Speech therapy is an intervention service that focuses on improving a child’s speech and abilities to understand and express language, including nonverbal language. Speech therapists, or speech and language pathologists (SLPs), are the professionals who provide these services. Speech therapy includes two components: 1) coordinating the mouth to produce sounds to form words and sentences (to address articulation, fluency, and voice volume regulation); and 2) understanding and expressing language (to address the use of language through written, pictorial, body, and sign forms, and the use of language through alternative communication systems such as social media, computers, and iPads). In addition, the role of SLPs in treating swallowing disorders has broadened to include all aspects of feeding.
Some children may have excellent pronunciation and may even be early readers, but they may need speech therapy to improve “pragmatic” language, or the process of using verbal and body language appropriately in social situations for everyday purposes such as making requests, having conversations, and making friends. Other reasons children may need speech therapy include medical conditions such as a brain injury or infection that has affected their ability to communicate and an identifiable disability such as Down syndrome. Services often begin at a young age and continue as children enter school and start to communicate with written language.