Speech and developmental therapies are two types of early intervention that can make a difference.
What is Speech Therapy?
A language disorder concerns difficulties putting words together (expressive) or understanding language (receptive), whereas a speech disorder is a problem producing sounds. Speech disorders fall into the following categories: articulation, fluency, voice or resonance, and oral feeding or dysphagia. Articulation disorders are problems with saying words correctly or pronouncing sounds properly. Fluency troubles refer to issues such as stuttering. With a resonance or voice disorder, a patient will have issues with the quality, volume or pitch of the voice. Some patients may have difficulties with eating or swallowing, and these issues fall into the category of oral feeding disorders. There are specialists in speech therapy called speech-language pathologists or SLPs. Speech therapists have a state license or certification, a certificate from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, or ASHA, and a master’s degree. Speech therapists perform many types of interventions, such as “oral-motor/feeding and swallowing therapy”, “articulation therapy”, and “language intervention activities”. SLPs can use, as examples, play, talking, objects and books, modeling correct sounds, and facial massage and oral exercises to help the patient.1
What is Developmental Therapy?
Developmental therapy looks at a child’s development “globally”, including language and communication, but also cognitive skills, behavior, social-emotional skills, motor skills (fine and gross), as well as self-help skills. This therapy is performed from birth through age 5. Children are referred for speech therapy due to delays in cognitive development, speech delays, autism, sensory processing issues, ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, poor social skills and behavioral problems, prematurity, hearing or vision impairment, motor and neurological deficits, and genetic disorders.2 A DT “incorporates…the important work of occupational therapists (OT), speech and language pathologies (SLP), and physical therapists (PT)”. Aside from remediating the global developmental delays, a developmental therapist can include “school-readiness skills”. The primary method of therapy is “play”.3
While speech therapy can be useful at any age, both speech and developmental therapy, along with other disciplines, are covered in some areas of the country by Early Intervention programs. In Illinois, for example, children up to the age of 3 have been offered ST and DT if there is a delay found in testing due to “movement, learning, dealing with others, behavior, and/or self-help skills”. The IFSP is a written plan that identifies needs and sets goals.4 Early Intervention programs have shown benefits in academics, behavior, and other areas. The early years of life “are a particularly sensitive period in the process of development”.5