What is Speech and Language Therapy?

Speech and language therapy (a.k.a. Speech and Language Pathology) involves a series of learning activities designed to enhance your child's articulation and language skills. These goals are usually accomplished over time. Only rarely can a child's articulation and language skills be changed in one or two sessions. Usually, the more serious the disorder, the longer the period of therapy. The rate and pattern of improvement is different for every child. Your child may show steady improvement from the beginning, or a period of lengthy, gradual improvement may begin.

Initial Evaluation:The evaluation of your child's articulation and language capabilities is usually the first step of therapy. From this initial evaluation, the therapist develops a treatment plan to meet your child's specific needs. Evaluation does not end here, however. Throughout therapy, the therapist will measure your child's progress to set new goals and milestones for your child.

The Therapy Process: The articulation and language therapy process proceeds based on a carefully designed sequence of steps. The difficulty of each task that your child must accomplish will gradually increase over time. The therapist will use games (such as the ones you see on this site) as well as paper-and-pencil play activities to stimulate your child and maintain his/her interest. Conversations are also an important part of the therapy process. Generally, the child will be asked to learn to pronounce certain sounds (articulate), or to modify certain behaviors such as reducing his/her speech rate or the loudness of his/her voice. In more serious cases, the child may be asked to relearn skills that were lost due to an acquired disability, or to augment oral communication with a variety of alternative, non-vocal communication skills such as gestures or sign language.

Although the therapist will try to develop a good interpersonal relationship with your child, children learn best in a warm and supportive environment. Therefore parents play a vital role in the articulation therapy process. You will probably be asked to help by observing your child outside of the speech therapy sessions and helping your child practice articulation at home. The therapist will prepare you for these activities by providing information or specific skill training.

Often parents have a choice about where to seek speech and articulation therapy services. Public schools provide speech and articulation therapy for school-age children in every state. Some states extend services to preschool children. Most major hospitals have outpatient programs that serve children with speech and articulation handicaps. A number of state health agencies sponsor community clinics. Another option, though more costly, is the service provided by a professional in a private practice. In some cases, speech and articulation therapy may be carried out in the home environment.

Therapist Qualifications: The recommended minimum qualifications of a speech-language therapist are a Master's Degree plus national certification from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. This certification is signified by the letters C.C.C., which stand for Certificate of Clinical Competence. Some states require a license for individuals in private articulation practice. You should be comfortable in asking a therapist whether he or she has these credentials. In addition to these minimum qualifications, you should only seek and stay with those therapists who have sufficient experience in the articulation therapy process.

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