Speech Therapy Effectively Addresses Children’s Challenges with Speech and Communications
Published: June 18, 2023
By: Avivit Ben-Aharon, Founder & Clinical Director
It’s a sentence that no parent wants to hear from a teacher: your child is not doing well in school. In many cases, the next topic is about what possible interventions could or should take place. Though many parents may not initially think about it, speech therapy may provide the support a student needs to improve their ability to learn, grow, communicate and be part of the school community.
According to the Alabama State Department of Education, speech and language challenges are among the top issues reported throughout Alabama school districts. According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nearly 1 in 12 of U.S. children age 3 to 17 has had a disorder related to voice, speech or language in the past 12 months.
Speech Therapy Addresses a Wide Variety of Communication Challenges
Parents often regard speech therapy as an effective approach to address common speech disorders such as stuttering, lisping or other easily identifiable concerns. However, speech therapists can provide valuable support and resources for students who are experiencing other communication challenges, including some that may not be readily apparent to teachers or parents. This may include a hearing impairment, cognitive-driven challenges or a muscular reason for poor verbal skills.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, about five percent of students by first grade have noticeable speech disorders. Without intervention, these children often struggle with basic academic skills – specifically reading and writing – which can affect their educational outcomes over time. A child with an undiagnosed communication challenge may not feel comfortable engaging with the teacher or in the classroom, which can impact interaction and lead to feelings of inferiority, isolation, and even depression.
Spotlight on Autism Spectrum Disorder
Problems with speech and language are one of the defining characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a developmental disability including challenges with social skills, speech, non-verbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. According to the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, about 1 in 59 children has been identified with ASD. The rate of ASD diagnosis in Alabama is estimated at 3.0 – 3.9% of children.
A study published in Autism Research found that 25 percent of children under age 8 with ASD are not being diagnosed. While children are often diagnosed with autism before the age of 3, it’s not unusual for a child with level 1 ASD, or so-called high-functioning autism, to go undiagnosed until social challenges arise in school.
Some children with ASD may not be able to communicate using speech or language, and some may have very limited speaking skills. Others may have rich vocabularies and be able to talk about specific subjects in great detail. Many have problems with the meaning and rhythm of words and sentences. They also may be unable to understand body language and the meanings of different vocal tones. Taken together, these difficulties affect the ability of children with ASD to interact with others, especially their peers.
How Speech Therapists Help Children
Speech therapists are specifically trained to assess and treat a wide range of communication disorders, all of which can impact how a child learns and engages at school. Improved communication skills also serve to build a child’s confidence and enhance interpersonal relationships which may have been diminished when a child was unable to find the right words or completely forgot to make their most important point.
Additionally, speech therapists work closely with students and their parents/guardians to develop individualized treatment plans that address their specific needs and goals. Treatment plans may include exercises to strengthen the muscles used in speech, training in articulation and pronunciation and strategies to improve language comprehension and expression. Therapists may also use assistive technology, such as communication devices or software, to support students who have difficulty communicating verbally.
Speech Therapy is Now More Accessible Than Ever
The pandemic introduced many people to the convenience of accessing multiple healthcare services via a virtual setting, also known as telemedicine or telehealth. Speech therapy services can be accessed the same way.
These services, which are provided via a tablet or computer, allow students to work one-on-one with a licensed speech therapist from the comfort and privacy of their own homes. Online speech therapy offers several benefits for children, including a tendency to keep them focused during sessions in a distraction-free and familiar setting. This option can be particularly helpful for children who are anxious about healthcare settings or concerned about seeking help at school where their peers can see them.
Virtual speech therapy services can also be much more convenient for parents and guardians who are juggling multiple schedules and caring for other children which may result in missed or rescheduled appointments.
Additionally, select virtual speech therapy services such as Great Speech, feature a hybrid care plan model: synchronous live 1:1 sessions with a therapist, as well as asynchronous access to a unique practice portal where children can complete “homework” assignments and activities that help extend the value of their live sessions and further accelerate their progress. Students learn to communicate effectively, improve academically and integrate socially with their peers.
Thanks to the inclusion of virtual speech therapy services in many health plans, parents find it easy to make the first appointment for a child, whether they are a private pay client or enrolled in one of many participating health plans. As an in-network service of many health plans, a participating physician can order virtual speech therapy services for the parent and covered family members. Additionally, Flexible Spending Account (FSA) and Health Savings Account (HSA) dollars may be able to cover any out-of-pocket deductibles.
About Avivit Ben-Aharon
Avivit Ben-Aharon, MS ED., MA CCC SLP is the Founder and Clinical Director at Great Speech, Inc, a virtual speech therapy company founded in 2014. She is recognized as a trail blazer for nationwide virtual access to speech therapy, allowing anyone who is committed to improving their communication to receive expert services, regardless of location or scheduling limitations. Her work has been featured on Good Morning America, US News and World Report, Miami Herald and more. She holds an undergraduate and a Master of Arts degree in Speech-Language Pathology from The City University of New York. She earned a Master of Science in Special Education and Teaching from Hunter College. Connect with her on LinkedIn or via email: email@example.com.