Communication is inherent to who we are as humans. To be understood helps us to feel visible, seen and heard. But one in seven Australians experiences a difficulty in communicating at some point in their lives. This difficulty can have a profound impact, particularly if it’s in childhood.
Speech Pathology Week was 20-26 August this year and the theme was ‘Communicating for Life’. This prompted us to consider how our own patients benefit from working with a speech pathologist.
If you’ve been wondering about the benefits of speech pathology for your child, today we look at three foundational areas where speech pathologists can help. These include:
- Physical speech and understanding
- Mental health
The benefits of speech pathology for your child
Speech pathologists can help your child to communicate
Not being able to express yourself and be understood can be frustrating and upsetting. During a child’s early years, they experience huge developments in hearing, learning and practising sounds.
If you’ve noticed your child is trying to communicate and not being understood, a speech pathologist can help, including with pre-literacy skills and meeting early communication milestones.
Pre-literacy skills and early communication milestones
A child’s literacy skills are closely linked to their communication skills. A difficulty in pre-literacy can extend into difficulties at school. Here are a few early communication milestones to look for:
- By the age of two, around half a child’s speech should be understood by family and friends.
- By three, people outside your child’s family should understand about 75% of what they are trying to communicate. This could include day care teachers, staff at your local library or café, shopkeepers and parents at playgroup.
- Between four and five, children will start to develop pre-literacy skills, important for reading and writing. Their awareness of spoken words develops, and they can practice saying them. They start to understand that words can rhyme, for example ‘cat’, ‘sat’, ‘mat’; and that words can be broken into syllables, for example ‘o-ver’, ‘un-der’.
- By the time a child starts school, their conversation should be understood by anyone 95% to 100% of the time.
Speech pathologists help with all aspects of oral communication. They are uniquely placed to help with literacy skills, due to their knowledge of language development.
Remember that there is a huge range of ‘normal’ speech and language development in children. Their ability to communicate is key, as it can impact their social and emotional development.
Speech pathologists can help your child’s speech and understanding
Three areas where working with a speech pathologist can help your child’s speech and understanding are:
- Swallowing, chewing and forming words
- Processing words and language
Swallowing, chewing and forming words
Food and drink issues can be big causes of stress for parents. You may have noticed that your child has difficulty in transitioning to solids. Perhaps they prefer or avoid certain food textures. Or they have may difficulty swallowing food and drinks, or in forming words to let you know.
A speech pathologist can work with your child to strengthen the muscles used for swallowing, chewing and word formation. This will improve your child’s oral motor skills, their ability to form words and to communicate.
Stuttering can begin in early childhood. It may start gradually or suddenly. It’s currently not possible to know whether a child will recover naturally without intervention or treatment. Stuttering is legally a disability in Australia, and can be the cause of social anxiety, speech avoidance, bullying and impact self-confidence.
A speech pathologist can work with your child to help them with their speech.
Processing words and language
If your child has difficulty processing what is being said, it may present as inattention, not answering questions, not listening to stories or not following instructions. But a receptive language issue could be affecting your child’s ability to understand and process words and language. If left undiagnosed or without treatment, it could lead to varied social and academic issues.
A speech pathologist can help your child to build their receptive language skills. And this could help them to effectively communicate with their family, friends, teacher and other adults.
Speech pathologists can help your child’s mental health
The third benefit of speech pathology for your child is better mental health. A speech pathologist’s diagnosis and treatment can help improve an unmet communication need leading to better mental health outcomes, including in situations where your child has ADHD or ASD and in their self-confidence.
If your child has ADHD or ASD
Many children with ADHD or ASD experience difficulties in communicating. This can impact their social and educational outcomes. They may experience a specific learning disorder, or their diagnosis could impact their social communication and understanding.
A speech pathologist can help identify whether your child has a communication issue, and then provide appropriate treatment and support.
One of the best benefits of speech pathology is an improved ability to communicate and speak can improve your child’s self-perception and self-confidence. If your child is confident in raising their hand to ask their teacher a question, give an oral presentation in class, contribute to class discussions and talk with friends at break-times, their sense of self expands and improves.
Get the Help of an Expert
Speech pathologists play a huge role in determining and improving your child’s communication. If you have any concerns about your child’s ability to communicate and be understood, help is at hand. Please get in touch with Young Minds Network today.