When one thinks of speech therapy they usually think of someone that needs help remediating a lisp or a stutter. Yes, those are definitely on the list of what a speech therapist can help with, but the field of speech and language therapy is far reaching and helpful for numerous speech and language delays and disorders, including difficulty with reading and writing. To get a sense of the basic differences of speech versus language impairments, here are some definitions, a general outline of delays and disorders, and how speech therapy can help.

What is Speech?

Articulation-using the articulators (tongue, lips, jaw, teeth) in the formation of clear and distinct sounds in speech.  Accurate placement of articulators requires balanced strength and coordination in order to move to articulatory targets in a smooth and efficient manner in order to be understood by the listener.

Voice-vocal quality, pitch and loudness that are appropriate to one’s gender, age, cultural background or geographic location.  

Fluency–the rate and rhythm of speech, or how it flows.

Speech Disorders

Articulation Disorder-difficulty in pronouncing words and thus having reduced clarity of speech.

Stuttering–disruption in the rate and rhythm of speech characterized by repetition of sounds, syllables and words and blockages of sound when attempting to speak.

Voice Disorder–a change in the vocal quality, pitch, and loudness that is not in accordance with one’s gender, age, cultural background, or geographical location, and can therefore have a harmful effect on the vocal anatomy.

What is Language?

Receptive-how we understand and process the language we hear.

Expressive-how we express our thoughts, ideas and feelings

Social Communication-the ability to vary speech style, take the perspective of others, have empathy, initiate and maintain conversation, understand and appropriately use the rules for verbal and nonverbal communication, and use the structural aspects of language (vocabulary, syntax, and phonology) to accomplish these goals. 

Language Disorders

Receptive Language Disorder–having difficulty understanding what others say.  Such as being able to categorize, follow directions with increased length and complexity, identify how words are related to each other and responding to WH questions (who, what, when, where, why and how).

Expressive Language Disorder–having difficulty expressing thoughts, ideas and feelings. Such as formulating sentences of increased length and complexity, and recalling words, phrases, and sentences with correct grammar and syntax. 

Social Communication Disorder–difficulty understanding and implementing social communication skills, such as being able to vary speech content, styles and tone, take the perspective of others, have empathy, and understand and use verbal and non-verbal communication when interacting with others.

The complexity in how we comprehend, express ourselves and use a variety of communication skills simultaneously is quite astounding.  Even just raising an eyebrow has meaning that can take from one word to many sentences to convey. 

When speech is impacted, our mind can bend in an effort to decipher what is said, and it can change the way we perceive someone.  When a 3 year old replaces R with a W, as in “wabbit” for “rabbit”, we think it is cute.  When an 8 year old does the same articulation error, we know something is off.  It is no longer developmental and the child may start to be bullied for sounding different than his or her peers.  

Stuttering is a spectrum from mild to severe, just like any other speech or language delay or disorder.  There are useful tools to use to improve fluency and to help differentiate between developmental and diagnosed stuttering.  For more information on stuttering, see our blog on When and How to Treat Stuttering.

A raspy voice can sometimes be seen as cool or unique due to its altered pitch and breathiness, but the harm on the vocal folds is definitely not cute.  Using vocal hygiene and working with a speech therapist to find your proper pitch, intonation, breath support and loudness is the golden ticket for your voice.  Our voice says so much about who we are. Finding your true voice keeps you healthy and reveals your authentic expression to the world.

Receptive and expressive language disorders manifest themselves in a multitude of ways.  They can be a result of Auditory Processing Deficits, Autism, Intellectual Disability, Specific Learning Disabilities, Hearing Impairments, Attention Deficit Disorder or Stroke. The remediation is similar in a general sense and quite specific in relationship to the diagnosis and the individual.  

A language disorder is typically the first area that is diagnosed in a child. If the child is in preschool to 2nd grade, a Speech and Language Impairment diagnosis may be the only diagnosis identified as fitting the child. This diagnosis can be made through formal or informal testing by a licensed speech and language therapist.  As the child grows, other diagnoses may become more clear as the root cause of the language delay or disorder.  If the delay is developmental in nature or mild, then it is often remediated in a shorter amount of time without further diagnostic exploration.

Social Communication is crucial to our everyday relationships and success as we move through the world.  If there is a social language impairment, it can have significant impacts on how one understands and communicates with others.  Verbal and non-verbal language is very nuanced.  At a young age, children learn how to vary their speech content, style, and tone, body posture and movements, take another’s perspective and demonstrate empathy in order to relate to others effectively and to navigate the world with the most chance of success. When social communication skills are impaired, it is vital that one work with a speech therapist in order to start building these skills right away. 

Our speech and language skills reveal our unique and complex personalities, and the beauty of who we are.  At Vibe, our speech therapists are trained to work with children and adults of every age, in every facet of speech and language.  We look forward to helping you bring your best self into the world!

Contact Vibe Speech Therapy to learn more about how we can help you!