Common Communication Challenges Can Be Harder in a Foreign Country
Both children and adults frequently face challenges in communication that can range from mild to severe, and involve everything from verbal and written communication to listening and attentiveness. Our professional speech-language pathologists work with people of all ages to help them communicate more effectively and improve their quality of life. The types of disorders these professionals may diagnose and treat include:
- Speech Sound Disorders: Problems producing speech sounds in words.
- Articulation Disorders: Difficulty producing particular consonant or vowel sounds. For example, saying the W sound instead of the R sound.
- Phonological Disorders: Difficulty producing a group of sounds with similar error patterns. Some examples of common patterns include omitting all ending consonants, or replacing all sounds produced in the back of the mouth (K, G) with sounds produced in the front of the mouth (T, D).
- Language Disorders: Trouble understanding others, or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Language disorders may be spoken or written and may involve the form (grammar, sentence structure), content (vocabulary, meaning of words), and/or use (social communication) of language in functional and socially appropriate ways.
- Receptive Language Disorders: Difficulty understanding words and/or sentences, attending to the speech of others, or following directions and learning by means of language.
- Expressive Language Disorders: Difficulty using the right words when talking, combining words to make sentences, putting sentences together correctly, or using limited vocabulary.
- Social Communication Disorders: Problems with the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication. It may include difficulty with communicating or interacting appropriately with others, talking in different ways to suit the listener and setting, or following rules for conversation and story-telling.
- Voice/Resonance Disorders: Disturbances in the production and/or sound of a person’s voice. The voice may be harsh, hoarse, raspy, cut in and out, show sudden changes in pitch, or sound too nasal. Voice disorders can be due to vocal nodules, cysts, papillomas, paralysis, or weakness of the vocal cords. A full evaluation and diagnosis from an otolaryngologist (also known as ENT) is necessary before beginning voice therapy.
- Fluency Disorders: Disruptions in the natural “flow” or forward movement of speech. Stuttering is the most common type, and happens when there are an abnormal number of repetitions, hesitations, prolongations, or blocks in the rhythm or flow of speech. Internal reactions from the person talking, and external reactions from listeners, may impact stuttering, but they do not cause stuttering.
- Cognitive-Communication Disorders: Problems organizing thoughts, paying attention, remembering, planning, and/or problem-solving.
- Dysphagia: Feeding and/or swallowing disorder.
- Literacy: Trouble with reading, spelling, and writing might accompany other speech and/or language disorders.
Each client has unique needs, and the speech-language pathologist can determine which therapy techniques and activities are the most appropriate for each person.
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An individualized speech therapy program begins with an evaluation by the speech-language pathologist (SLP) to assess the client’s communication strengths and challenges and provide a diagnosis. From this evaluation, the SLP creates individual goals to target in therapy.
The structure of a speech therapy program is determined by many things, such as the client’s age, any underlying conditions or disorders, and the particular speech or language challenges to be addressed. These factors also influence the frequency of services and length of treatment needed.
Each speech therapy session is designed based on the needs of each client, so therapy may look very different depending on the goals being addressed.
Speech Therapy with Children
For young children, speech therapy often looks like play, but the speech-language pathologist chooses each activity based on the child’s individual goals. Games and toys that are appealing to children are used as the “tools” to address specific goals, or as rewards for completing tasks. Everyday toys, books, and objects are incorporated into treatment to encourage generalization and to enable families to practice home activities in natural ways. Play also provides a comfortable environment for the child and the therapist to build a positive relationship of trust.
Older children may benefit from more curriculum- and literacy-based therapy techniques, as children with speech or language delays are often at higher risk than their peers for difficulties in reading and writing. However, the goal is always to make speech therapy enjoyable, as this leads to better attention and internalization of new skills. Therefore, each child’s interests, motivations, likes or dislikes are taken into account when designing activities to address their specific goals, whether they are learning to produce specific speech sounds or improving language or social skills.
Speech Therapy with Adults
Some speech or language difficulties start in early childhood, and others can happen after illness or injury. These may become an obstacle in different areas of life, including the workplace, at home, or in the community. No matter the age of the person, speech therapy can help develop more effective communication skills and build confidence.
After determining areas of improvement, the speech-language pathologist collaborates closely with the client to develop appropriate and functional goals to best meet the client’s needs. They also teach the client specific techniques and strategies to practice outside of the therapy sessions to both boost progress and encourage the use of new skills in everyday life.
Speech and language therapy can provide significant improvements in the communication of both children and adults. It can help people of all ages enhance their communication skills and improve the quality of their lives.