Communication – the ability to clearly speak and convey thoughts, make requests and understand when another expresses the same to you – is a core building block for socialization and learning. Development of interpersonal relationships and the skills necessary to receive and process information, engage and function within the world around us – all of that comes back to communication.

When communication doesn’t come easily for your child, pediatric speech therapy may be necessary – usually the sooner the better.

Therapy and Wellness Connection’s Akron pediatric speech therapists (technically titled speech-language pathologists, or SPLs) know that impaired speech and language can quickly snowball and cause big problems if unaddressed. Lack of solid communication skills will spiderweb to slow or halt almost all other aspects of cognitive, physical and social development. Speech delays and speech-language disorders require swift action.

A speech delay is the reason 75 percent of 2-and-3-year-olds receive pediatric therapy, according to research published in American Family Physician. Speech delays are associated with difficulty reading, writing, attention and socialization.

One or two missed speech milestones aren’t necessarily cause for alarm, but a wait-and-see approach isn’t often recommended – especially because speech delays can be secondary indicators of more significant underlying conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder, cognitive disabilities or a global developmental delay. In all cases, early intervention is key to optimal long-term outcomes.

When is Pediatric Speech Therapy Necessary?

Speech and language disorders are fairly common among young children, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting roughly 8 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 17 have some kind of identified disorder involving speech, language, voice or swallowing. Despite this, little more than half received intervention services recommended to treat these issues. That’s a problem because the longer a speech delay or disorder goes unaddressed, the harder it’s going to be to treat.

To correct another common misbelief: Children do not need to be speaking before they start receiving speech therapy. The truth is children can and should be treated as soon as a delay or at-risk condition is identified so that a speech therapist can help bridge the communication gap necessary to ensure the child catches up or keeps pace with peers.

Pediatric speech therapy services may be necessary for a variety of reasons of differing origins, but most boil down to problems with communication and nutrition.

  • Feeding and/or swallowing difficulty or disorders. Problems involving a baby’s ability to suck or a child’s ability to pick up his or her food, close their lips around it, chew and safely swallow are generally referred to as dysphagia. An experienced Akron speech pathologist specializing in feeding and swallowing disorders can help diagnose the condition and help your child learn to manage or overcome it so that he or she can receive proper nutrition.
  • Language disorders. A child with a language disorder will have trouble expressing their own thoughts and ideas (expressive language disorder), understanding what other people are trying to convey to them (receptive language disorder) or both (mixed-expressive-receptive language disorder). These can be acquired, such as with a traumatic brain injury (cognitive-linguistic impairment) or neurological illness (such as a stroke) or they can be developmental, sometimes relating to a specific issue like autism, Down syndrome, auditory processing disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or global developmental delays.
  • Speech disorders. Speech disorders are those in which a child has problems forming or creating the speech sounds needed to communicate with other people. Some of the speech disorders we see most commonly for Akron child speech therapy are: Articulation Disorders (structural issues like cleft palate and motor planning problems like childhood apraxia of speech that make it difficult to make speech sounds), Phonological Disorders (difficulty organizing speech into sound patterns or failure/inability to use all speech sounds), Disfluency (breaks in speech patterns, such as stuttering) and Voice Disorders (vocal cord paralysis/vocal fold paresis, vocal cord tumors, aphonia, Reinke’s Edema).

In providing Akron speech therapy services, we may also work on things like pragmatics (understanding verbal/non-verbal cues in social communication) and alternative communication (sign language, gesturing or visual communication tools for children who may be non-verbal).

Concerns about your child’s speech, language and feeding skills should be discussed with a physician, who can write a referral for a formal evaluation for speech-language therapy and/or feeding and swallowing therapy. (Hearing evaluations by an audiologist are typically required for the former to rule out deafness or hearing loss as a cause for speech-language deficits.)

As accomplished professionals who love this work, members of our Akron speech therapy team are committed to helping children and young adults throughout Northeast Ohio – including Brecksville, Broadview Heights and Cleveland – achieve and maintain the skills necessary for effective communication and nutrition.

We don’t want anything holding a child back in life!

What Conditions Do Your Akron Speech Therapists Treat?

Common diagnoses given to patients treated by our Akron speech-language therapists include:

  • Apraxia of speech
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Auditory Processing Disorders
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Chronic Laryngitis (voice loss)
  • Cleft Lip/Palate
  • Cluttering (rapid rate, erratic rhythm or poor grammatical syntax)
  • Developmental Delays
  • Down Syndrome
  • Dysarthria
  • Feeding Disorders
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • Genetic Disorders
  • Growths on Vocal Cords
  • Hearing Loss
  • Hypotonia (can help with breathing, swallowing and speech)
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Lisp
  • Oral-Motor Deficits
  • Motor Speech Disorders
  • Neurogenic Communication Disorders
  • Pragmatic Language Disorders
  • Sentence/Language Formation Problems
  • Spasmodic Dysphonia
  • Stroke
  • Stuttering
  • Swallowing
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Vocabulary Problems
  • Voice Polyps
  • Written Expression

Early intervention for speech-language deficits been associated with best long-term results, as noted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Sometimes it’s tough to know for certain (especially early on) whether a child’s communication problems are attributable to a specific diagnosis or whether he or she is simply a “late bloomer.”

Our Akron speech therapists encourage seeking an evaluation if you have any question.

A list of developmental speech and language milestones from the National Institutes of Health is a helpful resource if you aren’t sure whether your child is at where they are supposed to be developmentally.

What if My Child Doesn’t Have a Diagnosis?

Addressing potential problems quickly gives your child the best shot at promising outcomes long-term. Plus, it is never going to hurt for a child to have a leg-up on effective communication. If there is no diagnosis issued, we can start by treating the symptoms, staying mindful of potential red flags indicating broader issues.

Speech therapy is offered onsite at our Brecksville clinic or in your child’s home, school, daycare or other community settings in the Greater Cleveland-Akron metro area.

Speech Therapy Groups at Therapy and Wellness Connection

In addition to one-on-one speech therapy services, Therapy and Wellness Connection offers opportunities for practical application of speech and social skills in small-group settings.

  • Say-N-Play. This program is for toddlers and preschoolers whose speech is delayed or difficult to understand, who may have trouble producing certain sounds, making sounds incorrectly, omitting important sounds or incorrectly replacing some sounds with others. With activities formulated on an evidence-based, scientific approach to speech therapy, Say-N-Play combines the use of songs, games, rhymes, books, crafts, games and more to help your child broaden their speech and language skills. Bonus: Children get practice participating in a group, following directions and interacting socially. Snack and take-home activities are provided.
  • Literacy & Language. Ideal for children who have been diagnosed with speech-language disorders or delays, those preparing for pre-school or struggling to master reading, children in Literacy & Language will learn basic concepts of vocabulary, grammar, phonological awareness, comprehension and following directions.

We look forward to hearing from you and paving the path for clear communication – and a life without limitations.