What is Speech-Language Therapy and how can it help my child?

What is speech-language therapy?

Pediatric speech and language therapists are trained to evaluate, diagnose, and treat a variety of communication challenges, as well as address feeding difficulties in children. The main goal of speech and language therapy is to help children communicate with peers and adults, as well as understand and interact with them successfullyTherapy focuses on skill development during individual therapy, and/or peer groups.

Areas that are targeted during speech and language therapy include speech sound production, childhood apraxia of speech, expressive language, auditory comprehension, literacy, play skills, social communication and engagement, and oral-motor function.

How can it help my child?

It’s important to think of speech and language under the umbrella term: communication.

When a child is “difficult to understand” or has a difficult time “understanding you”, it’s important to determine what is contributing to the communication breakdown.  A child may benefit from an evaluation and/or ongoing treatment if there is a lack of imitation skills, limited vocabulary, weak social skills, delays in acquiring new sounds and/or words, language regression, hesitations or repetitions in speech, frustration when attempting to communicate, have difficulty being understood by others, have short term or long term hearing loss, challenges with reading, or have difficulty using different language concepts.

Possible reasons for referral to speech-language therapy

Sound Production

Difficulty producing sounds, acquiring new sounds, coordinating sounds in words that affect overall intelligibility when speaking

Expressive Language

Diminished abilities in overall language quality, delayed babbling or saying first words, finding accurate words to use when talking, improper use of grammar, difficulty piecing words together to form sentences, limited vocabulary repertoire, difficulty generating responses or answering questions appropriately causing frustration.

Hearing Loss

Hearing loss that is conductive or sensorineural in pathology making it difficult to detect, discriminate, identify and imitate speech sounds, challenges when understanding spoken conversation, may rely heavily on visual cues and gestures to understand directions and environmental surroundings.

Oral Motor/Feeding

Weakness in muscle coordination, range of motion, and strength of oral musculature (tongue, jaw, lips, teeth, breath support) affecting speech production and feeding tasks.


Interruption in the flow of speaking marked by repetitions of sounds, syllables and/or words within a sentence.

Receptive Language

Difficulty understanding what is being asked or said, not responding to their name consistently, has a hard time following one-step and multistep directions, weak auditory memory, inability to answer different types of wh- questions.

Phonological Awareness/ Literacy

Difficulty identifying beginning, middle, and ending sounds in words, inability to identify or generate rhymes, unable to identify syllables in words, has a hard time segmenting words into sounds and blend sounds together to form words, needs support to understand reading material or what is being read, difficulty decoding unfamiliar words.

Social Communication

Doesn’t respond to his/her name, looks “spaced out”, becomes easily distracted, fidgets often, misses verbal directions or needs directions repeated, impulsive, seems lethargic or over-active and cannot adjust arousal level for a task.

Play Skills

Difficulty taking turns, needs support to understand play sequences or schemes, doesn’t understand how to initiate play or role play.


Abnormal voice quality that may be hypo-nasal or hyper-nasal, inability to modulate vocal volume, hoarseness, breathiness when speaking.