The main goal of speech therapy is to improve communication. Some of the goals of speech therapy might include:
- Improving coordination of speech muscles through strengthening and coordination exercises, sound repetition and imitation.
- Improving communication between the brain and the body through visual and auditory aids such as mirrors and tape recorders.
- Improving fluency through breathing exercises.
- Enhancing the learning of language through language stimulation and the use of language through positive reinforcement.
- Improving communication by helping a child learn another way to communicate which might include gestures, signing or augmentative communication devices (note use of these alternate forms of communication will serve to enhance speech development, not impair it).
Each child will have a different outcome depending on his or her particular challenges and abilities. The length of time in speech-language therapy depends on many factors such as severity of the problem, the frequency and consistency of therapy and the consistency of help at home.
What are the Benefits of Speech Therapy?
The goal of speech therapy is to improve skills that will allow your child to communicate more effectively. There are other benefits as well. These can include:
- Improvement in the ability to understand and express thoughts, ideas and feelings
- Intelligible speech so your child is understood by others
- Increased ability to problem-solve in an independent environment
- Improved swallowing function and safety
- Achievement of school readiness skills
- Development of pre-literacy skills
- Improved vocal quality
- Fluent speech
- Development of practical social skills
- Better quality of life
- Greater self-esteem
- Increased independence
The ability to express one’s self is paramount. Speech therapy may help your child achieve a greater ability to use and understand language, to communicate with others and to express himself or herself to the greatest extent possible.
Delaying speech therapy for your child runs the risk of missing that all-important window of time between birth and three years of age when the brain is maturing and learning happens rapidly.
What are the Drawbacks of Speech Therapy?
There are concerns of a practical nature which must be considered. Speech therapy is time-consuming for both the parent and child. It’s not enough to have a therapy session; the lessons from the session must be carried out throughout the week, at home and in the community. This can place added stress on a family already trying to cope with a child’s therapy routine.
In addition, speech therapy may seem to promise more than it can deliver. Often, speech language pathologists must work to select an appropriate communication mode for a child. Although speech is by far the most desirable choice, some children may not easily acquire intelligible vocal speech and so other communication systems must be considered. This can often be difficult for parents to accept. In developing a speech therapy program for your child, it is important to develop a set of realistic expectations with the therapist. These expectations must be revisited from time to time as the child progresses. Only through periodic evaluations of the overall therapy program will you be able to determine the impact it is having on your child’s quality of life.
In the case of private speech therapy, cost may be a concern because a significant percentage of private health insurance plans do not cover speech therapy or only cover speech therapy for specific conditions. It is very important to check with your health plan about your benefits for speech therapy. Medicaid typically covers private speech therapy if appropriate goals can be defined and the child is making gains toward the goal.