Category Archives: Stuttering

Causes of speech and language disorders: Some answers to parent’s “why’s”

When parents walk through our door, they often want to know ‘WHY’ their child is not understanding and talking like other children; ‘WHY’ they aren’t pronouncing sounds like others; or ‘WHY’ they’re stuttering. Listed below are some factors that are known to predispose or precipitate speech and language disorders.

Neurological factors: Specific areas in the brain control our speech and language functions. Understanding what others say to us, expressing our thoughts and needs, remembering details of what was said, reading, and writing are all controlled by regions in the brain. There is evidence in the literature to suggest that children with language disorders may have a neurological involvement contributing to their speech and language difficulties. This means that there may be obvious or subtle differences in the brain which makes the child susceptible to a language disorder. No one pattern of brain architecture has been consistently shown in all individuals with language impairments, which makes this all still a bit of a mystery.

Motor and Sensory factors: Our senses serve as channels for us to perceive the external environment. Be it our sense of vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell; they offer us with different ways to perceive things from the external environment. If any of these senses are not functioning optimally, it would limit the essential information that we receive from our environment. For example, children with vision or hearing problems will not be able to use those senses to see by reading, or hear someone speaking in their environment, making them more susceptible to a speech or language disorder. Having adequate motor skills is also essential to speech and language development. Early on, children move around and explore their environment. This exploration fosters early language and cognitive development as they are exposed to new ideas and vocabulary. Children who have limited motor abilities may be at a disadvantage because of not being able to actively explore their environment. Adequate motor abilities are also required for the movement of the voice and oral structures (lips, teeth, tongue etc.) required for speech. Thus, any difficulty with speaking movements may impact a child’s speech and language development.

Cognitive: Intact cognition (the ability to think, know, perceive, judge, reason etc.) is an important foundation on which we build our speech and language skills. Vice versa, developing our speech and language skills helps us improve our cognitive abilities. Hence, children with cognitive challenges may be at risk for developing speech and language disorders. These children may have trouble associating different words with their meanings, remembering words, recognizing patterns and sorting words into different categories, and learning new concepts in general.

Genetic factors: Speech and language disorders tend to run in families, suggesting a possible genetic involvement in causing these disorders. However, it is also true that many people with speech/language disorders’ children do not have any difficulties, and that children with speech/language disorders have no family history of it in the past.

Environmental factors: Environmental information is key in fostering speech and language development. Providing a language rich environment with an adequate amount of stimulation is necessary to support children in developing age-appropriate speech and language skills. Children who have a less language rich environment and stimulation may be at risk for developing speech and language disorders.

Acquired factors: Some individuals may acquire speech and language skills as per typical milestones and then lose some of these skills due to an acquired injury or illness. Some examples of these include a traumatic brain injury, infections such as meningitis, tumors, strokes, etc.

It is important to note that this list is not exhaustive, but is an overview of some of the reasons we may see speech-language disorders.

If you are concerned about  your child’s speech and language development, see a Speech-Language Pathologist to address your concerns.

Nisha Balakrishnan M.A. SLP, Reg. CASLPO
Speech-Language Pathologist
 
The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada
www.speechtherapycentres.com
 

Reference: Paul, R. (2007). Language Disorders from Infancy through Adolescence- Assessment and Intervention. (3rd ed.). St. Louis, Missouri: Mosby Inc.

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How to Help People With Communication Disorders in the Community

Last week I was in Tim Horton’s when I saw a man trying to order a coffee but he was struggling because of a communication disorder. He was having a difficult time being understood by the Tim Horton’s employee and needed help getting his money out of his wallet because of physical difficulties. Although the people around him – both the employee and bystanders – all seemed to want to help the man they were all hesitant and did not seem to know what to do or how to help this man.

One of our jobs as speech-language pathologists is to advocate for those with
communication disorders.  As part of that we try to increase awareness and knowledge on how to interact with people in the community who have various communication disorders. This may include people with disabilities (cerebral palsy, developmental disorders), people who have had a stroke or head injury, people with dementia (such as Alzheimer’s), people who communicate with assistive technology/computers, or people with speech that is difficult to understand. Here are some communication tips that you can use with almost any kind of communication difficulty:

First and foremost – always be respectful and ask the person if they would like your assistance! Remember: a communication disorder does not mean they are unintelligent!!

To help the person understand you:

  • Keep your messages short and to the point (for example: say “Do you want help?” not “I noticed you’re trying to order and I thought that I could help by…)
  • Wait! They may need more time to process the information
  • Keep your message short but grammatically correct so they do not feel that you are insulting them (for example: do not say you….help….get….coffee??”)
  • Repeat if necessary or try to say your message in a different way
  • If they are still having difficulty understanding you, use gestures (pointing to objects or locations) or use objects around you (if they don’t understand “what size coffee do you want?” show them the different sized cups)
  • If open ended questions are difficult (“what do you want?) give choices (“do you want a drink or something to eat?” “do you want coffee or tea?”)

