Why Is Speech Therapy Needed?

If you’re wondering why a child or adult would need speech therapy, you’re not alone. Unless you’ve experienced speech therapy yourself, you may not know it can help people of all ages who have communication issues. 

Why do people receive speech therapy?

Why would a child or adult go to a speech therapist? People receive speech therapy for a variety of communication disorders and needs. This can include everything from a speech delay to a stutter, from recovering language after a stroke to improving your communication at work. Speech therapy can help babies, toddlers, kids, teenagers, and adults of all ages. 

How common are communication disorders in the U.S.?

Many people can benefit from speech therapy. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 5% to 10% of Americans may have communication disorders. While that includes a range of conditions, in particular:

  • More than 3 million Americans stutter

  • Nearly 7% of Americans have some form of language impairment

  • About 1 million Americans have aphasia

How common are speech and language problems in children?

According to the CDC’s most recent National Health Interview Survey

  • Approximately 8% of kids ages 3 to 17 years old presented with a communication disorder over the past year.

  • 3- to 6-year-old children, boys, and non-Hispanic black children were more likely than others to have a communication disorder.

Why is speech therapy important?

For children, identifying a communication problem as early as possible helps them start making progress as quickly as possible. For kids with issues such as a speech delay, this can help them “catch up” with their peers. Communication milestones build on one another. So if a child is having difficulty at one level of development, they are less likely to meet their next milestones in a timely manner. That’s where speech therapy makes a difference.

If a child is having difficulty at one level of development, they are less likely to meet their next milestones in a timely manner.

For anyone, of any age, who would like to improve the way they communicate, speech therapy opens doors–at school, at work, and socially. Communication is more than words. It’s how we express what we believe, share how we feel, and show who we are. Everyone deserves the chance to communicate and connect with other people. Speech therapy helps make that happen.

As mentioned above, there are many reasons speech therapy may be recommended. Here are some common reasons a child or adult would need speech therapy.

Receptive and expressive language delays in children

Speech therapy can begin as early as a pediatrician, parent, or caregiver notices a child’s delay in speaking or interacting with others. Babies and toddlers can receive speech therapy to help with receptive or expressive language delays.

A receptive language delay is an issue with understanding what is said. Examples might include having trouble following directions or understanding questions asked. 

An expressive language delay refers to difficulty with communicating wants and needs, whether verbally or nonverbally. 

People can have speech and language delays for a variety of reasons. The speech delay might be related to another diagnosis, such as autism or a genetic condition. Hearing loss can also contribute to a language delay, as kids aren’t able to hear language the way they should as their brains are developing.

It’s important to know that a child may have a speech and language delay without any other delays or diagnoses. A receptive or expressive language delay can be present on its own.

Receptive and expressive language problems in adults

Adults can have receptive or expressive language problems as well. For example, some adults see a speech therapist for language issues due to a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A TBI could be caused by a stroke, a fall, or a motor vehicle accident, leading to language impairments. Aphasia is one example of this kind of language problem in adults.

Adults with dementia may receive speech therapy in order to communicate as well as they can as the disease progresses. It’s normal for people with dementia to have trouble remembering events, knowing how to answer questions, and finding the right words. Speech therapy can be a huge support for these adults.

Problems speaking clearly

Articulation issues are another reason children and adults receive speech therapy. Articulation refers to a person's ability to move their mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, and jaw to make speech sounds clearly. So if a person has a lisp, or has trouble saying the /r/ sound (or any other sound), this is referred to as a speech articulation delay. 

Usually, children will have difficulty saying at least some sounds as they’re learning to talk. However, all sounds should be produced correctly by the time a child turns 5.

If a child, teenager, or adult has trouble pronouncing speech sounds, they may go to a speech therapist for help with articulation. This enables them to be more easily understood by others and gain more confidence in how they communicate. Some adults may decide to get treatment later in life for speech errors that weren’t addressed when they were children. Whether for personal or professional reasons, it’s never too late to start speech therapy.  

Professional communication and public speaking

Speaking of professional reasons, there are speech therapists who help people improve their professional communication skills as a whole. This can include speech articulation, but also other areas such as interviewing skills, interpersonal communication, and public speaking. Improving these skills can help you grow and succeed in the workplace.

Some speech therapists specialize in accent modification. If having an accent makes it difficult for a person to be understood, they may want to work on specific pronunciation goals.

Stuttering in children and adults

Stuttering is another reason some people receive speech therapy. Children and adults can both receive stuttering therapy.

In some people, stuttering begins in childhood, but it can also start suddenly at any point in life. No matter when stuttering occurs, speech therapy can help people learn techniques to increase the fluency, or smoothness, of their speech. Stuttering therapy also focuses on helping people become more confident and empowered in their speech.

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)

We’ve talked a lot about clear speech, but speaking isn’t the only way to communicate. Communication can be nonverbal, using gestures, pictures, or devices like computer tablets or speech output devices. These other forms of communication can be called AAC, which stands for augmentative and alternative communication. 

There are many reasons someone may use AAC. Autistic individuals may communicate best with a form of AAC. Others with a diagnosis like ALS or multiple sclerosis may need to use AAC to communicate more clearly. A speech therapist can help their client determine the right mode of AAC for them and teach them how to use it.

How to get started in speech therapy

If you’d like to begin speech therapy for yourself or a loved one, don’t put it off. The sooner intervention begins, the sooner the person will start to see progress! No matter when communication problems present themselves or what the underlying cause is, a speech evaluation is always recommended. 

If you’re looking for services for your child, ask their pediatrician for speech therapy recommendations. You can also talk to your insurance company, read reviews online, or ask friends and family for speech therapists they would recommend. In your research, consider online speech therapy. The cost and convenience makes it a popular choice for many busy families and adults. Research has shown online speech therapy to be just as effective as in-person therapy. 

There are often wait lists for speech therapy, which is another reason to get started in your search. If you have questions and would like to talk with a speech therapist, contact Expressable to schedule a free phone consultation. We’re here to support you or your loved one on their communication journey, every step of the way.

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