Akron child speech delays

Speech Delays Higher Among Ohio Kids Whose Early Years Were During Pandemic

Kids in Ohio (and across the world) who were born or spent some of their earliest years as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe are now showing signs of developmental delays. In particular, researchers are noting higher rates of communication and speech delays, motor skill delays, and behavioral delays. It’s been most widely noted among children who are now toddlers all the way up to preschoolers.

As Akron pediatric speech therapists, we have also seen an uptick in parents and caregivers expressing concern for children who are not meeting all the key developmental milestones identified as typical for other kids their age.

This emerging trend has been reported anecdotally, but also in an increasing body of research. An analysis in Ohio looked at speech delays among children in a dozen central Ohio neighborhoods. Prior to the pandemic, approximately 27 percent of kids ages 3 to 5 tested by a Columbus non-profit speech and hearing center failed the speech-language assessment. Post-pandemic, that number shot to 52 percent.

Some other examples include:

  • A study by pediatric neurologists published last fall in the British Medical Journal Archives of Disease in Childhood found that babies in the U.K. born between March 2020 and May 2020 had a more difficult time communicating at 1 year of age compared to those born between 2008 and 2011. Most babies by 9 months are pointing at objects, and by 1 year, are saying their first words. Of the older infants, 90 percent could articulate numerous words at age 1, compared to 77 percent of those born during the pandemic. The share of 1-year-old infants who pointed to objects also fell from 93 percent to 84 percent. The percentage who waved goodbye also dropped, from 94 percent to 88 percent. A quarter of the younger cohort had never met a child their own age by their 1st birthday.
  • Two studies – one by the Rhode Island Hospital and another by the nonprofit LENA Foundation – found that babies born during the pandemic vocalized less and engaged in fewer interactions compared to those born prior to the pandemic. Theories on causation ranged from lack of exposure (just generally being exposed to fewer human interactions involving face-to-face communication – play dates, library story times, daycare, family gatherings, etc.), increased caregiver stress, and excess screen time in many homes where parents had to work while also caring for their children. It’s also possible that early intervention screening was not at optimal levels for kids in many areas. (The Columbus non-profit speech & hearing center referenced early is one of many centers across the U.S. that weren’t conducting screenings face-to-face – or at all – during the better part of 2020.)
  • Researchers at Columbia University published a study showing that babies born in New York City from March to December of 2020 had markedly less developed social and motor skills by 6 months than babies born earlier.
  • Chinese researchers published their findings in the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics in 2021 showing substantially delayed fine motor skills among babies born in 2020, and communication & speech delays in kids who turned 1 at some point in 2020.
  • A study published last year by educators in the United Kingdom found an uptick in problem behaviors, such as hitting and biting, as well as trouble acclimating to large group socializations. This was particularly problematic among 4- and 5-year-olds who were between 0 and 2 when the pandemic first broke out.

Part of the reason these issues are so concerning – and should not be ignored- is because of what we know about early childhood development and the importance of early intervention. There is an explosive amount of brain growth, neural connectivity, and learning that goes on in the first three years of live, continuing usually until around the age of 5. If there is an issue, identifying and addressing it as soon as possible is associated with the best long-term outcomes.

This is why we urge parents and caregivers who suspect their child may be delayed with speech, language, communication, social skills, motor skills, or behavior skills to seek a referral from your child’s pediatrician for closer evaluations. It doesn’t mean there’s anything “wrong.” But the longer we take to address delays, the further behind a child can get. Intervening with speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, or sometimes ABA/behavior therapy as early as possible yields the best results.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Speech and Language Developmental Milestones, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

More Blog Entries:

How Cleveland Speech Therapists Help Treat Preschool Language Disorders, Dec. 10, 2022, Akron Speech Therapy Blog

preschool language disorders Cleveland

How Cleveland Speech Therapists Help Treat Preschool Language Disorders

Most babies and toddlers will understand what is being communicated with them long before they’re able to clearly communicate back. All kids develop speech and language skills at varied paces, but some struggle more than others with understanding what is being said to them (receptive language) and expressing their thoughts to others (expressive language). Children with these difficulties may be diagnosed with one of several preschool language disorders, which our Cleveland speech therapists help to treat.

An estimated 7 percent of Americans have some form of language disorder, according to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA).

