Learning and speech disorders comprise problems in communication that arise from a wide variety of sources. They range from difficulties with simple sound substitutions to the inability to use the oral-motor mechanism to speak. Common sources of these disorders include brain injury, drug abuse, physical impairments, neurological disorders, vocal cord damage, strokes, and hearing loss. A language delay can be expressive, receptive, or include both. Symptoms include poor pronunciation, the inability to speak by the age of 2 years, and difficulty in constructing audible sentences.
A child’s communication is considered delayed when they are behind in the acquisition of speech or language skills when compared to other children in their age set. There are four main stages of language acquisition, namely, babbling, the one-word stage, the two-word stage, and the telegraphic stage. During the first 5-6 months after birth, a baby begins to use its vocals in response to the mother’s voice (Cummings, 2018). It tries to reproduce the sounds that emanate from the surroundings, a process referred to as babbling. Between the ages of 8 and 12 months, most babies can communicate vocally and use gestures (Cummings, 2018). Children with delayed communication cannot babble by the age of 15 months. The one-word stage is characterized by the ability to make one word sentences that primarily contain nouns. For example, “mama’ is a common utterance during this stage. The two-word stage is characterized by two word sentences while the telegraphic stage involves the use of sentences with more than two words (Cummings, 2018). The sentences contain sufficient words to make sense.
Speech disorders refer to difficulties experienced with regard to producing and articulating speech sounds or with the pitch and quality of the voice. The most common conditions include stuttering, apraxia, and dysarthria (Khan, 2019). They are characterized based on speech clarity, sound development, and the oral-motor status (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). Stuttering involves speech disruptions that can be repetitions, prolongations, or blocks. Apraxia refers to the impairment of motor skills due to brain injury (Kahn, 2019). Dysarthria results from muscle weakness in the throat, face, and lips that lead to slurred or soft speech, and mumbling.
Language disorders refer to a group of difficulties experienced in the process of learning and using language to communicate in written and spoken forms. When a child has a language disorder, language development and learning are affected. For instance, a child will experience difficulty comprehending and remembering verbal information (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). In addition, processing information in order to make sense of what words and sentences is very challenging. These shortcomings significantly affect the child’s ability to complete tasks properly. Moreover, following instructions becomes a challenge because of a lack of understanding. Children with language disorders can also find reading and spelling challenging. Studies have cited verbal abilities as key factors in the development of reading skills. The inability to associate sounds with letters affects learning because children with that inadequacy struggle with reading and spelling.
Language development is facilitated by the ability to hear, see, commit information to memory, understand, and form speech. Children with language disorders struggle with the aforementioned capabilities. Therefore, they find it difficult to understand parts of a language and decipher the meaning of the sounds sent to the brain (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). In some cases, children with these challenges acquire language skills, but slowly, through prolonged periods of persistent training. Others enter adulthood without the ability to speak properly because of factors such as brain injury that impede their learning.
The Role of a Speech-Language Pathologist
Children with language disorders need professional help in order to overcome their inadequacies. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can help in various ways. Articulation therapy is a treatment modality that teaches proper pronunciation of the sounds that form words (Cummings, 2018). For example, they can teach a child how to eradicate a lisp or pronounce the letter “r” correctly. Stuttering is a common challenge in children with speech disorders. It is treated by teaching children strategies that promote fluency in speech (Kahn, 2019). Voice therapy is also helpful as it improves the voice clarity. Speech therapy also focuses on language comprehension and work to promote the acquisition of communication skills that are needed for the successful execution of daily living (Cummings, 2018). Other strategies sued by SLPs include language intervention activities and oral-motor therapy (Cummings, 2018). Examples of language intervention activities include interaction with a child through talk and play and the use of repetition exercises to develop language skills. A SLP could choose a word and ask the child to repeat it over and over until it is committed to memory. This is done in a playful manner in order to increase levels of comprehension.
Learning and speech disorders affect language development and learning in children. Main causes include hearing impairments, traumatic brain injuries, cognitive development delays, and poor articulation. Different modalities of treatment are used by SLPs, including articulation therapy, oral-motor therapy, and language intervention activities. Therapy to correct the disorders should be commenced as soon as a child is diagnosed. Parents and teachers should work together with SLPs to help children with disorders acquire speech and language skills so that they can learn and communicate better.
Cummings, L. (2018). Speech and language therapy: A primer. Cambridge University Press.
Kahn, A. (2019). Speech disorders. Healthline. Web.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Language and speech disorders in children. Web.