It is estimated that one out of every ten Canadians has a language, speech, or hearing problem. When an individual has a speech disorder, it means that they have a condition that prevents them from communicating through spoken words.
There are a number of different ways that speech disorders can develop. These include developmental disabilities, structural abnormalities, nerve injuries to the brain, and muscular paralysis.
If your child is showing the symptoms of speech disorders in kids, you're likely interested in learning more about speech therapy services.
Let's take a look at what you need to know about speech therapy for kids.
What Are Speech Disorders?
Speech disorders can impact the way that an individual makes sounds in order to form words There are also some voice disorders that qualify as speech disorders.
Stuttering is one of the most common speech disorders that people experience. Dysarthria and apraxia are examples of other speech disorders.
Dysarthria is when the muscles of the face, mouth, or respiratory system have difficulty moving or become weak. This is considered a motor speech disorder.
Apraxia is also considered a motor speech disorder. This occurs when parts of the brain that are related to speaking are damaged.
Both adults and children can experience speech disorders. These conditions can be corrected with early treatment.
What Causes Speech Disorders?
There are a number of different possible causes of speech disorders. They can affect the muscles, vocal cords, nerves, or other structures that are housed in the throat.
Some potential causes of speech disorders include:
- Muscle weakness
- Vocal cord damage
- Respiratory weakness
- Brain damage
- Polyps or vocal cord nodules
- Vocal cord paralysis
There are also a number of developmental or medical conditions that are related to having speech disorders. Some of the conditions that can lead to an individual having a speech disorder include:
- Oral cancer
- Laryngeal cancer
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Sometimes speech disorders develop offer time. They can also be passed down genetically.
Symptoms of Speech Disorders in Kids
According to the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (CASLPA), it is estimated that between eight and twelve percent of children of pre-school age have some type of language impairment.
Learning about language and speech development as a parent can help you learn what to keep an eye out for. This is particularly important during the first few years of your child's life. Some of the things you'll want to watch for include:
- A baby between the ages of 4 and 7 months that isn't babbling or experimenting with sound
- A child between the ages of 7 and 12 months that doesn't make gestures
- Children between the ages of 12 and 24 months that don't understand simple spoken requests
- Children between the ages of 1.5 and 2 years that are struggling to speak in sentences
- Children that struggle with making certain sounds
If you suspect that your child has a speech disorder, it's best to not wait to seek help.
What Qualifies a Child for Speech Therapy?
Children each develop language and speech skills at their own pace. However, it might be a good idea to contact a speech therapist if your child:
- Uses less than 20 words at eighteen months and less than 50 words by age two.
- Only uses a handful of sounds to pronounce all words
- Has trouble understanding simple sentences by age two
- Has trouble using language socially and talks infrequently
If you are concerned that your child is struggling with speech and language, you can talk to their primary care physician about the next steps to take.
Who Can Speech Therapy Benefit?
People with many different issues might benefit from speech therapy. Infants, children, and adults can improve their speech and language skills through this type of therapy.
Infants that might benefit from speech therapy include those that have had injuries due to complications at birth. Also, infants who have swallowing and feeding difficulties can benefit from speech therapy.
Children that might benefit from speech therapy include those that have mild, moderate, or severe:
- Feeding disorders
- Developmental delay
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Specific language impairment
- Craniofacial anomalies
- Cranial nerve damage
- Attention deficit disorder
- Genetic disorders that could adversely affect language, cognitive development, and speech
- Hearing loss
- Pediatric traumatic brain injury
- Cleft palate
- Developmental verbal dyspraxia
Some of the genetic disorders that can have an impact on cognitive development, language, include down syndrome, cleft palate, and DiGeorge syndrome.
At What Age Should Speech Therapy Begin?
Babies that have developmental delays begin to show signs as early as three months old. It is never too early to monitor the signs of potential speech disorder. It's a good idea to talk to your child's pediatrician if you notice any concerns.
Speech Therapy for Toddlers
Speech therapy is often most effective when speech disorders are caught early. If you think your toddler might have a speech disorder, talk to their primary care physician about your options.
How Does Speech Therapy Work for Toddlers?
Speech therapy for toddlers usually begins with an evaluation by a speech-language pathologist. A customized plan can then be created to help address the speech and language issues your child is having.
What Happens During a Child’s Speech Therapy Session?
A speech therapy session for a child might occur one-on-one or in a small group or classroom. The type of speech disorder they have will determine the type of class.
Depending on your child's disorder, age, and needs, speech therapy activities and exercises will vary.