Specifically with regard to preschool language disorders, these are usually identified when a child is between the ages of 3 and 5. Sometimes there is a specific cause, such as autism, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, intellectual disability, Down syndrome, etc. But in some cases, there’s no clear explanation. Language disorders can be treated by our Northeast Ohio speech therapists even if we don’t know the precise cause.

In identifying preschool language disorders, speech-language pathologists will assess whether the trouble is receptive or expressive – or both.

Signs of a receptive language disorder include difficulty with things like:

  • Following directions.
  • Answering questions.
  • Deciphering non-verbal language, such as gestures, nods, shrugs, and pointing.
  • Knowing now to take turns in a conversation.

Indicators of an expressive language disorder would include trouble with things like:

  • Naming objects.
  • Learning songs and rhymes.
  • Stringing together words in a sentence.
  • Using the correct pronouns in conversation.
  • Gesturing.
  • Asking questions.
  • Starting – and maintaining – a conversation.
  • Adjusting their speech for the time, place, and person settings. For instance, they might not recognize that they need to use a louder voice outdoors or that they should speak differently to the teacher than they would a peer.

Kids with preschool language disorders may also have a really tough time with early reading and writing skills, such as telling a basic story (beginning, middle, end), naming numbers and letters, or pointing to/identifying persons, places, or things in a book.

It’s worth noting that a language disorder is different than a speech or speech sound disorder (though it is possible for a child to have both). They’re closely-related – but distinct – skills. While language is the whole system of communication (words, symbols, written, spoken, gestured, use of body language, etc.), speech is the actual sound of spoken language. Speech is specific to oral communication, i.e., talking.

Speech trouble is often a matter of mechanics (coordinating use of the jaw, lips, tongue, vocal tract, etc. in a very specific way to correctly produce sounds). With language, there’s often some neurological component at the core.

Treatment for Preschool Language Disorders

If a child is showing signs of a language disorder, it is not a good idea to “wait-and-see.” Initiating treatment with a speech-language pathologist as soon as possible will have the best long-term results. The younger a child is, the more plasticity they have in their neural connections – and the easier it will be for them to forge new neural pathways that will help them overcome their language difficulties. Treatment can begin as early as 18 months (sometimes even before that, if the child has a condition like Down syndrome that is well-established at birth or soon after).

At Therapy & Wellness Connection, we provide 1-1 speech therapy for children who struggle with language, and we also offer regular small group sessions so kids get additional practice and reinforcement with their peers.

Most pediatric language therapy interventions involve consistent training of some specific language skill, followed by positive reinforcement. Kids often learn most effectively when treated within a social context. The intensity and duration of therapy will depend on the resources (and insurance) available, as well as the child’s specific needs, abilities, and age.

If you think your child may have a preschool language disorder, reach out to our dedicated team of speech therapists in Northeast Ohio to discuss the steps necessary to schedule a formal evaluation.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Preschool Language Disorders, ASHA

More Blog Entries:

Brecksville Speech Therapy Team on Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder, Nov. 2, 2022, Cleveland Speech Therapy Blog

Brecksville speech therapy

Brecksville Speech Therapy Team on Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder

Our Brecksville speech therapy team have successfully treated many kids with social pragmatic communication disorder. It’s a condition characterized by significant challenges with both verbal and nonverbal communication used regularly in social settings.

Social-communication trouble can be associated with other communication disorders, but social pragmatic communication disorder has been considered its own thing since 2013, when it was defined under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5). It’s also separate from neurodevelopmental disorders that are often associated with social communication skills (namely autism). As the Brecksville speech therapy team at Therapy & Wellness Connection can explain, that means someone with autism may have social pragmatic communication disorders, but not all do and not everyone with a social pragmatic communication disorder is on the autism spectrum. Someone on the autism spectrum with this condition would receive different supports and treatment compared to someone solely with one or the other.

As defined in the new DSM-5 (specifically DSM5 315.39 (F80.89) ), social pragmatic communication disorder involves persistent difficulties in the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication, as manifested by all of the following:

  • Deficits in communicating for social purposes (greeting someone, sharing information, saying goodbye, etc.).
  • Difficulty changing one’s communication style to match the context or needs of the listener. For example, a child would need to communicate differently in a classroom with a teacher than they would on the playground with a friend. They wouldn’t use formal language playing on a jungle gym, etc.
  • Trouble following the rules for conversations and storytelling. Some examples our Brecksville speech therapy team can note off the top of our heads would be things like turn-taking in conversations, rephrasing something that’s misunderstood, or knowing how to use a nonverbal signal to regulate an interaction.
  • Excessive talking or interfering with others’ conversations.
  • Trouble understanding things that aren’t stated explicitly or difficulty with ambiguous, nonliteral language (humor, idioms, multiple meanings, etc.).

