The first babbling sounds of a child seem like music to any mother’s ears. However, some mothers are blessed with special kids who take a little longer time to vocalize or do not vocalize at all. In such situations, speech therapy can come to their rescue. The child can face either a speech disorder or language disorder; technically speech disorder refers to a situation where the child finds it difficult to produce sounds and in language disorders it is problematic for the child to correlate different words to produce meaningful communication.
Who Are Speech Therapists?
Speech therapists are professionals who are experts in the field of human communication, its progress and the related disorders. They are qualified with a master’s degree and equipped with a certificate or license from the state to practice in their field.
What Is Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy is a remedial measure to tackle the speech or language disorders. The child is first assessed for his speech, language or cognitive skills and also his competency to swallow or to be fed with or without help. Once his communication and feeding problems are identified, the speech therapist devises a strategy that will help him to overcome his difficulties.
What Are Strategies Involved In Speech Therapy?
- Oral Motor Therapy
The speech therapist decides the suitable exercise which gives a facial massage or works up the muscles of the jaw, tongue, lip so that they are strengthened. The child is exposed to foods of varying textures and temperatures to increase the oral sensitivity of the child, which goes a long way in making his mouth, acclimatize to the variety.
- Articulation Therapy
The speech therapist concentrates on improving and correcting the syllables and sounds for the child through fun and play. The play activities are age appropriate; the child is taught how to move the tongue to form different sounds.
- Language Intervention Therapy
Stimulation is given to the child to enhance his language skills; this is done through use of books, objects, pictures etc.
Repetition is necessary in all cases for building the child’s language and speech skills.
Speech Therapy Games
Speech Therapy is a professional approach to correct and improve some speech and language impairments faced by some children and adults. These problems can extend to eating and swallowing abilities of the children. Speech therapy involves the use of various fun and play activities to provide remedial measures. The games used stimulate the cognitive abilities of the children and repetitions bring the required response from the kids in most cases. A few of such games can be enumerated below to get an idea how learning takes place.
Chugginton’s Traintastic Cargo Game
This is meant for children of 3 years and above and helps to improve vocabulary through shapes, colors, numbers and the concept of first, next and last. This includes a Chugginton train which comes with its several boxcars into the depot. The kids have to load the boxcars with the requisite cargo. All learning takes place during the loading of cargo, as the kids try to match their cargo pieces with a Vee card which denotes a sequence of five shapes or colors or a combination of numbers and so on.
Whats In The Cat’s Hat?
This game is also meant for children of three years and above. The main feature of this game is the cat’s hat which has little flaps on the sides to allow for a little see through. One child becomes the hat master and the rest are the players. The hat master selects any item from the therapy room to hide beneath the hat and the others need to guess what it is by asking relevant questions. These could be related to its weight, feel and from the answers they try to guess the object. This provides scope for a lot of language learning by encouraging deductive reasoning, enhancing auditory memory and descriptive vocabulary.
There are plenty of other games meant for children of various ages which provide stimulation in areas where they are lacking.
Speech Therapy Activities
Speech therapy activities are needed when your child has some problems eating or swallowing food or making sounds or forming words or sentences. All speech therapy activities are age appropriate and tackle the deficiencies through a mixture of fun activities and learning programs.
Activities For Infants
In case of infants, more than sounds there are problems in swallowing or chewing food and liquids. Here the speech therapist places emphasis on all those actions that can activate the muscles of the tongue, lip and jaws. Foods of different textures and varying temperature are introduced; this improves the oral sensitivity of the kids and stimulates their tongue to roll in the right fashion to facilitate eating and swallowing.
Activities For Preschoolers & Kindergarteners
For the preschoolers and kindergarteners, more cognitive learning takes place through the speech therapy activities. A combination of structured and play activities is done here and includes the use of flash cards, basic board-game kind of activities. The kids are made familiar with colors, shapes, numbers and letters through the board games. More emphasis is placed on improving the vocabulary of the kids like names of known objects, location words or antonyms of known words.
Some of the activities included in speech therapy could be summarized as follows:
- Use of picture communication systems which helps the child to learn communication skills through use of pictures rather than words
- Making use of sounds to remove the child’s sensitivity to them, and compress and expand speech sounds
- Facial exercises to improve the muscles for better articulation of speech
- Compose and sing songs which are relevant to the flow and stress of sentences.
T here should be continuous communication between the parent and the speech and language specialist so that progress of the child can be monitored by following the same techniques at home.
Speech Therapy Courses
Speech pathologists are needed in case of communication problems with a child or an adult. These communication problems could arise due to genetic defects or injury like a stroke or also due to certain disability like stuttering, deafness, brain damage leading to intellectual disability etc. The speech pathologists assess and tackle these disorders in areas of communication like voice, speech, language, fluency besides dealing with infants as well as adults who have difficulty in eating and swallowing of food items.
Speech pathology is concerned with medical science, providing education and rehabilitation of the patient. A number of university courses are available which give entry-level training to the students. These could be of two types, the undergraduate or graduate entry degree, better known as Bachelor and Masters Degree respectively.
In this case, you can choose a Bachelors’ degree in Biomedicine or Science, Bachelors’ degree in Arts with major subject being Psychology, Linguistics or any other relevant discipline. For Masters’ degree you need to specialize in Speech Pathology. A minimum of three years are required for completion of the undergraduate course, after which you get the Bachelor’s degree. A further two years needs to be devoted to the graduate course, on completion of which you are awarded the Masters degree.
The training courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels can be availed of at the other accredited university programs. The relevant bodies lay down the guidelines regarding the attributes and skills needed for graduate entry into the field of speech therapy. All accredited university programs are equivalent to standards required by the relevant Speech Pathology Associations.
The facility of part time courses which are available can also be taken advantage of. In fact most of the major cities have various study areas offering both university courses as well as accredited courses.
Speech Therapy Australia
Speech Therapy comes into picture when there are problems in communication or swallowing disorders. In Australia, the speech and language therapy goes under the common name of Speech pathology. The speech pathologists offer their services by being affiliated to various centers or individually.
In Australia, there are many day care centers spread in various states that provide for speech and occupational therapy, physiotherapy and other therapy services to the elderly in a community setting and also to the care facilities for the aged which are funded by Australian Government. A wide range of therapy services of differing types and intensity levels are offered by them. These centers were provided $36 million in funding from the Australian government in the year 2009-2010.
An individual can be referred to their program through a geriatrician, general practitioner, hospitals, social worker or community health workers or Aged Care Assessment Teams. These centers are established in various Australian states like New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania etc which cater to all the neighboring areas.
Another center by the name of Speech Therapy Center which caters to children too, is located in Caloundra and Caboolture. They offer programs best suited to each child after assessing for his incapacities. They go deep in finding out deficiencies of your child in various areas of speech like articulation, oral muscles or stuttering; language like vocabulary, comprehending words and making sentences or stroke related language problems.
Speech Therapy Center monitors the speech, language and pre-literacy progress of the child in the center. It gives speech therapy on a one-to-one basis and incorporates fun and play to do required follow up at home. It involves all those people who are closely associated with the child’s development like his parents, teachers while monitoring his progress. It’s all inclusive programs are simple to understand and easy to follow. The parents and other interested individuals can also take advantage of the various workshops organized by them.