As a child is beginning to learn words and to speak, sometimes difficult and challenges may occur but most can overcome the difficulties and strive in the world of language. With others, the difficulties stick around causing speech problems, which means there can be an underlying cause for the problem to occur. There can be articulation problems meaning the child will drop, add, swap or distort words making it hard to understand what they are trying to say or to know the meaning of the word.
Underlying causes could be they have Autism, a brain injury, auditory problem, physical abnormalities (cleft plate or cleft lip), disorders affecting the nerves, or they have a literacy problem. Some will go through continuous speech therapy to fix the disorder, some will go for a while, and then it will be fixed. However, there is a chance of the child not having a SSD anymore still having a possible literacy disorder affecting them throughout school.
The focus today is the study that researchers have done to see if there is any correlation between when a child begins therapy after being diagnosed with a SSD or literacy disorder. Which is discovered when Speech pathologists evaluate the child’s speech and language skills determining if they have a SSD, a language disorder (LD), or both. The professionals who specialize in the evaluation, examination, treatment, and research of human communication and its disorders are called Speech Pathologist/Speech-Language Pathologist (SP/SLP).
Treatment of a speech disorder can be provided to all ages and they come in many variations, for example; some may be born with a disorder and others may have acquired it over time because of a trauma or a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The diagnosis of a speech problem begins with the evaluation of the person and is then narrowed down to a speech problem such as, articulation, fluency or stutter, and voice disorders. In addition, they evaluate whether there is a language problem such as slowed or delayed speech, aphasia, dysphasia which is a difficulty swallowing and other related disorders.
Other disorders can include someone having a cleft plate or cleft lip, deaf people, expressive and/or language comprehension, autism, and also when someone just wants to learn to communicate or speak clearer. With so many different etiologies for speech disorders, a growing number of case studies and research programs in the field of communications and speech therapy have emerged to help those with any such disorder. One area of concern is whether there is any correlation between children having a speech disorder and when they begin therapy after being diagnosed.
There are children that are born with a Speech Sound Disorder (SSD), which is when a child’s speech sounds are not produced correctly, not produced at all or used incorrectly also including problems with articulation (making sounds) and phonological processes (sound patterns)(American Speech-Language-Hearing Association). Children who have been diagnosed with SSD, 27% have shown to also have a propensity to have some type of literacy disorder as well (Lewis et al. , 2015). Researchers have begun to look into the correlation between the child being diagnosed compared to when they began therapy immediately after being diagnosed or not.
There is a dilemma with in the field of SLP’s (Speech Language Pathologist) of when a child is diagnosed with a SSD (Speech Sound Disorder) or some related speech problem, on when they should begin therapy. In order for the therapy, the child has to be at an age to understand what is being asked of them and they must be able to focus as well. Some ways of treatment can be involved in their daily routines or while playing so the therapy isn’t obvious to the child. Even thou the therapy is woven into their daily routines and play time; they still must focus and pay attention in order for them to continue improving.
Most research involving children diagnosed with an early speech problem is centered around children from the ages 5-6 because those are school age children whether it is preschool or kindergarten. The children that are examined in these studies did not begin therapy until they were of school age, even thou they were diagnosed early. One reports of a study in “Adolescent outcomes of children with early speech sound disorders with and without language impairment” (Lewis et al. , 2015). It was a longitudinal study focused in Cleveland, Ohio on children from the ages 4-6 and that had a history of childhood SSD.
Therefore, the Children were examined at the ages of 4-6 and then later examined at the ages of 11-18. There were multiple factors looked at during the study like the child’s gender, maternal education and social class, a weak suck at 4 weeks, not combining words by 24 months, and also unintelligibility at 38 months. After all data was gathered, about each child in the study, they were split into groups one of SSD children compared to one of children that had no history of SSD. Measurements of speech, language, and literacy were used to compare the two groups.
There was an indication of difficulties in the group of children that had an early SSD on the following task reflecting weaknesses in underlying phonological representations which is associated with poorer language and literacy outcomes (Lewis et al. , 2015). Results of the study indicated that the phonological processing weaknesses appeared to pose as a risk for language and literacy problems such as overt speech errors. The researchers were able to conclude those children with a history of SSD, whether it was fixed or still present, had a poorer language and literacy outcomes then those without a SSD history.