Although the onset of these symptoms are likely to surface in the early developmental period, they may not fully manifest until social communication demands exceed their capacities. Ultimately, we may see this impact their ability to make and maintain friendships, participate in teach sports, and excel in academics.

The most common areas of difficulty are those pertaining to social interactions, understanding others, nonverbal communication, and language processing. A person with this condition might have trouble understanding certain tones of voice, effectively sharing their own ideas or thoughts, or interpreting what someone else is saying not only based on their words but body language, etc. They may not use nonverbal gestures like pointing or waiving. They might have trouble keeping track of the topic that’s being discussed or finding ways to use the appropriate words in a conversation.

The main difference between social pragmatic communication disorder and autism is that ASD involves specific characteristic behaviors (i.e., intense/obsessive focus on a certain topic, frequent repetitive behaviors, disruptive behaviors, sensory issues, etc.).

A child who is diagnosed with ASD but doesn’t have some of those restrictive, repetitive, disruptive behaviors may need to be reevaluated for social pragmatic communication disorder. It’s a condition most commonly diagnosed in children, but can be diagnosed in adulthood as well.

Brecksville Speech Therapy Treatment for Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder

Treatment for this condition focuses on improving functional communication that’s need to effectively navigate social settings.

Our speech therapists at TWC work to identify the issues that are most challenging for the child, discover their interests, and then find ways to utilize those interests to engage them in mastering these skills to overcome social obstacles.

We first work on practicing those skills in a clinical setting – maybe even engaging other kids and therapists to participate – and then working to help kids generalize those skills as they progress.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides ABA therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Diagnostic Criteria for Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder, Indiana Resource Center for Autism

More Blog Entries:

How Akron Speech Therapy Can Help With Auditory Processing Disorder, Oct. 27, 2022, Brecksville Speech Therapy Blog

Akron speech therapist

Akron Speech Therapist Tips for That Tricky “R” Sound

“Arrgh, matey!” Did you know the R sound has as many as 32 sound type variations in the English North American accent. As any Akron speech therapists can tell you, R is one of the most commonly used sounds in the English language – but it’s also one of the trickiest.

The R sound is one of the last to be mastered by kids. It starts around age 3, but it often only matures by age 6 or 7. There is actually a scientific and medical term associated with the difficulty in pronouncing the R sound. Rhotacism is difficulty or inability to produce the /r/ sound. It usually ends up sounding more like a W sound. (Longtime media maven Barbara Walters is a good example.)

There are eight phonetic combinations (consonant + vowel sound) that include the letter R. These include:

  • AIR as in warehouse
  • ER as in Weather
  • IRE as in Tire
  • AR as in Car
  • EAR as in Beer
  • OR as in More
  • RL as in Twirl
  • Prevocalic (beginning of the word) as in Red

Akron Speech Therapist on Why R is So Hard

Some factors that make the R sound so hard to acquire:

  • The variations of sound. As mentioned before, R has lots of them. And learning to pronounce the R in “red” isn’t the same as learning to correctly pronounce the R in “her” – and visa versa.
  • There’s no easy “landmark” to help pronounce it. An Akron speech therapist can demonstrate, but essentially, sounds like the hard “T” are fairly easy to produce because we can teach the child to touch their tongue to the roof of their mouth behind their teeth. If you’re trying to produce the “P” sound, we can practice putting the lips together before pushing out the air/sound. “R” is more difficult because there isn’t any clear position for one’s tongue or teeth or lips in order to accurately make the sound.
  • There’s more than one correct way to pronounce “R” sounds. When everyone’s “P’s” and “T’s” probably sound almost exactly the same, the “R’s” are tougher.

When your child is first learning to talk, it sounds cute to hear them pronounce Rs as Ws, but if you don’t correct it, it can become a problem as they get older.

