Today’s post is by contributor Jessica Bunnell MS, CCC-SLP, a Speech Language Pathologist and owner of CommuniKids Speech and Language Services, LLC. Jessica has worked with children for over 10 years and her specialty is helping children ages 2 to 10, with speech or language disorders. We’re thrilled to have her join us today to shed a little light on speech therapy — including what it is and when a child might benefit from it.
Back to school is here – a stressful and fast-paced time of the year, which has been exacerbated by the constant changes brought on by COVID-19. Families have been more involved than ever in the day-to-day education of their children and it has given parents and caregivers a unique glimpse at their children’s strengths and weaknesses in a learning environment. As areas of growth become more apparent, it will be important to advocate for your child to make sure they are getting the necessary supports that will help them be successful in the (virtual) classroom.
Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) work with children on a wide range of goals. We help students who have difficulty with any of the following:
- Producing sounds correctly
- Understanding and following directions
- Forming questions and answering questions
- Understanding what’s going on in a story, retelling the events of the story
- Learning letters and learning how to spell
- Learning new vocabulary
- Learning how to read
- Learning grammar
- Learning how to interact appropriately in different environments, following expectations, following the classroom routine
- Learning how to interact socially with peers
- Any specific disorder that impacts communication
My child is saying some of their sounds incorrectly. Do they need speech therapy?
There is a lot of information and research about when children develop certain sounds. As your child continues to develop, they will improve their production of speech sounds. The research says that in most kids, all speech sounds are produced correctly by age 5 or 6. But many sounds should be mastered at a much younger age (age 3 and up).
This graphic shows information on “developmental speech norms” – when we typically expect a child to have mastered a specific sound. If your child has not mastered some speech sounds, I recommend reaching out to a SLP to schedule an evaluation. The longer we wait to address a child’s speech sound errors, the harder it may be to change that motor pattern of producing the sound in that way.
My child is having trouble following directions. Do they need speech therapy?
Following directions is a skill that falls under the umbrella of receptive language. Receptive language refers to our ability to process and understand the language in our environment – spoken language and written language. If your child is having trouble following directions, they may be having difficulty with processing language. This might look like:
- Difficulty starting an activity because they don’t remember the directions
- Difficulty following expectations because they don’t remember the expectations
- Difficulty answering questions (or needing extra time to respond)
- Difficulty understanding what happened in a story
If your child has difficulty with any of these areas, they could benefit from working with an SLP to support their language development and overall classroom experience and participation.
My child is having trouble reading. Do they need speech therapy?
Reading is one of the hardest things to learn – the English language is TOUGH! Speech therapists are well-versed on the building blocks of learning how to read and are beneficial in supporting your child in their reading development. We help kids build pre-literacy skills and teach letters, the sounds that letters make, putting letters together to make words and learning sight words. If your child needs a boost, an SLP can help!
That being said, I would also recommend finding a reading specialist who will have more detailed knowledge on specific reading disorders and will likely be trained in a learning-to-read program such as Orton-Gillingham. SLPs do work with kids who have reading disorders, but some families find that reading specialists are a better fit for their child in these circumstances.
My child is having trouble interacting with peers. Do they need speech therapy?
A huge aspect of learning in elementary school is learning how to interact with others – peers and adults. In the world of speech therapy, we call this “social communication.” Social communication covers a wide range of topics including:
- Active listening
- Taking the perspective of others
- Starting a conversation and keeping a conversation going
- Making appropriate comments and asking questions in conversation
- Taking turns in conversation
- Staying on topic
- Recognizing a breakdown in communication and attempting to fix it
SLPs address ALL aspects of communication, including social communication. If you are concerned about your child being able to do any of those skills, I would recommend reaching out to an SLP to see if an evaluation is warranted.
My child struggles with writing. Can speech therapy help?
Oftentimes, yes! SLPs work with children who have difficulty with grammar – we teach prepositions, plural nouns, verb endings, and question words. We help students complete writing assignments by teaching them how to use graphic organizers to get their ideas and thoughts organized before they begin writing. We help breakdown the assignment so students can understand (and address) each piece of the activity.
In an elementary school, SLPs share this responsibility with special education teachers – often supporting their lessons and activities as opposed to being the lead specialist.
You can connect with Jessica via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), on her website CommuniKidsSLP.com, or on Instagram @communikids.slp. CommuniKids offers play-based, family centered speech therapy for families across Massachusetts – either in person or via teletherapy. CommuniKids also provides comprehensive evaluations, individualized treatment plans, and parent coaching sessions to help provide strategies to parents that will help them communicate effectively with their children.