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Speech Language Pathology

Speech Language Disorders

Speech and language disorders fall into four broad categories. These challenges can and often do overlap.

 Language Disorders

In general, language refers to our ability to take in words, or understand what people are saying.  This is receptive language. Language also refers to our ability to formulate and share our ideas. This is expressive language.

Receptive language disorders can be due to a delay or slowed ability to take in words. For example a child with Down syndrome may be showing a good understanding of words but it takes longer to learn the meanings. Another child may have experienced a brain trauma, making it hard to take in or process the information, store the information, or retrieve the information. An adult with a neurological or brain insult may have similar difficulty understanding information that was previously easy to process.

Central Auditory Processing disorder, Aphasia, and Dementia are a few examples of disorders that also include a language disorder. The diagnosis should be given by a team of professionals and should include an assessment by a qualified speech-language pathologist.

Expressive language disorders relate to difficulty with getting a message out. Words and sentences do not develop or have been lost due to a neurological or brain trauma. The child or adult will often compensate by using more gestures, facial expressions, and various forms of body language to communicate with others. An expressive disorder may require more instruction to augment communication or find alternate means to communicate.

Speech Disorders

In general, speech disorders refer to difficulties one has in producing sounds when making words.

How are speech sounds produced? Air is exhaled from our lungs and travels through the nose and mouth. We learn to stop the air flow or slow the air flow down by using our jaw, palate, tongue, cheeks, teeth, and lips. Sounds take coordinated oral motor movement.

Examples of English sounds are:

lip sounds – /p,b,m/  called bilabials

teeth sounds /s,z,sh,ch/ called fricatives and affricates

tongue sounds /t,d/ called alveolar stops

palatal sounds /k,g/ called palatal stops

glide sounds /w,l,r/

vowels – ah, oo, ee

An articulation disorder is the most common speech disorder. Omitting sounds, substituting sounds, and distorting sounds can be assessed by a qualified speech-language pathologist. The SLP may also use alternate terms like stopping, sound deletions, and cluster reductions.

Sometimes children or adults can make a sound in isolation but not in words or sentences.

Fluency Disorders

The most common fluency disorder is stuttering. When a person speaks smoothly we don’t notice. But when speech is not smooth more than 5% of the time, people notice a fluency problem. It takes careful analysis to decide how and where the fluency breaks down. There are speech blocks, added gestures, twitching, too many repetitions, fillers, speed problems, and many more characteristics that can create a fluency disorder.

Some children go through a normal disfluent phase. This is usually intermittent. However if stuttering persists for more than a few months, look for assistance.

Strategies are available to improve fluency. Talk to your speech-language pathologist with experience in fluency for an evaluation and methods to become more fluent. There are separate strategies for children and adults.

Voice Disorders

The most common voice problems are due to vocal abuse. Voice harshness, or voice loss can be due to voice strain. People can damage their voice by using prolonged screaming, shouting, or loud volume. Speech-language pathologists can assess the pitch, loudness, and other qualities of voice to determine how to help.

Teachers, coaches, singers, public speakers, sports fans are prone to voice disorders. They often strain their voices repeatedly and can develop nodules on their vocal cords.

Other short term or long term voice disorders may arise due to illnesses, like laryngitis, or injury to the larynx or vocal cords