Practicing Those Tricky R Sounds

Practice makes perfect. If your child needs to exercise those R sound muscles, try the following activities:

  • Pretend to be animals. practice roaring like a lion or growling like a bear.
  • Play pirates and have them practice that R sound while wearing an eye patch.
  • Connect it to a vowel sound. R sounds (and consonants in general) are often easier to produce this way. Have them start with a vowel sound like “eeeee,” hold it for a few seconds, and then teach them slowly to combine it with that R sound.
  • Find opportunities in everyday tasks. For instance, at the grocery store or in a restaurant, look for chances to have them say R sound words (Sprite, grapes, grilled, corn, etc.).
  • Use the TV or technology as a tool. When your child is watching a show or playing a game, listen to the names of the characters or certain tasks and have them repeat certain R word phrases back to you.
  • Incorporate a reward. Your child may be more inclined to participate in these activities if they know there is a reward afterward – or if the activity itself is a type of reward (such as screen time).

If you have questions about R sound difficulties or ways to practice, an Akron speech therapist can help!

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Speech Sound Disorders-Articulation and Phonology, American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA)

More Blog Entries:

Cleveland Speech Therapy: School vs. Private Services, Sept. 1, 2022, Akron Speech Therapist Blog

Akron speech therapy

How Akron Speech Therapy Can Help With Auditory Processing Disorder

Auditory processing disorder is a condition that is treatable by our pediatric Akron speech therapy team. Early intervention is recommended whenever possible.

Kids with auditory processing disorder have a tough time making small distinctions in word sounds. For instance, if a teacher says, “Please raise your hand,” a person with auditory processing may receive that information as something closer to, “Please haze your plan.”

To be clear: Their hearing itself is normal. This is also not a learning disorder. There is no difficulty understanding the meaning of words. The issue is that the brain doesn’t accurately process the information they’re hearing.

As our Akron speech therapy team can explain, a person can be diagnosed with auditory processing disorder at any age. It often comes as a relief to older individuals to finally know the source after many years – though it’s possible the condition may not arise until adulthood. But where it is present in childhood, ideally it’s treated sooner than later.

It’s estimated that between 2 percent and 7 percent of children have auditory processing disorder, with more boys than girls having it.

Symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder

As mentioned, auditory processing disorder is not a learning disability. That said, it is not in common for children with auditory processing disorder to have learning delays. It takes them a bit longer to grasp larger concepts when they must also decipher the words being communicated.

Our Akron speech therapy team has noted that kids with APD often share a number of similar symptoms with those who have dyslexia and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). In fact, some kids who are diagnosed with ADHD (a much more common and readily recognized) diagnosis may actually have ADHD.

Some indicators that a child may have auditory processing disorder include difficulty with:

  • Following conversations.
  • Listening to music.
  • Recognizing where a sound originated.
  • Rhyming.
  • Tracking the orders of sounds or numbers spoken.
  • Recognizing tone and inflection.
  • Recalling spoken directions, especially if there are numerous steps in the process.
  • Understanding what people are trying to say the first time – especially if the environment is loud and more than one person is talking.

You may notice the child has no trouble speaking, reading, writing or spelling – but mixes up similar sounds or occasionally drops the end of words. They may struggle to carry on conversations with people; their difficulty in processing what others are saying makes it tough for them to respond quickly.

Formally, we refer to some of these issues as auditory discrimination (the ability to hear and distinguish sounds in the spoken language), auditory memory (our ability to remember what we hear), and auditory sequencing (the ability to grasp the order of the sounds we hear).

Auditory processing disorder is typically diagnosed by an audiologist, and then treated by a speech therapist.

How Our Akron Speech Therapy Team Treats Auditory Processing Disorder

Treatment for a child’s auditory processing disorder involves working with a speech and language pathologist. We provide evidence-based techniques and strategies to help children better understand what they’re hearing.

Some of our techniques may involve:

  • Auditory training. This is a process of teaching your child how to boost their focus, listening skills, and ability to discern the sounds they’re hearing.
  • Compensatory strategies. When understanding auditory information is difficult, we can teach kids how to compensate for this deficit by paying attention to other details, such as visual aids, body language, other behavior clues and supports.
  • Environmental modifications. This is particularly important in school and other learning environments.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Cleveland speech therapy kids

Cleveland Speech Therapy: School vs. Private Services

Parents whose children have been referred for Cleveland speech therapy may wonder whether they truly need to seek out private therapy – particularly if they can access services through their child’s school.

