or hearing problems.
When evaluating a child for selective mutism, a team consisting of a speech-language pathologist, pediatrician, and a psychologist or psychiatrist work with teachers, family, and the individual to build a behavioral treatment plan specific to their needs. The SLP evaluates expressive language ability, language comprehension, and verbal and non-verbal communication. The SLPs plan will target problems that are making the mute behavior worse and use role-play activities to help the child to gain confidence speaking.
After my research these past few weeks, it has made me realize that a lot of children’s and adult’s problems may spur from or involve a speech-language disorder. Now, I tend to be more curious about what people may have going on and how I would be able to help them in my future career.