Delays in Speech and Language Development: How Speech Language Pathologists (SLP) Help

The more I learn about children with special needs, the more I realize the importance for parents of pre-school children to be aware of the developmental milestones of their child from infant on.  I had the pleasure of having Robin Sue Kahn, MS, CCC/SLP (speech language pathologist) twice on our Monday morning The Coffee Klatch Tweetchats when I was moderator.  Ms. Kahn emphasized the importance of seeking help for your very young child the moment you notice delays in speech and language development. In Robin’s tweets, she mentioned speech-related disorders or difficulties in swallowing which is her line of work.

On her website Robin writes: “My work experience has included, school-based work, hospital based outpatient clinics,  acute care hospital inpatient rehabilitation unit, group homes of adults who are developmentally disabled and home based therapy with adults as well as infants and toddler.  Most recently, my work has been with the under one to preschool age group and the caregivers of the children.  I provide therapy as well as evaluations…”

The following are questions and answers from our Coffee Klatch Tweetchat. Please keep in mind the 135 characters we had to use after our hashtag #TCK was automatically posted with each tweet. Also the answers or questions did not only come from Lorna or Robin but from all the participants during the session.

Delays in Speech and Language Development: Red Flags

Delays may include problems with both speech and language development. However a child may experience only problems understanding what is heard or read (receptive language delays).  Others might have problems putting words together to form meaning (expressive language delays). As soon as a parent feels something is not quite right, they should have their child seen by a professional. Not speaking clearly or well by the age of three is definitely a red flag.

Robin Kahn, SLP, delays in speech and language development

Robin Kahn, what usually brings parents to seek out the help of a speech language pathologist?

  • Parents are concerned that their child is not talking or not even making a sound.
  • Their child may not be responding to them when they talk or the child does not react to a loud noises.
  • Their child, especially preemies, may have trouble swallowing, chewing, or sucking so they cannot drink or eat easily.
  • Young infants have another type of problem like a cleft palate that causes complications.
  • Excessive drooling.
  • Problems with control and coordination of lips, tongue, and jaw.
  • Child has speech fluency or stuttering problems that causes a child embarrassment, frustration, or difficulty with peers.
  • Poor memory skills for a child of 5 to 6 years. Your child may have problems learning colours, numbers, shapes, or the alphabet.
  • A sudden loss of speech and language skills should be addressed immediately.

Robyn Kahn, what are the youngest children you work with?

I work with children who are  just a few months old.

Early intervention has been studied and the impact of this is incredibly positive. Children are “works in progress”.

This doesn’t mean older kids can’t progress in the therapy process. It could be that these older children have  learned patterns that need to be changed.

The best results are with children who start before 5 yrs. It is very important that parents be aware of the need to get help for preschoolers.

The process of overcoming a speech or language disorder can take some time and effort; so it’s important to be patient and understanding.

Robin Kahn, how are parents involved in your therapy?

 SLP, delays in speech and language developmentSpeech-language experts agree that parental involvement is crucial to success of a child’s progress in speech therapy.

The amount of involvement of parents and caregivers in the home when you deal with kids at home plays a very big role.

Parents need to have a willingness to be involved in the process or it won’t be of help.

So, yes I give parents homework to do between sessions.

I like to get a history from the parents and see the child alone depending on their age; however, some children won’t separate easily from their caregiver.

Robin Kahn, give examples of the work done during therapy sessions.

The speech language pathologists will physically show a child how to make sounds, such as the “r” sound, and may demonstrate how to move the tongue to produce sounds.

The ‘r’ is pretty tricky. A variety of oral exercises may help towards this as well as facial massage and tongue, lip and jaw exercises. “R” does not come in till 6yrs or so.

We may treat kids with sensory problems.

SLPs assess speech, language, cognitive-communication, and oral/feeding/swallowing skills to identify types of communication problems.

We must refer clients for other evaluations, like to an audiologist or other specialist..

Robin Kahn, SLP may also model correct pronunciation and use repetition exercises to build speech and language skills. Which do you prefer?

My preference is with individual work and having mom or dad place their child in a socialization group.

A SLP will interact with a child by playing and talking, using pictures, books, objects, or ongoing events to stimulate language development.

A SLP will work with a child one-on-one, in small group, or in a classroom to overcome difficulties involved with a specific disorder.

Children with motor planning have trouble organizing the motor movements for speech – but they may have other problems with organizing.

A child with motor planning problems may practice with horns or whistles and this should be worked on every day for example by using the PROMPT Technique.

What is the PROMPT Technique?

PROMPT stands for “Prompts for Restructuring Oral and Muscular Phonetic Targets.” It is used to restructure the speech production capabilities of children with a variety of speech disorders, including apraxia. See here for more information.

Robin Kahn, what are pragmatic language skills?

Children playing using language skillsPragmatic language skills can be broken down into three groups very well explained on the Early Intervention Support web site:

  • Use of language for different purposes: Greeting, Informing, Demanding, Requesting and Promising
  •  Changing language to fit the situation: Using a quiet voice indoors, speaking softly to an infant, not interrupting others, etc.
  •  Following the rules of conversation: Taking turns talking in a conversation, staying on the topic, knowing how to end a conversation, using appropriate body language and facial expressions in conversation, etc.

Thank you Robin for being our Tweetchat guest twice in the past months to discuss delays in speech and language development.  Learning about your work will make parents aware of speech language therapy and the importance of seeking early evaluations if they have any concerns about the development of their child.

Follow and learn more about a speech language pathologist (SLP) by following the links to Robin Kahn:

7 Comments

  • James Bergman Posted February 26, 2016 10:46 am

    I have a couple of nieces and nephews that have all had to go through speech therapy. However, the ones who struggled the most were my brothers twin daughters. Apparently they would talk to each other and nobody else when they were younger and needed speech therapy to help them learn to talk to other people. They are chatterboxes now, but I was curious. Are twins more likely to have speech problems than other kids?

    • Lorna dEntremont Posted February 26, 2016 11:01 am

      Hello James,
      It is a known fact that twins often have a “private” way of communicating with each other. Sorry, I cannot tell you if twins have more speech problems than other kids when they venture out in the community and start going to school where they communicate with others. Lorna

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  • robin kahn Posted June 9, 2019 9:49 pm

    Thank you for reaching out. Take a look at this link. You will find a lot of information about the fact that yes – they can be found to have speech delays with greater frequency
    https://nspt4kids.com/parenting/speech-language-development-in-twins/

    • Lorna dEntremont Posted June 10, 2019 8:58 am

      Thanks for the link, Robin.

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