The answer will certainly depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The age of your child. (Early intervention before age 5 may be ideal, but schools aren’t going to offer those services until they are enrolled as students
  • The nature of their condition/deficits. Treatment for some diagnoses, such as autism, will begin as early as possible -and may need to be intensive. If a child is on the severe end of the spectrum, they may need intensive services (such as full-time ABA therapy and educational assistance) before they can function/thrive in a typical school setting. However, if their condition, deficit, or challenge is relatively mild, they may just fine in a school setting. Often, they may benefit from both public school and private services.
  • What sort of Cleveland speech-language therapy services are available at the school. The criteria used for Ohio school districts to determine whether special services or accommodations should be extended to a student through an IEP (individualized education plan) or a 504 Plan differs from the criteria that medical doctors and private therapy clinicians might use to determine a plan of care. Whereas school districts are going to analyze how the child’s condition or deficits impacts their ability to function academically, our Cleveland speech therapists are going to be looking at treatment from the “whole child” perspective. We’ll want to know how their condition impacts them not only in a school environment, but also at home, with friends/family, while engaged in recreation or in other aspects of community.

It’s been our experience that many children we treat at Therapy & Wellness Connection benefit from services both from our private therapy clinic as well as in school.

In terms of professional capability of the Cleveland speech therapy services you will get in public schools versus at a private therapy clinic, the speech therapists are going to have very similar education, credentials, and likely experience. The speech-language pathologists (SLPs) at your child’s school as well as the one at their private clinic will have an undergraduate and/or graduate degree involving clinic therapy experience and extensive coursework pertaining to a broad range of speech & language development disorders and effective treatments. (Those who have only completed undergraduate coursework/criteria are speech-language pathology assistants, while those with a graduate degree will pass the praxis exam, complete a Clinical Fellowship Year, and ideally hold a Certificate of Clinical Competence – or CCC – from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.)

We can attest to the fact that there are some amazing SLP-As and SLPs in our Northeast Ohio public schools (we’ve hired more than a few from local school districts!). That said, school SLPs generally only have a limited amount of one-on-one time with your child. Speech therapy work at school may take place in more of a group setting, so they aren’t getting as much individualized treatment. And although there may be some variation from district-to-district depending on local school funding, in general, the SLPs and SLP-As at schools are often very busy, on tight schedules, and working with limited resources.

Meanwhile in private speech therapy, your child gets the full attention of their SLP for the duration of each session – usually about one hour and conducted here in our Brecksville clinic or at the child’s home, daycare, or other setting. The more intensive the therapy schedule, the faster your child is going to master the skills targeted in their plan of care.

Needs and Qualifications for Speech Therapy

In a school setting, the SLP will consider the following when weighing whether services are appropriate:

  • Standardized testing results.
  • Classroom communication skills.
  • Communication deficits that negatively impact their academic performance.

But as we mentioned previously, private Cleveland speech therapy is going to base the needs assessment on factors beyond academic performance. We’re going to look at how communication issues impact the child’s life in all areas.

The frequency, duration, location, and setting are going to vary between school speech therapy and private clinic speech therapy. Your child’s IEP or 504 plan is going to dictate how many hours of services they receive per week, but it’s generally going to be much less than what is recommended by a private speech therapist – simply because they’ve got a lot of other children to treat also in that same time block. (It’s not uncommon for schools to have only one SLP per grade level, school, or even district.)

The terms of the school’s IEP are reviewed and updated annually, in collaboration with the parents/caretakers, the child’s teachers, and specialists like SLPs, occupational therapists, ABA/behavior therapists, and intervention specialists.

Plans of care for private speech therapy are often reviewed and updated every few months.

How Do I Know if My Child Needs Additional SLP Services?

Although that’s a tough question to ask without assessing your child’s unique condition and needs, in general, a child will likely benefit from private speech-language therapy services in Northeast Ohio if:

  • They do not qualify for school-based speech therapy due to the fact their disorder doesn’t have a major impact on academics.
  • Parents/caretakers have ongoing concerns about the child’s use of language, comprehension of language, articulation (ability to say words clearly), voice, fluency, or social skills.
  • The child is better able to concentrate during one-on-one therapy sessions.
  • They are not receiving speech services from which they may benefit on long breaks (summer, winter, etc.).
  • Your child has a condition or disorder (ex: Apraxia of speech, feeding/swallowing problems, etc.) that requires a specialized therapy technique or specially-trained speech-language pathologists.

If you are considering private speech therapy services in Northeast Ohio, we can set up a consultation, exam, and schedule.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Information for School-Based SLPs, ASHA

More Blog Entries:

Ohio Kindergarten Readiness Skills: Is Your Child Developmentally Ready? July 20, 2022, Cleveland Speech-Language Pathology Blog

Cleveland feeding & swallowing therapy

Early Intervention Cleveland Feeding & Swallowing Therapy Boosts Long-Term Prognosis

Children with feeding and swallowing disorders are at high risk for substantial health, learning, and social challenges. But when treated early with Cleveland feeding & swallowing therapy in a speech therapy clinic, kids can overcome their unique difficulties and go on to thrive.

