Speech disorders occur when a patient (typically a child) has trouble producing certain sounds. They can be broken down into different categories depending on the nature of the problem. Speech disorders include:
- Articulation disorders. The patient has trouble with certain syllables or pronounces words incorrectly to such an extent that it is extremely difficult to understand what is being said.
- Fluency disorders. These are characterized by interruptions in the normal flow of speech. Stuttering – an abnormal repetition or prolonging of sounds, syllables or words – is the most common fluency disorder.
- Voice disorders. These involve problems with pitch, volume or voice quality.
- Dysphagia. Swallowing disorders can also cause trouble with speech.
Speech-language pathologists, commonly referred to as speech therapists, are able to evaluate a patient’s speech, language, cognitive, communication and oral/swallowing skills in order to diagnose speech problems.
How Does Speech Therapy Work?
Treatment, or speech therapy, aims to resolve the issue by focusing on the area in which the patient needs help. Strategies include articulation therapy that focuses on proper pronunciationand physical exercises that demonstrate how the tongue is used to form certain words, as well as tongue, lip and jaw exercises designed to strengthen the muscles of the mouth.
Speech therapy is critical in preventing a number of problems from occurring. Left untreated, patients have a higher risk of developing hearing loss, weakened oral muscles, excess drooling, breathing problems and feeding or swallowing disorders. The younger the patient, the more successful speech therapy tends to be.
Central Auditory Processing Disorders
Sometimes, children exhibit classic signs of hearing loss: they do not hear well, or may only understand a portion of what is being said. They experience learning difficulties, particularly in environments with lots of background noise. When multiple people are talking, they lose focus and can’t follow the conversation.
What Is CAPD?
Parents may suspect a hearing loss, but in many cases, the cause is a behavioral disorder known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD). An estimated five percent of school-age children suffer from CAPD, a condition that affects their ability to process information correctly due to a disconnect between what they are hearing and how their brain responds.
Most children with CAPD don’t actually have hearing loss. Studies have shown the majority are able to hear normally in quiet environments; the problem is in the way they process auditory information. Symptoms may range from mild to severe and include difficulty with any of the following:
- Hearing in noisy environments
- Following conversations
- Remembering spoken information
- Maintaining focus and attention
- Following directions
- Reading and spelling
- Processing nonverbal information
How Is CAPD Diagnosed?
Children with CAPD may become withdrawn, isolated and depressed. They often become disruptive and may take unnecessary risks or lash out at others. Because many of the behavioral issues closely mimic those associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other learning disabilities, an incorrect diagnosis is often made.
An audiologist can determine the exact nature of your child’s issues through a routine hearing test, which will rule out any physical hearing problems by testing their ability to hear a range of frequencies. If no hearing loss is present, behavioral and electrophysiological testing is administered.
Call Center for Hearing & Speech at (314) 968-4710 for more information or to schedule an appointment.