Here is a quick guide about how our experienced therapists would assess and support children with the following communication needs:
Therapists would use a mixture of assessments, activities and observations to help us determine whether a child’s speech difficulties are likely to be caused by:
Phonological difficulties. This is when a child’s sound errors follow a pattern (which may be delayed or disordered), and where the underlying cause is likely to be difficulty listening to the difference between sounds in words or in using the right sounds at the right time. For example, a child may change ‘g’ for ‘d’, so ‘dog’ would become ‘dod’.
Dyspraxia. This is when a child has difficulty co-ordinating the fine movements needed for speech. Children with these difficulties often make inconsistent mistakes with the sounds they use, and may find it hard to make repeated patterns of sounds such as saying ‘pat-a-cake’. Children with dyspraxia sometimes have difficulty with other areas of their movement or physical skills, especially around planning and organisation.
Dysarthria. This is when a child experiences muscle weakness around their lips, tongue and mouth which makes it difficult for them to speak clearly and at a normal rate. They may also have a quiet voice and have some difficulties with eating and drinking. Dysarthria is sometimes (but not always) linked to neurological conditions and cerebral palsy.
Although these are the most common speech difficulties, children may also have unclear speech linked to hearing impairment, social skills difficulties and other disorders. Depending on the nature of a child’s speech difficulties, the therapist would plan activities to build the necessary skills and help to improve speech intelligibility. The rate of progress varies depending on the nature of the underlying cause, the child’s age and their willingness and ability to practise activities. Speech progress is maximised when activities are practised several times a week.
Children may experience delay in the development of their language skills from an early age. This may affect their understanding of language (receptive language), their use of language (expressive language) or both. Language delay can be linked to other communication needs (such as social skills difficulties), and can sometimes be linked to wider developmental delay. However, this is not always the case. Signs of language delay include difficulty with:
Our therapists would use language assessments and simple games, as well as talking to family members or staff within nursery and school settings. This would help them to determine the nature and level of difficulty.
Support to develop language may focus around using pictures, symbols and signing to expand understanding of routines and new vocabulary. Expanding expressive language may include games, songs and stories (supported by pictures and signing) to encourage vocabulary use. Therapists would ensure that everyone supporting the child worked together using consistent methods.
If a child has received a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder our therapists would use assessments, observations and discussions with family and staff who know the child well to identify the best areas to focus support. Depending on the individual profile of the child this might include developing:
Therapists would plan whether this input was best delivered through individual or small group therapy, depending on the level and nature of the child’s difficulties. If a child does not have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, either because they are awaiting assessment or because they do not fit the profile for diagnosis, they may still benefit from the same types of support and input.
Stammering (or stuttering) can take many different forms, for example:
You may also see other features such as: hesitations (e.g. “ums” or “ers”), facial tension in the muscles around the eyes, nose, lips or neck, extra body movements or disrupted breathing patterns, e.g. holding their breath, or taking an exaggerated breath before speaking.
Some children may not be aware of or have strong feelings about their stammer, whereas others may find it frustrating or ‘opt out’ of speaking situations because they do not feel comfortable, for example speaking in assembly or asking questions in class.
Our therapists would assess a child’s stammer in a fun and informal way, depending on the age of the child. The therapist would identify the specific features of the child’s stammering and provide an individualised programme of therapy to suit their particular needs.
Often with children under the age of 7 years old, our therapists will work closely with parents to develop specialised skills to support their child’s fluency. For older children, or those with more awareness of their stammering, our therapists will use fun strategies to help the child control their stammering.
We are passionate about rehabilitating children to their full potential alongside the multi-disciplinary team, sometimes this involves a case manager.
Speech therapy for children entails;
An initial holistic assessment at home and school
Often a report to outline therapy priorities for short and long term needs
Gathering on-going information with regard to health alongside education needs
Regular liaison with physiotherapy and occupational therapy, sometimes this involves joint therapy sessions.
Providing regular therapy sessions across home and school
Providing SLT smart targets for the whole team to work towards
Providing regular reviews and reports for the team as requested
For each child we will consider speech and language provision in conjunction with their overall health needs;
Makaton requirements, (signing)
AAC needs, low and high tech (symbols and pictures)
Eating and drinking needs and management (care plans, risk management)
Education, Health, Care plan needs (EHCP for educational purposes)
Being able to be the best communicator possible. (a holistic approach)