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