As explained by the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association, feeding disorders include problems with sucking, chewing, eating from a spoon, or drinking from a cup. Swallowing disorders (formally known as dysphagia) involve trouble moving liquids or foods from the mouth to the throat, esophagus and/or stomach. Issues can also be the result of sensory processing difficulties, which can lead to extreme food aversions, based not just on taste, but texture, temperature, smell, and visual appearance. Kids with autism especially struggle with this.

Cleveland feeding & swallowing therapy can help to treat these disorders, which often stem from other medical conditions like prematurity/low birth weight, reflux, breathing issues like asthma, cleft palate or lip, muscle weakness in face/neck, certain medications, and conditions like Down’s Syndrome, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, and meningitis. Sometimes, though, feeding and swallowing problems have no clear cause at all.

Some telltale signs intervention may be needed are when the child:

  • Isn’t gaining weight or growing.
  • Refuses to eat or drink.
  • Cries, fusses, or arches back when feeding.
  • Spits up or throws up a lot.
  • Has difficulty breathing when they’re eating and/or drinking.
  • Coughs or gags when trying to chew.
  • Has a raspy voice or gurgles during or right after meals.

When Cleveland feeding & swallowing therapy is recommended, it’s typically administered by experienced speech-language pathologists. Our overarching goal is going to be facilitating and supporting safe and adequate nutrition and hydration for each child. We are specially trained to:

  • Evaluate whether the child’s chewing skills are developmentally appropriate and if they’re moving their tongue correctly.
  • Help babies improve the ability to suck from a bottle, drink from a cup, or coordinate simultaneous breathing and eating.
  • Help older babies and toddlers learn to chew properly and feed themselves.
  • Encourage a more varied diet by creating a fun, positive, safe environment where we slowly introduce new foods, tastes, textures, and smells.

The duration and frequency of feeding & swallowing therapy will depend on the child, with special considerations for their age, attention level, degree of impairment, cognitive function, physical abilities, and family schedule.

In some cases (particularly for kids with complex feeding problems), we may need to incorporate an interdisciplinary approach, meaning we collaborate with a team of professionals from experts, from ENT doctors to occupational therapists to nutritionists.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy and feeding & swallowing therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Feeding and Swallowing Disorders in Children, ASHA

More Blog Entries:

Akron Speech Therapy Treatment for Tongue Thrust, July 10, 2022, Cleveland Feeding & Swallowing Therapy Blog

Akron speech therapists learning disabilities

How Akron Speech Therapists Can Help Kids With Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities are disorders that impact one’s ability to:

  • Understand or use spoken or written language.
  • Complete mathematical calculations and equations.
  • Coordinate movements.
  • Direct attention.
  • Engage in higher-level skills like time planning, abstract reasoning, organization, and long/short-term memory.

The term “learning disabilities” isn’t a singular issue or disorder, but rather a catch-all for more specific conditions, such as dysgraphia, dyslexia, ADHD, etc.

Because all this can have a negative impact not only in academics, but on social relationships, it’s important for parents and caregivers to reach out for help – the sooner the better. This may include tutoring and other educational supports. In some cases, speech therapy and occupational therapy can help too.

As our Akron speech therapists can explain, a learning disability does not necessarily mean a child has a low intelligence quotient (IQ). In fact, most people with learning disabilities are either average or above-average intelligence. (This is part of what sets these kids apart from those with a global developmental delay.) conditions stem from genetic and/or neurobiological factors that impact brain functioning to the extent that one or more cognitive processes related to learning are impeded.

Kids with learning disabilities tend to have unexpected underachievement, despite receiving a lot of support. Their conditions are life-long, but the earlier we can intervene, the greater likelihood we can help redirect those neuro pathways in the brain.

Using evidence-based techniques, our speech therapists will identify the different language-based skill deficits (i.e., oral language, information processing, attention, memory, reading, and writing) and engage the child in various exercises (in the form of games) to help boost their performance in ways that carry over to the classroom.

Consistent, early intervention speech therapy can help kids with different learning abilities become more capable of receptive language (understood what’s being communicated with them) and expressive language (communicating with others).

