What Is Speech?
When a Speech-Language Pathologist uses the word ‘speech,’ they are referring to the fine motor movements of the face and mouth that we use to speak. Speech is the ability to move the muscles in our lips, tongue and jaw in the specific shapes that make each sound. We then combine those sounds smoothly and in the correct order to form words and sentences.
Due to the fact that most of us speak effortlessly every day, it can be easy to overlook the complexity of the movements the body needs to speak. Speech is a fine motor skill that requires the precise movements of the muscles in our diaphragm up to our lips. It also requires support from our core, controlled breath, and fluid, coordinated movement. For all these parts to work in unison, our brain must send the correct signals to all these parts, telling them what to do and when to do it. When all these components work together harmoniously, we can speak clearly, listen to ourselves while speaking and discriminate between the sounds we make.
The Main Components Of Speech and Language Skills
The ability to form speech sounds accurately (i.e. using the ‘s’ sound at the beginning of the word ‘sun’, instead of incorrectly saying ‘thun’).
The 2 main parts of language are receptive language and expressive language. Receptive language is the ability to understand the words that someone says. Expressive language is the ability to put words together to express meaning and indicate our feelings, needs, and wants.
Producing sound by using our breath and vocal cords, also known as our voice box. This can encompass appropriate volume, projection, and resonance, or hoarseness and loss of voice.
The flow of our speech when speaking, such as joining sounds, words, and phrases in a smooth rhythm without atypical interruption.
Why Do We Develop Speech and Language Issues?
1 in 10 individuals will experience a speech and/or language delay. The physical system that controls speech is very intricate, therefore, speech issues can arise from a variety of factors. Some examples include:
- Words are difficult to understand, which may be due to the struggle to produce speech sounds correctly. This suggests that there may be a problem with the movements and shapes of the mouth needed to produce accurate sounds.
- Flow of speech is interrupted (i.e. stuttering, repetition of words/syllables, long pauses, or struggling to get words out while speaking), there could be problems with the fluency component of their speech.
- Not speaking at all could be due to the struggle to learn how to produce speech sounds, or the struggle to understand and use language. A Speech-Language Pathologist can determine the root cause and develop a treatment plan.
Development diagnoses, such as Childhood Apraxia of Speech, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy, can also affect the ability to speak and acquire language. Speech and language issues can also stem from traumatic brain injuries, strokes, or disorders of the nervous system, such as Parkinson’s Disease and ALS. While these communication issues can range from mild to severe, they all have potential to improve with speech therapy and language intervention.
Factors Associated With Speech And Language Concerns
- Poor articulation or pronunciation
- Motor speech difficulties (i.e. apraxia, dysarthria)
- Stuttering or repetition of words and syllables
- Long pauses in speech or difficulty getting out words
- Voice and resonance issues (i.e. vocal fatigue, hoarse voice, throat tension, vocal nodules/polyps, cleft lip/palate)
- Hearing loss
- Difficulty socializing and expressing themselves
- Isolation due to anxiety over speech
When Should You Seek Help?
If you have concerns about your family member’s speech and language skills, one of our Registered Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP) can conduct an assessment to determine specific areas of difficulty and develop a treatment plan. The Speech-Language Pathologist will set goals for progress, and one of our Speech-Language Pathologists or Communicative Disorders Assistants (CDA) can conduct therapy sessions and improve communication skills.
HearSay’s Speech-Language Pathologists and Communicative Disorders Assistants are trained in a wide variety of strategies to help our clients overcome speech, language and communication barriers. Whether the struggle is the pronunciation of words or stuttering, a Speech-Language Pathologist or Communicative Disorders Assistant can help improve their communication.
Does My Child Have A Speech Issue?
When looking for symptoms of speech difficulties in a child, consider the following:
- Voicing incorrect speech sounds
- Difficulty organizing words into sentences
- Difficulty understanding and following directions
- Trouble recalling or retelling stories or events
- Inability to remain on topic
- Struggling to read and write
- Difficulty making friends and socializing with peers
- Using inappropriate vocabulary and not knowing the correct words to label or describe objects
- Missing language milestones and struggling to learn new words
- Repetition of words or syllables, long pauses, or stuttering/inability to get out words
- Uses few words to express what they want
What Can I Do If My Loved One Struggles With Speech?
If you have concerns about your loved one’s speech one, one of our Registered Speech-Language Pathologists (S-LP) can conduct an assessment to determine their specific areas of difficulty and develop a treatment plan. The Speech-Language Pathologist will set goals for your loved one’s progress, and one of our Speech-Language Pathologists or Communicative Disorders Assistants (CDAs) will work with them to strengthen their ability to speak clearly and effectively.
HearSay’s Speech-Language Pathologist and Communicative Disorders Assistants are trained in a wide variety of strategies to help our clients overcome speech and communication barriers. Whether they struggle to correctly pronounce words, have a stutter, or have difficulty moving the muscles required for speech due to a diagnosed disorder, A Speech-Language Pathologist can determine the root cause and develop a treatment plan.
Contact HearSay For A Free Screening
Contact us to schedule your free screening to determine if a speech and language assessment is necessary. Let us help you develop a treatment plan to support your loved one’s communication needs. No referral from your doctor is necessary to get started, and there is no waiting list. We will gladly schedule your appointment as soon as possible.
Our speech and language assessments and therapy are often covered by extended benefit plans. Feel free to ask us for more information, or talk to your benefit provider.