The problem in this study is if the children were exposed to prior therapy before being enrolled in school, they would have fewer problems with Literacy and Language. They would also have had fewer problems with SSD and be closer to the level of their classmates that do not have any SSD or LLD. When a child that has a SSD or speech disorder is exposed to therapy and practice techniques as soon as possible, they are able to retain the speech and language much better because brain has plasticity.
With the brain being plastic means that it is easier to mold and train the left-brain hemisphere, which is the language and speech control center, to correct the speech problem at hand. There are benefits for the child by starting therapy later after being diagnosed and not right away. If a parent or even the Dr. decides to hold off on beginning, therapy could mean that the children just hasn’t picked up on the language yet and they are still trying to understand. If this is the problem then therapy maybe not be needed, so it’s ok to wait before enrolling in speech therapy.
Another problem that is consider when deciding if the child needs to begin therapy right away, is if the child has a physical deformity that needs correcting but even after that they will probably still need some therapy because they will have to learn to speak all over again. After having, a psychical deformity and it being corrected will alter their way of knowing how to speak and the language they did know isn’t the same. Some children may have mental disorder such as Autism or Down syndrome, both disorders can affect the speech and language.
With some children that have Autism, they don’t use speech until later and sometimes not even then but they can still be involved with therapy. It may be better to start actual speech therapy later but therapist can use nonverbal communication skills to at least create some type of bridge or connection in order to speak with the child. So therapy isn’t just the physical process of saying words and speaking, but it is also the nonverbal ways to communicate with others as well. When considering each study, researchers must think thoroughly and carefully to insure they will get back productive conclusions or results.
Like in the following study by Vismara, Colombi, Rogers “Can one hour per week of therapy lead to lasting changes in young children? ” one must consider the complexity of a language disorder or literacy difficulty. There is a continuous range of research methods and approaches making it necessary to accommodate for a wide range of issues that can, potentially, explain the difficulties and suggest strategies and interventions to ease those difficulties (Vismara, Colombi, Rogers 2009). One issue that is suggested by the researchers is, children do not fully understand and grasp the concepts of some the words within a sentence.
If this is true, then by exposing the child to just a few minutes or an hour to some type of reading activity can help. Because the child does not recognize or understand the word, can also mean they do not have a problem with reading just understanding the full meaning. Reading to your child and talking to them from when they are babies until they begin speaking themselves can help because of the exposure to language and the introduction to words at an early age allows them to become comfortable and acquitted with the words.
It can lead to there being fewer difficulties in the future, which is called early intervention. Researchers have showed that 5-10% of children that have a high satisfactory reading rate at early childhood schooling and even before schooling, hardly ever stumble later. However, 65-75% of children that are diagnosed as reading disabled seem to continuously read poorly throughout school and even after into adulthood (Hollis, S. Scarborough, 2009).
The study brings up an interesting point that no other study I have read about has done before, it suggests that if the child is not told that they have a reading disability or literacy disorder then they seem to do better throughout therapy because they are not labeled different compared to their peers. They have a fear of being different from their peers and friends even at the early age of kindergarten, so if the child is put through therapy classes to help out with their disorder or disability with very little pressure or mention that they are different and have a problem compared to their peers.
They can then have less pressure put on them to achieve great improvements and to fix the problem without even knowing what they are really doing. SLP’s and researchers have a continuous battle in the communication world; there are always new disorders or problems coming about, causing new studies to develop and newer ways of communicating with one another.
SLP’s through the above researches have gave insight to teachers, kids, and families on possible problems that can occur when a child is diagnosed with a SSD based on when they begin therapy and if it was beneficial to begin at that age. They have continuous longitudinal studies and they are always putting in the effort to resolve the problems children with these disorders that children face each day. They have made it aware that if a child is diagnosed with a SSD then more a likely they will also have a LD or RD because of the direct correlation in-between speech and reading.
The two go hand in hand, in order for one to work you must understand the other one and get the therapy that is needed to either improve or resolve the problem. SSD is a ongoing problem and with the help of researchers and SLP’s there are studies out there to help children and adults to solve and improve their speech and reading abilities. These studies can also help parents and Drs. gage when the child should begin therapy and at what age they will most benefit from.