To help the person express themself:

  • Give them specific feedback on what you did not understand. Instead of just saying what?” try saying  “you want a coffee, what do you want in it?”
  • As explained above – if they are still struggling have them gesture, use objects around the room, or give them choices
  • If they are using assistive technology – wait for them to finish creating their message. Avoid reading their message over their shoulder or guessing what they might be saying.
  • Most importantly – be patient, give them time, and don’t give up!
Carla Montgomery, M.H.Sc. SLP(C)
Speech-Language Pathologist, Reg. CASLPO
 
The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada
www.speechtherapycentres.com

Speech-Language Therapy in the Movies

As speech-language pathologists (SLPs), my coworkers and I were all excited to see an SLP hold a prominent role in a movie when “The King’s Speech” hit theatres last winter. All of the sudden other people had an interest in a movie we wanted to see!  Little does everyone know we have a few other favourites that circulate around our water cooler conversations, not because they deal specifically with our profession, but because they feature the people we work with.

One of my personal favourites is “Autism: the Musical”.  This is a documentary which follows five children with Autism who take part in a project to write and perform their own full length musical.  Under the guidance of one mother’s vision and many parents determination, the musical allows these special kids to explore their creativity and show off their talents.  As an SLP I loved watching it to get some perspective on thinking outside the box to help children with autism realize their potential and showcase accomplishments.

Another movie I recently stumbled across is called “Wretches and Jabberers.”  It’s the story of two grown men with autism, Larry and Tracy, who embark on a world tour to advocate for people with disabilities.   Larry and Tracy communicate by typing to augment their speech. On their journey they meet
others who use similar forms of communicating. In the SLP world this is called AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) and the movie is a great example of how AAC can be used to open up a world of communicating.  Larry and Tracy’s views are profound and often poetic. I highly recommend it.

Jana Zalmanowitz, M.Cl.Sc.
Speech-Language Pathologist (C)

 

The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada
www.speechtherapycentres.com

Help! My Child Drools!!

As parents there are certain behaviours that are acceptable and even expected when our children are young infants, but that are cause for concern if they continue as our children become toddlers and preschoolers.  Drooling is one such behaviour.  A drooling infant is  very common and is something we expect our children to grow out of.  BUT, what if s/he doesn’t stop drooling? When does drooling become a problem?  Are there ways to reduce drooling in our children?

Most professionals agree that drooling is acceptable up to 2 years of age or when teething is coming to an end.  After this age, we do not expect to see children drool excessively or uncontrollably as saliva production slows down.  Saliva is necessary for various functions, including speech and eating; however, excessive saliva production and drooling can have negative effects in a variety of areas.

Parents can work with their child at home to reduce the amount of drooling.  The following tips may be beneficial (depending on the cause of the drooling):

  • Take away the pacifier or limit pacifier use to nap time and bed time
  • Encourage your child to use a sippy cup or drink from a straw instead of using a bottle
  • Teach your child about the difference between a “wet” face and “dry” face
    • Use a mirror to help him/her understand what you are talking about
  • If drooling is excessive, have your child wear a sweat band on his/her wrist so that s/he can be in control of cleaning up drool
  • Provide positive feedback to your child when s/he is controlling drooling

Written by: Carolyn Davidson, speech-language pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.

I THINK MY CHILD HAS A STUTTER …. WHAT DO I DO?

Many children go through a period of normal dysfluencys during the preschool years as they learn to put sounds, words and sentences together.  Normal dysfluencys include word and phrase repetitions and hesitations.

Some children, however, develop speech that includes sound and syllable repetitions, sound prolongations, and silent blocks (getting stuck on a sound). This is considered a “stutter”. An estimated 4% of preschoolers in Canada stutter, with onset occurring usually between the ages of 3 and 6.

Early intervention is key to success.  If you are concerned that your child may have a stutter, it is recommended that you seek professional assistance from a registered speech-language pathologist.

As a parent or caregiver, it is important to know these general tips for communicating with children who stutter:

  • Focus on what is being said and not how it is said
  • Do not interrupt
  • Do not tell them to slow down or start over
  • Do repeat and rephrase what was said, but do not expect them to copy what you have said
  • Let them finish
  • Provide a relaxed environment for communication
  • Speak slowly
  • Simplify your language
  • Respond naturally to your child’s speech
  • Be patient and remember that a child who stutters is no less intelligent than his/her non-stuttering peers

For more information, please visit http://www.speechtherapycentres.com