Occupational therapy can help in these areas too, as well as practicing things like organization skills, attention and self-regulation, and handwriting. We also offer social groups for kids of all ages to provide more opportunities to practice social-emotional learning. Where it is beneficial, we may also recommend classroom adaptations to better accommodate the child’s learning style.

It’s long been the motto of our therapists and homeschool educators and tutors at Therapy & Wellness Connection that if kids aren’t learning the way we teach, we need to teach the way they learn.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Types of Learning Disabilities, Learning Disabilities Association of America

More Blog Entries:

Why Our Cleveland Speech Therapists Teach Kids How to Make Inferences, June 14, 2022, Akron Speech Therapy Clinic Blog

Akron speech therapy

Akron Speech Therapy Treatment for Tongue Thrust

Kids can encounter all kinds of unique challenges when they’re learning to speak and understand what’s being spoken to them. One impediment to typical speech development is tongue thrust, which occurs when the tongue rests at a forward position of the mouth and is thrust against or between the teeth during swallowing and speech. It’s sometimes referred to as “reverse swallow,” “immature swallow” or “open bite.” It’s a type of orofacial myofunctional disorder – and our Akron speech therapy team can help to treat it.

An orofacial myofunctional disorder is one that involves the muscle function of the mouth and face. Correct positioning of the tongue is the tongue pushing or pressing against the gums directly above the back front upper teeth.

Tongue thrust is actually present in almost all young children, but most have automatically switched to a normal swallowing/speech pattern by the time they’re 6-years-old. If they have not (or if you notice earlier than that it appears to be affecting speech articulation issues), it’s time to consult an Akron speech therapy team.

Causes of Tongue Thrust

We don’t always know what causes tongue thrust, but it could be from several factors combined.

Some conditions that may be causal:

  • Upper airway constriction. If a child has a tough time or inability to breathe through the nose (sometimes from unresolved or frequent upper respiratory infections), chronic nasal congestions, or a deviated septum, it can cause tongue thrust.
  • Prolonged pacifier, bottle, or sippy cup use or long-term thumb sucking. Any of these can contribute to a greater likelihood a child will develop tongue thrust. Other habits that could exacerbate the risk are things like teeth grinding and clenching, chewing nails or cuticles or sucking on one’s cheeks, lips, or tongue.
  • Structural abnormalities. In some cases, it could be the result of a physiological issues, such as a low-lying, forward position of the tongue.
  • Developmental delay. In some cases, developmental delays and differences associated with conditions like epilepsy, autism, cerebral palsy, or down syndrome may contribute to the development of tongue thrust.

Why Tongue Thrust Needs to be Treated With Akron Speech Therapy

The concern with tongue thrust is multi-pronged.

For dentists and orthodontists, the worry is that when there is too much tongue pressure against the teeth from the inside (and an unequal amount of facial pressure on the outside), it can result in the teeth becoming misaligned. Specifically, the front teeth are going to end up being pushed forward. This can necessitate braces and extensive dental work when they get older. Untreated tongue-thrust can also result in long-term issues not only for aesthetics (potentially causing changes to the shape of the face, causing it to become more elongated while the tongue protrudes), but for feeding/swallowing and speech. It can also cause frequently cracked, chapped and sore lips (from constant licking) to frequent mouth breathing – even if your child has no allergies or congestion.

In particular with speech, tongue thrust can cause speech articulation problems. Articulation is the formation of clear and distinct sounds in speech. Kids with tongue thrust may have an especially rough time properly pronouncing the following sounds:

  • /s/
  • /z/
  • /t/
  • /d/
  • /n/
  • /l/
  • /sh/

Our Akron speech therapy team uses special techniques to help avoid adverse outcomes.

Speech therapists will conduct an evaluation and then assign exercises that help promote a normal swallowing pattern and production of correct speech.

Each exercise is going to be tailored to the child’s exact needs, but they’re going to involve activities that press the tip of the tongue against the gum in the roof of the mouth, right behind the front teeth. An example would be putting a small sugarless candy (or raisin or Cheerio) on the tip of the tongue and having the child touch it to the roof of their mouth – and hold it there while they’re swallowing. Practicing this and other exercises over time can help kids unlearn the tongue thrust habit and start properly swallowing and correctly producing certain sounds.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy and feeding therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Tongue Thrust and Treatment of Subsequent Articulation Disorders, Feb. 24, 2011, ASHA

More Blog Entries:

Why Our Cleveland Speech Therapists Teach Kids How to Make Inferences, June 14, 2022, Akron Speech Therapy Blog

Cleveland speech therapists

Why Our Cleveland Speech Therapists Teach Kids How to Make Inferences

As Cleveland speech therapists, we help kids of all ages work on a broad range of speech, language, and communication goals. One of the toughest of those is something called inferences.

