From our most recent column Speech Matters in The Hanover Post, June 2012.
Speech is a very complicated process involving several systems working together. Articulating words begins with formulating them in our minds and then having the brain tell us which muscles are required to articulate them.
When we speak, we use other senses as well. These include our ears for listening, our eyes for looking at our communicative partner, and our sense of touch (as well as our awareness of what is happening with our muscles and joints).
Speech sound development begins at birth and usually follows predictable patterns and stages. Through play and interaction with adults, peers, and their environment, children develop and eventually master their speech skills along with their fine and gross motor skills.
The complicated nature of speech and motor development may require additional support if development is delayed in any of these areas. A speech language pathologist (S-LP) will often request the help of an occupational therapist (OT), and/or a physical therapist (PT). When appropriate, an interdisciplinary or comprehensive approach is the most beneficial in advancing the child in all areas of development.
Below is a brief description of how each of these three professionals can help your child develop and work towards becoming independent.
A Speech-Language Pathologist (S-LP) assesses and treats communication disorders involving articulation, voice, and language. Sometimes treatment involves the use of specialized technology called augmentative and alternative communication. An SLP will also help with swallowing disorders. (For more information visit: www.caslpa.ca)
“Occupational therapists believe that occupations describe who you are and how you feel about yourself. A child, for example, might have occupations as a student, a playmate, a dancer and a table-setter.” (www.coat.ca )
OTs are concerned with both physical and social/emotional factors. They can help your child with fine motor skills such as printing, hand-eye coordination, daily self-care activities, attention span, interacting with environment, regulating emotions, social skills and play.
“As primary health care professionals, physiotherapists combine in-depth knowledge of how the body works with specialized hands-on clinical skills to assess, diagnose and treat symptoms of illness, injury or disability.
With your independence in mind … physiotherapists prescribe personalized therapeutic exercises, and provide essential education about the body, what keeps it from moving well, how to restore mobility and independence, and how to avoid or prevent bodily harm.” (www.physiotherapy.ca )
PTs can help your child with gross motor skills, body awareness, coordination, balance, muscle strength, and endurance.
By communicating goals with each other and “treating together”, these professionals can make therapy sessions more meaningful. For example, an OT or PT can incorporate the S-LPs goals. A child working on a specific sound or language concept in speech therapy can also target these in fine and gross motor therapy activities.
Other specialized professionals may also enhance the development of your child. These may include a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist, a certified music therapist, and/or a behaviour therapist.
Our rural area presents unique challenges. Luckily, all of the above professionals exist in our area, whether in private practice or as part of publicly funded health care services. Interdisciplinary teams from larger treatment centers may also offer services locally, through outreach programs. Families often choose to access services privately, in addition to community services, so their child is able to get the frequency of service they may need.
Whatever your child’s needs, early assessment is crucial so therapy may begin and your child may be on his/her way to living an independent, happy and fulfilling life!