If your child is falling behind or struggling academically, a Speech Therapy referral probably isn’t on the list of things you think would help. But the truth is, Speech Pathologists are uniquely qualified to target some of the root causes for academic challenges. When this is first presented to parents, it may seem strange and they may not fully understand the recommendation…especially when their child might have no trouble with actual speech. We often say that Speech Pathology is a poorly named profession because we do A LOT more than “just” articulation. Speech-Language Pathologists diagnose and treat everything from memory and problem solving to reading comprehension, fluency and even swallowing disorders. And yes, also articulation errors!
Without proper treatment, children with language deficits can fail or struggle academically. As a child gets older and moves up in grade levels, these deficits may become more apparent as the workload and independence requirements increase. If teachers or other professionals recommend speech therapy to your child, just remember it doesn’t always mean to fix their actual speech; and agreeing to treatment could make a huge difference in their success in school and beyond.
Here are a few (brief!) examples of areas targeted by Speech Pathologists for School Age children:
Oral Expression of Language: Many children struggling in school have deficits in the oral expression of language, meaning they have difficulty verbally expressing their ideas clearly. They may have too little to say on a topic or not be able to clearly describe an event or something they read.
Reading Comprehension: Children may have difficulty understanding the passages they read and taking away key information to fully understand the material. Again, as the difficulty of reading increases, deficits in this area may become more apparent.
Understanding antonyms, synonyms, and word relationships: Understanding word relationships is key to success for reading, writing, and receptive communication.
Figurative Language: Double meaning words, idioms, and even sarcasm are embedded in books, TV shows, and in the natural communication of adults and children. If children can’t understand figurative language and only see the literal side of what is said, they won’t truly “get” what is being communicated.
Written Communication: Expressing thoughts clearly on paper is a critical skill that children begin to learn in elementary school. Many children see speech therapists to learn how to do this effectively.
Reading and Phonological Awareness: Many speech pathologists are trained experts in phonological awareness and teaching children to read.
Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD): Auditory processing may affect listening, communication, academic success, and psychosocial wellness. The overall goal of intervention is to provide the individual with the ability to communicate more effectively in everyday contexts (e.g., home, classroom, work, community). Speech pathologists are the professionals who treat CAPD.
Articulation and Phonological Disorders: Speech pathologists treat children struggling to be understood when they talk. They may not be able to produce a specific sound correctly or they may not have learned the right rules for how sounds fit together to make words which could significantly impact whether or not others can understand them.