Speech therapy is the treatment of speech, language or swallowing problems that make communication difficult. At present, approximately 2.5 million people in the UK have a speech or language difficulty to overcome when communicating, and close to 5% of children entering school suffer from speech and/or language concerns. Speech therapists, those trained to work with children and adults requiring speech, language or swallowing treatment, are available through the NHS but waiting lists are now long and parents often become frustrated with the wait. If you suspect your child has a difficulty that would benefit from speech therapy, don’t delay in visiting a health professional. The sooner difficulties are diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin.
Who Will Benefit from Speech Therapy?
Speech therapists work with babies and children on a variety of problems. Most often speech therapists treat:
- Babies who have problems feeding or swallowing.
- Children who find who have voice problems.
- Children who have difficulty understanding language.
- Children who have difficulty building or using vocabulary and grammar.
- Children who have difficulty chewing or swallowing.
- Children who stammer/stutter.
- Children diagnosed with learning disabilities.
- Children who have impaired hearing.
- Children suffering from a cleft palate.
- Children diagnosed with dyslexia.
- Autistic or dyspraxic children.
Where Will Speech Therapy Take Place?
Speech therapy takes place in a variety of settings across the UK. Many speech therapists work in:
- Hospitals, with patients.
- Hospitals, with outpatients.
- Community health centres.
- Public and private schools.
- Special education schools.
- Residential homes.
- Day centres.
- Private practice.
- Clients’ homes.
What Occurs During Speech Therapy Sessions?
Speech therapy sessions are generally between 30 and 60 minutes long. During the first visits, tests may be administered in order to diagnosis the type and severity of speech, language or swallowing difficulties. Time will also be spent allowing the therapist and child to get to know each other. During following sessions, a variety of activities may be employed, including:
- Sound or word repetition.
- Sound or word rhymes.
- Tongue twisters.
- Arts and crafts activities.
- Board games.
- Activities with soft toys, action figures and/or dolls.
- Puzzles, including cross word puzzles and word searches.
- Word or sentence scrambles.
- Reading aloud.
What Can Parents Do to Help their Children Receiving Speech Therapy?
Parents often feel helpless and frustrated when they don’t understand their children. Fortunately, there are a number of things parents of children receiving speech therapy can do to help. If you are the parent of a child in speech therapy, be sure to:
- Listen patiently as your child communicates.
- Give your child the time (s)he needs to communicate their thoughts or emotions.
- Allow your child to speak, don’t hurry to fill in missing or misused words.
- Praise your child’s attempts at communication, whether successful or not.
- Speak slowly and clearly yourself.
- Speak to your child about their therapy, so they do not feel secretive or ashamed.
- Ask your child’s speech therapists if there are activities you can engage in at home.
- Help your child do their therapy homework in between sessions.
While speech, language and swallowing difficulties can be frustrating for both children and parents, speech therapy is a common and effective treatment. If you suspect your child could benefit from speech therapy, don’t delay in seeking professional advice and placement services.