Home Mental Health & Well-Being How Do Speech Disorders Affect Mental Health?

How Do Speech Disorders Affect Mental Health?

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How do speech disorders affect mental health? It’s the sort of article title parents don’t even want to read. After all, there is enough going on in your life when your child is diagnosed with a speech disorder. Their language skills are lagging. They may be falling behind in school and in social situations. Now you need to worry about their mental health as well.

Unfortunately, one problem can often beget the next one. The stress children experience while dealing with a speech disorder can have a direct impact on their mental health and wellness. In this article, we take a look at why that is and what parents can do to support their children. 

How do speech impediments impact mental Health?

Speech impediments themselves do not cause mental distress. However, the side effects of having a speech impediment can. Many people who struggle with their speech also suffer from:

  • Embarrassment. Young children are uniquely uncomfortable with anything that makes them seem conspicuous. Speech impediments can be particularly embarrassing to children as they get older and begin to notice that their peers are not struggling with language skills in the same way. 
  • Anxiety. As the child becomes more aware of their speech disorder they may develop a sense of anxiety around public speaking, or even basic social encounters with friends or family members. In worst-case scenarios, some children with speech impediments will begin to avoid speaking at all.
  • Depression. Finally, children who feel that their speech impediments are having a negative impact on their social standing may eventually develop feelings of depression. 

Of course, none of these mental health risks are definite. Many children with speech impediments do not suffer from any notable mental health issues. Unfortunately, it can be hard to tell exactly what is going on inside a child’s head. You can gauge their feelings by encouraging an environment of emotional transparency and honesty at home. 

Your child should also have a team of professionals, (homeroom teacher, social workers, speech therapist, possibly even a SPED teacher) working with them to overcome their speech difficulties. These educators may be able to provide valuable insights into how your child is being treated at school, and about how they seem to feel. 

Of course, appearances can be deceiving. If you have cause to worry about your child’s mental health, it is always a good idea to consult a professional. 

There are also things that you can do at home to minimize the anxiety your child feels relating to their speech troubles. Below, we highlight a few recommendations that may help make your child’s speech impediment more manageable. 

Work with them at home

Speech disorders will usually be addressed by a professional team while your student is at school. However, even school systems that have an abundance of resources can only devote so much of their time to one child. You will ultimately play a big role in how your child manages their speech disorder. 

Regular practice will help them overcome their language barriers and may also help them to build confidence. Keep in mind that any frustrations you feel surrounding your child’s impairment will be felt tenfold by them. 

Try to make the exercises as relaxed as possible. In certain situations, your child may not even need to realize that they are practicing their speech. Try working in sounds and words that they struggle with into organic conversations. 

Not only does this get them in the habit of working on their language in natural settings but it also provides valuable context for speech-related concepts. 

You can also make a point of giving them easy wins. Your child will struggle a lot as they try to work out their speech struggles. Giving them the occasional layup will boost their confidence and make the practice seem more appealing. 

Avoid becoming another source of stress

This will ultimately be easier said than done. Your impulse will be to constantly correct your child when you hear them making mistakes. However, doing so can have the opposite result you are looking for. When children get told they are wrong every time they open their mouths it is common for them to stop talking entirely. 

Know when to lay off. It is important to work hard with your kid, but if you add to their overall stress it will only lead to burnout and further their struggles with their mental health. 

Maintain an open and honest dynamic

Finally, if you want to be clued into what is going on with your child at school it is important to foster an environment of emotional honesty at home. Unfortunately, many families find this difficult to do. Getting your child to open up can begin with simple steps. 

For example, you could start by opening up about frustrations in your day. Your child may feel less embarrassed to speak their truths if they see you doing the same. 

It’s also a good idea to normalise simple conversations about your day. Make a point of having family meals. As you sit around the table, take turns talking about what is going on in your life. What you are worried about, what you are excited about, and so on. 

Family meals are associated with a wide range of positive mental and emotional benefits for school-aged children. Because broccoli acquires magic powers when families unite? Not quite. It’s most likely because strong familial bonds have long been shown to boost confidence and improve school performance. As your child struggles through their speech impediment, these are two assets they will need in their favor. 

There will be many ups and downs as you and your child work through their speech struggles. Unfortunately, as the parent part of your job will be to bear the brunt of that stress. Making sure that your child feels confident, comfortable, and at ease will be vital both for their mental health and the development of their speech-language skills.

Tim Williamson, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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