School aged children: When to seek help from a Speech Pathologist
- Speech sound difficulty: This is when children substitute an incorrect sound in place of the appropriate sound. For example, they may say w for r (‘wabbit’, 'cawot'), they may have a lisp (when 's' is replaced with voiceless 'th', such as saying thun for sun), ‘slushy’ sounding speech, saying f for ‘th’ (‘birfday’) or have hard to understand speech in general. These are just a few examples of the difficulties some children have with speech sound acquisition.
- Stuttering: this is an abnormal interruption in the fluency, or flow, of speech. Stuttering can occur on single syllables (I-I-I-), be whole word repetitions (and- and- and-), whole phrases (I need- I need- I need-), or periods of silences where the person is struggling to get a word out (called blocks). Stuttering may or may not be accompanied by facial grimacing or body tics.
- Receptive language difficulties: These difficulties are generally characterised by children who find it hard to understand instructions, follow 2 or more steps or instructions, get easily confused in the classroom, regularly don’t know what they are supposed to do, copy a lot, have a reduced vocabulary, don’t join in in class activities… There are many ways receptive language difficulties show up- these are just a few of the most common.
- Expressive language difficulties: Children with expressive language difficulties may find it hard to order their speech correctly. They may sound ‘jumbled’- either when speaking, writing, or both. They may exhibit errors with tense, pronouns, have simplified sentence structure, reduced vocabulary and basic writing skills. They may find it hard to express themselves. Again, this is not an exhaustive list- just a few examples.
- Social language use (pragmatics): Children who are autistic, have ADHD or and otherwise neurodiverse have social language that is different to the neurotypical population. It is important to support their understanding of how neurotypical people interact socially so they can navigate social situations with them. It is NOT our job to try to 'change' the social behaviour of people. It is our job to support and ensure their environment is accomodating of their difficulties. Having a speech pathologist who uses neurodiversity- affirming techniques is important for the communication and mental health of these children.
- Literacy: If your child has difficulty reading or spelling, a speech pathologist can help. A specialist literacy program will go back to the basics; teaching letter-sound awareness using a multisensory approach, teaching blending (for reading) and segmenting (for spelling), focus on spelling rules and teach consonant and vowel digraphs as appropriate to their level of schooling.
- Voice: People with voice disorders may have an excessively loud or excessively soft voice, may speak in a monotone pitch, may have a hoarse, rough, breathy, harsh or gravelly sounding voice. They may have an irregular speech rhythm (such as staccato speech) or poor intonation (little or no use of inflections in tone to 'colour' speech).
- Resonance: People with resonance disorders may have speech that sounds overly nasal, or as though their nose is blocked all the time. A speech pathology assessment can determine whether therapy is indicated, or if there is a need to refer on to an ENT (or both).
Children with difficulties with attention and listening skills, memory problems and/ or behaviour difficulties may also have an underlying speech or language disorder.
If any of these areas sounds like your school-aged child, please contact a speech pathologist. Help is there for you to take advantage of!