You know the activity in girl or boy scouts where they have you list and gather all of the things you will need to survive your first camping trip? I always loved it because I was prepared. I knew the difference between things I wanted and things I needed. Until one year when the leader changed things up on us. It was the same assignment but the night of the meeting she informed us that instead of going camping we were going deep sea fishing. I was lost. I knew nothing about deep sea fishing. I had not been able to prepare. I didn’t even know where to begin. That was exactly what it was like when I entered the magical yet mysterious world of special needs motherhood. I had a basic understanding of what occupational therapy was but I could not tell you what symptoms or behaviors to look for in a child or which techniques would best address each behavior. I was drowning, surrounded by lots of fish I had heard of but knew nothing about.
I have struggled to navigate the tangled web of information that is the special education world. It is my goal to use the knowledge I’ve acquired along the way with my experience as an educator and a mom to help families better advocate for the services that best support the special needs of their children. It is my dream to one day be able to provide these services at no cost to families. Below you will find some of the information I have found helpful along the way. May it help you and your families as well.
The Information shared on this page was obtained from personal experience, state and federal educational resources, and http://www.kidshealth.org
Explaining Speech Therapy to Children
Do you suspect your child may have a problem with certain speech or language skills? Have you noticed an occasional stutter? And if so, what should you do?
It’s wise to intervene quickly. An evaluation by a certified speech-language pathologist can help find out if your child is having problems. Speech-language therapy is the treatment for most kids with speech and/or language disorders.
Speech Disorders, Language Disorders, and Feeding Disorders
A speech disorder refers to a problem with the actual production of sounds. A language disorder refers to a problem understanding or putting words together to communicate ideas.
Speech disorders include:
- Articulation disorders: difficulties producing sounds in syllables or saying words incorrectly to the point that listeners can’t understand what’s being said.
- Fluency disorders: problems such as stuttering, in which the flow of speech is interrupted by abnormal stoppages, partial-word repetitions (“b-b-boy”), or prolonging sounds and syllables (sssssnake).
- Resonance or voice disorders: problems with the pitch, volume, or quality of the voice that distract listeners from what’s being said. These types of disorders may also cause pain or discomfort for a child when speaking.
Language disorders can be either receptive or expressive:
- Receptive disorders: difficulties understanding or processing language.
- Expressive disorders: difficulty putting words together, limited vocabulary, or inability to use language in a socially appropriate way.
- Cognitive-communication disorders: difficulty with communication skills that involve memory, attention, perception, organization, regulation, and problem solving.
Dysphagia/oral feeding disorders are disorders in the way someone eats or drinks, including problems with chewing, swallowing, coughing, gagging, and refusing foods.
Specialists in Speech-Language Therapy
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs), often informally known as speech therapists, are professionals educated in the study of human communication, its development, and its disorders. They hold at least a master’s degree and state certification/licensure in the field, and a certificate of clinical competency from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
SLPs assess speech, language, cognitive-communication, and oral/feeding/swallowing skills to identify types of communication problems (articulation; fluency; voice; receptive and expressive language disorders, etc.) and the best way to treat them.
In speech-language therapy, an SLP will work with a child one-on-one, in a small group, or directly in a classroom to overcome difficulties involved with a specific disorder.
Therapists use a variety of strategies, including:
- Language intervention activities: The SLP will interact with a child by playing and talking, using pictures, books, objects, or ongoing events to stimulate language development. The therapist may also model correct vocabulary and grammar and use repetition exercises to build language skills.
- Articulation therapy: Articulation, or sound production, exercises involve having the therapist model correct sounds and syllables in words and sentences for a child, often during play activities. The level of play is age-appropriate and related to the child’s specific needs. The SLP will physically show the child how to make certain sounds, such as the “r” sound, and may demonstrate how to move the tongue to produce specific sounds.
- Oral-motor/feeding and swallowing therapy: The SLP may use a variety of oral exercises — including facial massage and various tongue, lip, and jaw exercises — to strengthen the muscles of the mouth for eating, drinking, and swallowing. The SLP may also introduce different food textures and temperatures to increase a child’s oral awareness during eating and swallowing.
When Is Therapy Needed?
Kids might need speech-language therapy for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to:
- hearing impairments
- cognitive (intellectual, thinking) or other developmental delays
- weak oral muscles
- chronic hoarseness
- birth defects such as cleft lip or cleft palate
- motor planning problems
- articulation problems
- fluency disorders
- respiratory problems (breathing disorders)
- feeding and swallowing disorders
- traumatic brain injury
Therapy should begin as soon as possible. Children enrolled in therapy early (before they’re 5 years old) tend to have better outcomes than those who begin therapy later.
This does not mean that older kids can’t make progress in therapy; they may progress at a slower rate because they often have learned patterns that need to be changed.
Physical Therapy Basics
Explaining Occupational Therapy to Children
Occupational therapy (OT) treatment focuses on helping people with a physical, sensory, or cognitive disability be as independent as possible in all areas of their lives. OT can help kids with various needs improve their cognitive, physical, sensory, and motor skills and enhance their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.
Some people may think that occupational therapy is only for adults; kids, after all, do not have occupations. But a child’s main job is playing and learning, and occupational therapists can evaluate kids’ skills for playing, school performance, and daily activities and compare them with what is developmentally appropriate for that age group.
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), in addition to dealing with an someone’s physical well-being, OT practitioners address psychological, social, and environmental factors that can affect functioning in different ways. This approach makes OT a vital part of health care for some kids.
How Physical Therapy (PT) and
Occupational Therapy (OT)Differ
Although both physical and occupational therapy help improve kids’ quality of life, there are differences. PT deals with pain, strength, joint range of motion, endurance, and gross motor functioning, whereas OT deals more with fine motor skills, visual-perceptual skills, cognitive skills, and sensory-processing deficits.