A speech language pathologist might interact with children during these sessions through talking as well as through pictures, books, and other objects. This can help to stimulate language development.
They also might provide homework and strategies for the children and their parents on how to perform speech therapy exercises while at home.
Additionally, a speech language pathologist might incorporate age-appropriate play and model correct sounds and syllables. This can help teach the children how to make specific sounds.
What Can Speech Therapy Help With?
Speech therapy can help with a number of different speech disorders from the onset of an issue, right into full stage disorders.
Speech Delays and Disorders
Speech therapy can help children who are experiencing delays in speech. A child with a speech delay might express their ideas with words and phrases but they might be difficult to understand.
Language Delays and Disorders
Language delays occur when a child says words well but struggles to string them together in sentences. Speech therapy can help children work through these disorders.
Voice and Resonance Disorders
This type of disorder occurs when an obstruction or a blockage or regular airflow in the oral or nasal cavities impacts the vibrations that contribute to voice quality. Resonance disorders are commonly associated with swollen tonsils, neurological disorders, and cleft palate.
This type of disorder impacts the speed, flow, and rhythm of speech. Both cluttering and stuttering are considered fluency disorders.
Cognitive-communication disorders occur when the part of the brain that controls the ability to think is damaged and communication becomes difficult. This can result in issues with problem-solving, listening, speaking, and memory.
Swallowing and Feeding Disorders
Swallowing disorders in children is known as dysphagia. These are often related to other medical conditions.
Pre-Literacy and Literacy Skills
Spoken language and literacy are intimately interconnected. Speech therapy can also help children who are struggling with literacy skills.
Communication and Swallowing Disorders Related to Other Issues
Speech therapy can also help with communication and swallowing disorders that are connected to many other health issues.
How Long Would a Child Need Speech Therapy For?
How long your child will need to attend speech therapy depends on a number of different factors. According to one study, it typically takes fifteen to twenty hours for a child to correct a speech difference. This usually occurs in two thirty-minute sessions a week.
It might take longer to treat language disorders that have to do with pragmatic language skills, expressive/receptive language skills, or cognition.
Parental involvement in home practice is very important when it comes to thinking about the length of treatment.
What Is the Success Rate for Children’s Speech Therapy?
There have been a number of studies that suggest that speech therapy can help both children and adults develop their communication skills.
One study that involved more than 700 children with language or speech difficulties found that a significant positive effect resulted from speech therapy. Over a six-month period, six hours of speech therapy improved communication performance significantly. It was also found that speech therapy was much more effective than not giving children any treatment at all during the same period of time.
Another study found that speech therapy could be effective in treating aphasia in adults after a stroke. It also points to the fact that performing speech therapy during the first six months after a stroke has a greater effect.
Do Provincial Plans Cover the Cost of Speech Therapy for Kids?
Each province has different regulations regarding speech therapy for children and whether it is covered under provincial health plans. Let's take a look at each province to help you determine whether or not your insurance will cover speech therapy for your child.
In Ontario, there is a speech and language program available for preschoolers. There are also school speech pathologists for school-aged children who have language problems. To qualify for speech therapy under provincial plans, the severity of the speech problems and the child's age is taken into account.
The Ministry of Children and Family Development, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Education are responsible for children's speech therapy in British Columbia. Where your child sees a therapist has to do with the severity of their condition and their age.
Both a preschool and a school plan are offered by the health service in Alberta.
School districts are responsible for speech therapy in Saskatchewan. The age ranges are below the age of three, between three and five, and between six and eighteen.
Similar to Saskatchewan, school districts are responsible for services in speech therapy. This can either be classroom-based therapy or one-on-one programs.
The system in Quebec is similar to that of Ontario. The Local Community Service Centers provide speech therapy services.
In Nova Scotia there are 28 speech and hearing centers. Assessment and treatment is available for both children and adults.
Telespeech by speech therapists is provided by the province. This is an effort to reduce provincial limitations.
Prince Edward Island
Free speech services are provided until children begin school.
According to statistics from 2013, there aren't any speech pathologists in the province of Nunavut.
Final Thoughts on Speech Therapy for Kids
Early intervention is key when it comes to treating speech disorders. People with speech disorders can struggle with self-esteem issues and depression when they are aware of what they would like to say but struggle to articulate their thoughts. Watching your child for the early signs of speech disorders can help ensure that your child gets the help they need as early as possible.
At Insurdinary, we offer health insurance plans that cover speech therapy for kids. To learn more about your options, get a quote today.