Out of many achievements of mankind, the mastery over verbal communication was probably the watershed moment in the evolution of the glorious human civilisation. And this art of communication is getting more and more specialized as time goes by. In such a competitive set up, the inability to articulate or communicate effectively for a child or an adult can be a big impediment for his/ her social and professional life.
Speech and language disorders
Traditionally, the phrase ‘speech therapy’ implied a set of common growing up speech disorders like stutters, lisps, and so on.
Today, speech pathology is a multifaceted and highly specialized field which covers varied disorders namely:
Language disorders: An inability to understand or express one’s basic ideas, feelings or thoughts. This can manifest in both oral and verbal form like morphology or semantics, etc.
Cognitive disorders: This is a broad category which includes issues with remembering, problem solving, organizing thoughts for a successful social life. The issues might arise due to varied health problems like stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s, brain injury, etc.
Social communication disorders: Social communication is a foundation on which the edifice of a society stands. Some people with speech or language disorder might find difficulty in even basic communication like greeting, asking questions, comprehending rules of language communication, story narration, and so on.
Autism in children. An autistic child may display varied verbal signs like repetition, humming, shrieking, repeat what the other person is saying (echolalia), issues with eye contact and so on. An early diagnosis of the condition can help in improvement in basic communication, enhancing the social life of the patient.
A speech pathologist or an SLP might use one or more techniques for an autistic child like;
- Composition of songs to match rhythm or flow of sentences
- Teaching different signs for effective communication
- Use of picture boards to memorise if words aren’t easy for the child
The techniques go a long way in improving both verbal and non-verbal communication ability of a child, especially when implemented along with his/her immediate family members and friends. The involvement of closed ones is a key factor when it comes to treatment of a child.
Therapy for adults and children include one or more techniques
Articulation therapy. A patient is encouraged to correctly articulate different forms of speech via different articulation drills by a SLP or (speech language pathologist). Games constitute an important part of this especially for a child who learns best in a fun situation. There are a lot of different game scenarios which have been designed to make this technique effective and has resulted in positive results. The drills encourage the affected person to essentially work upon the sound system of his speech and improve the same.
Oral motor therapy. Here the focus is on improvement of the associated body parts which cause speech like muscles around the mouth and so on. Oral muscles need to be strengthened which also help in other activities as well like swallowing and eating. It is an exercise regime which immensely helps patients who suffer delays due to injuries on head, etc. For instance, a person might be told to pay close attention to the rounding of lips when the sound ‘o’ is uttered.
Speech language intervention therapy. The intervention helps the people who might have suffered delays in speech or a kid with similar speech impediments. The idea is to encourage the individual to be able to put words into sentences in a coherent manner. An SLP might also help with the same by use of activities, role-playing games, and other related activities.
While the unique speech pathology therapy continues to explore the variety of speech and language disorders, a growing body of research documents prove that with the right approach, there can be a monumental difference in a person’s life. However, as each case is challenging and unique, the field requires more dedicated practitioners and psychologists who can help a number of affected people worldwide to regain their confidence in speech and enjoy the gift of communication.
Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.