6 Benefits of Speech Therapy
(that you may not have realized)
Speech therapy is often thought of as the avenue to help teach children how to say their speech sounds correctly. However, speech therapy goes way beyond just teaching speech!! And, way beyond just teaching children!
Speech therapy can help with so many more skills pertaining to communication, both oral and written. This specialized therapy can assist with relationship building, brain development, and can improve overall quality of life. Furthermore, speech therapy isn’t just meant for kids…it can benefit anyone of any age who is experiencing difficulties with their skills of communication or interaction with others. Here are some of the lesser-known areas that speech therapy can help to address for your child.
- Social Skills
Speech therapy can support children with their social skill development. First, it can help teach skills such as matching emotions to faces or how to carry on a conversation; it also addresses more abstract skills like identifying and understanding others’ nonverbal body language as well as learning the expected ways to communicate in a variety of settings or with different communication partners (i.e. think talking to one’s peers vs. talking to a teacher). This support can help a child or even adult build stronger connections with other people and more fulfilling, lasting relationships. Why? Individuals who have a hard time with social skills (whether it be the effect of their social behaviors on others or difficulty reading people and their behaviors) often struggle to build these social connections and relationships that typical children are able to build effortlessly. This can lead to loneliness and even depression. With speech therapy focused on social skills, children can learn this area of pragmatic communication that doesn’t always develop easily for everyone, make and keep friendships, and really blossom into happier, more connected kids!
- Improved Communication
Speech therapy can help a child, beginning at the most basic level, to simply communicate their needs and wants. This communication may be nonverbal such as through gestures or facial expressions, sign language, or using a picture exchange system; or children can be taught to use simple sounds or approximations to request what they want or need if they aren’t yet able to say full words or sentences. Communication can also take the form of a voice output device, where a child learns how to use technology to be their “spoken voice.” The ability to communicate in any form is powerful and begins at a very young age. Speech therapy continues to help improve communication abilities over time. At a higher level of communication abilities, individuals who have difficulty having conversations can be taught how to interpret and respond to questions and statements and how to keep this conversation going. We depend on communication as we navigate the world and interact with others. By giving a child along any stage of development the ability to communicate, speech therapy can open up so many opportunities and help the child become more independent as he or she grows!
- Improve Cognitive Development
Speech therapy can improve overall cognitive development; this is because speech and communication are key to cognitive development. The human brain is designed for speech, and even many thinking and reasoning activities involve the use of speech and language (whether spoken aloud or an internal thought process). Most people think in language at some point or another during their day – meaning, when they think to themselves, they think in words. We are thinking in words all the time. As we learn speech and language, and continually add to our vocabularies, learning, and problem solving skills, we continue to shape our cognitive development. Furthermore, speech pathologists are skilled at teaching cognitive based strategies to improve performance, whether in reasoning and problem solving (supporting a child toward independence), executive functioning and memory, developing self-talk (inner coaching to handle tough situations), improving self-awareness and monitoring abilities, improving comprehension with reading, organizing one’s thoughts in writing, and more. Speech therapy certainly goes beyond the surface of what people typically expect!
- Develop Reading and Writing Abilities
Within a speech therapist’s direct scope of practice is to address literacy (aka reading, writing, and spelling). One might think a general tutor is all that is needed to support these skills, however when a child is struggling in their development across the reading and writing continuum, a speech therapist is specially and specifically trained to identify where the breakdown is happening and to approach instruction with systematic, evidence-based methodologies. With 4-6 year olds, a speech pathologist helps with development of phonological awareness skills and the sounds of our language (all pre-reading essentials). Children learn that words are made up of individual sounds, and these individual sounds correspond to different graphemes, or written letters. Learning these building blocks prepares a child to begin reading, and over time, spelling. Once children learn how to read, they must be proficient in their fluency, or pace of reading, and in their comprehension of what they’ve read since reading becomes the avenue for all future learning. Speech therapists also help to teach writing: from the building blocks of how to create logical, correct, and complete sentences to formulation and organization of one’s thoughts at a much higher-level for a variety of different types of writing (summaries, narratives, informational, opinion, literary-based, etc.). They teach a systematic way to approach the writing process and create a plan for success. Again, these skills don’t always develop easily for children along the way; speech therapy can help to bridge gaps across these critical skill areas. It is important to ask for a speech therapist who has experience treating the above areas; it is one of our specialty areas at All About Speech & Language!
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