Speech and language therapy aims at improving the ability to interact and communicate in daily life. It consists of assessment, planning and carrying out the intervention in an individual or group therapy setting. Speech and language therapy also includes consultation with, and guidance of significant people in the client’s immediate environment. Speech and language therapy can be provided only by a qualified speech and language therapist.
When is it necessary to contact a speech and language therapist?
It is recommended that the child sees a speech and language therapist when one or more of the following four situations is observed:
The carer or another person of responsibility in the child’s life is worried about child’s language, communication or interaction.
Difficulties in the child’s speech, language and/or communication cause problems with participation, social relations, emotional wellbeing or self-esteem. In young children, these secondary problems can manifest as tantrums if the child is not understood. The child can also withdraw if he/she does not understand what is being said or is unable to express him/herself. In older children, linguistic difficulties can manifest as challenging behaviour.
The development of the child deviates from the typical developmental milestones. See for example American Speech-Language-Hearing Association “How Does Your Child Hear and Talk?”
The child seems to have problems in understanding what is spoken to him/her.
What can I do to help my child with speech, language and communication needs?
Get your child’s skills assessed
If your child has difficulties with language, communication or interaction, contact a speech and language therapist as soon as possible. Some people may think that the problems will pass by themselves and choose to wait. While some of the problems do pass by themselves, a large number do not. Only a professional can evaluate how persistent the problems are and if and when rehabilitation should begin. Should rehabilitation be necessary, its effectiveness is increased the earlier it is conducted.
Take an active part in the rehabilitation of your child. Be present at the speech and language therapy sessions and ask what you can do at home. Speech and language therapy sessions cover only a fraction of the child’s life. Language and speech are like any other skills – only with practice can the skills get better. This practice should happen in the everyday life of the child; at home, in day-care and in school, in addition to speech and language therapy. Paying attention to how you communicate with your child is according to research an efficient way of enhancing your child’s linguistic skills.
Provide possibilities to hear and use language
Provide the child with a communication environment that is variable and of a good standard. This means providing native level speakers and many people to interact with. In particular, this is especially important for children who grow up bi- or multilingual. When communicating with the child, take pauses. This makes it possible for the child to take initiative and begin conversation in a topic that interests him/her. Respond to the initiative and continue from the same topic. If the child’s utterance is incomplete or includes a grammatical error, repeat the child’s utterance the way it should be said. Do not ask the child to repeat it, but make sure that the interaction proceeds in a meaningful way. In addition to supporting the child’s linguistic skills, it is important to support and strengthen the skills in which the child is good at or in which he/she gets a feeling of success. When the child has a good self-esteem it is easier to practice difficult things and tolerate linguistic difficulties.
In many places, there is a lack of speech and language therapists. This can delay or even hinder the access to assessment and rehabilitation. If your child has linguistic difficulties, demand access to evaluation and rehabilitation. If the linguistic difficulties of the child are not recognised, are left untreated or are persistent, there is a higher risk for weak performance at school, modest academic skills and difficulties in work life.