Pediatric Speech Language Pathology
If your child is born with or develops a problem with speaking, feeding, swallowing or using language, she may need help from a speech pathologist. Speech and language pathologists can assess and treat problems related to swallowing and speaking.
Some children are born with a disorder that affects normal speech, such as a cleft palate or cerebral palsy. Other children might have disorders that affect the brain, nerves or muscles, which can cause problems with how the brain and body control speech or swallowing actions. A speech and language pathologist provides therapy to help your child overcome these problems.
If your child has a disorder related to speaking or using the facial and throat muscles to swallow or chew, the speech pathologist first assesses the cause and severity of the problem. Our speech pathologists are specialists in caring for children and adolescents, so they can assess your child’s issues in relation to typical development and skills for children their age.
First, your child’s speech pathologist will carefully asses your child’s current abilities and challenges, using your child’s medical history and specialized testing. Your child may have videofluoroscopy or cine imaging to examine the anatomy and function of swallowing or the palate. If these tests are required, you will receive instructions about how to prepare your child for the visit.
For most speaking disorders, your child’s speech pathologist uses age-appropriate techniques to teach your child to make certain sounds or to overcome problems such as pauses and stuttering. Your child’s speech pathologist might teach your child alternative ways to communicate, such as sign language symbols, to overcome problems with being understood by others.
Why does my child need speech therapy?
Communication and nutrition are important to your child’s development and well-being. There are several types of delays or disorders an infant, child or adolescent may have that require the help of a speech pathologist, including problems with:
- Feeding or swallowing - Also called dysphagia, these disorders might affect an infant’s ability to suck as needed for breast or bottle feeding, or a child’s ability to pick food up and close her lips around it. Speech pathologists with special skills can help diagnose and manage these problems so that your child can get proper nutrition.
- Articulation - Your child might not be able to produce sounds correctly so that others understand. A speech pathologist can work with your child on articulation of difficult sounds.
- Fluency - The speech pathologist helps a child who stutters, stops, or spends a long time on certain sounds when speaking.
- Voice - Also called resonance, this is an unusual pitch or quality to your child’s voice that a pathologist can help your child or adolescent learn to control.
Some children also need help with language skills, such as use of words or composing sentences. For example, your child with Down syndrome usually understands much more of what he hears than he shows by words when he speaks. Your child could benefit from speech therapy to improve his spoken vocabulary, grammar and use of language.