When kids are first learning how to engage in conversations, we start by asking them literal questions or prompting them with fill-in-the-blanks for literal details. It takes some explicit, thinking skill instruction to teach kids how to answer inferential questions.

Learning to make inferences is important because they’re used frequently throughout the day. They’re often required in the text we read for school, but they’re also used to read our environment, as well as the people around us. Social situations often require that we make assumptions about what others are thinking or feeling – so that we can adapt our response/behavior accordingly. This doesn’t always come naturally to some kids, and that’s why it’s an important skill on which our Cleveland speech therapists focus in our sessions.

Cleveland speech therapists

What is an Inference vs. a Literal Question?

As our Cleveland speech therapists can explain, literal questions are probably most easily described as the “Wh questions.” You know: who, what, where, and when things. The answers are to such questions are going to be literal, concrete, explicitly-stated and easily verified. Answering a literal question requires a child to recall or find facts that are in the text or that were just stated in a conversation.

An example of a literal question would be something like, “What color is the ball?” or “What is Jamar eating?” or “Where is the dog?” While kids with speech-language delays or disorders may have some difficulty answering these questions, they’re the easiest sort of questions because the answers are concrete and verifiable.

It gets trickier with inferential questions. One needs to utilize context clues to be able to use an inference to answer a question. It often involves answering the why or how of something. A lot of times, there can even be more than one correct answer. An inference involves a child looking at the text or picture, thinking about the context clues, matching that up to their own background knowledge or understanding, and then formulating a conclusion about what has happened or is happening.

For example, let’s say your little brother has chocolate on his mouth. There are cookie crumbs on the floor, and the cookie jar is empty. You can infer your little brother ate the last cookie.

In another example, the book explains that the thunder boomed loudly, and the author found her dog shaking underneath the bed. The reader recalls from their own experience that loud noises can be scary. The reader can infer the dog is scared of the thunder.

Why Teaching Inferences is Important to Speech Therapy

Students learn to answer questions as a core part of their education. The ability to answer questions – both literal and inferential – is also frequently key to many aspects of kids’ speech therapy goals., particularly as they get into 2nd grade and beyond.

Schools start with expecting kindergarteners to answer literal questions about a given text. Students need know how to answer literal questions first – and have a solid foundation of that – before moving on to the higher-order thinking skills required for inferential questions. In second grade, schools begin setting expectations to have students make inferences.

If a child does not have a solid foundation of being able to answer literal questions, that is where our Cleveland speech therapists will first focus our attentions.

Some examples of methods we may use to help children answer literal questions:

  • We may ask a where or a who question and provide several picture choices, allowing the child to give an answer based on the pictures
  • We may allow the child to draw their answer to a literal question.
  • We may provide a highlighter and start by having the child highlight the nouns. That often provides great clues about where we will find the answers to literal questions.
  • We may tip them off with “clue words.” For instance, if we’re asking the child to provide an answer to a where question, we want them to think about the fact that they aren’t looking for an object or name, but rather a place. We may even have a visual aid that shows where = place, who = person, when = time, etc.

When we start in with lessons on inferential questions, our Cleveland speech therapists must teach that they aren’t always going to find the answer straight out of the text. They’re going to need to put on their detective hats to solve the mystery answer. Some of the strategies we might use to help children learn to answer inferential questions:

  • Flag clue words. These are going to be words like “think,” “might,” or “probably.” Also, if they’re being asked how a certain character feels or why something happened the way it did, this is a good indicator that they’re being asked to make an inference. Other clue words are adjectives, given that they can help describe the person’s feelings or how an event occurred.
  • Graphic organizers, like sequencing charts, can provide a visual tool to help kids see a chain of events and make inferences about the how and why.
  • Whenever possible, we’re going to take advantage of visual aids like pictures, drawings, etc. Many kids are visual learners, and visual guides can go a long way toward boosting their understanding.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Making Inferences, Scholastic Teachables

More Blog Entries:

More Blog Entries:

Cleveland Speech Therapists Offer Activities to Encourage Kids’ Language, May 12, 2022, Cleveland Speech Therapy Blog