Speech and language therapy is concerned with the management of disorders of speech, language, communication and swallowing in children and adults. Speech and language therapists are allied health professionals (in Dutch: paramedici). They work closely with parents, carers and other professionals, such as teachers, nurses, occupational therapists and doctors. Speech and language therapy is often abbreviated ‘SLT’. Other names for speech and language therapy are speech and language pathology (US, Australia), logopedie (Dutch), orthophonie (French), foniaudiología (Latin America) and labels very similar to those.
Paediatric speech and language therapists work with children with difficulties in any of the following areas:
- Expressive language: putting their thoughts into words, forming sentences with correct word order and grammar, using accurate vocabulary
- Receptive language: understanding what others say, understanding instructions
- Non-verbal communication: this can include working with very young children who have not yet developed the language precursors for verbal communication, such as eye contact, pointing, joint attention, to working with older children with difficulties with eye contact, facial expression, etc.
- Pragmatics: using verbal and nonverbal communication effectively for social interaction
- Phonology and articulation: using incorrect speech sounds which are no longer in keeping with the child’s age or do not follow the expected developmental pattern
- Verbal dyspraxia: a motor coordination difficulty affecting pronunciation
- Selective mutism: only speaking in certain situations
- Voice use and vocal health: e.g. a persistently hoarse voice; not having sufficient breath support to produce enough volume; not knowing when or how to use a loud or quiet voice
- Dysfluency: stuttering/stammering or cluttering
- Incorrect tongue placement, often associated with a lisp, mouth breathing, open mouth and poor dental alignment
A speech and language therapist will always compare your child’s development in one or more of these areas to the average development of children of the same age. Therapy will be recommended only if a delay or disorder is apparent.