Speech therapy is commonly thought of as teaching a child how to speak clearly, but it’s so much more than that. Speech therapy is a fantastic tool to utilize on the IEP and it doesn’t mean that students cannot be understood when spoken to.
Speech therapy teaches students social- and cognitive communication in addition to sounds and mechanics of speech. This is provided to students on IEPs when they qualify for services at the expense of the school to support participation in the classroom curriculum.
My son has received speech therapy services with services including speech delay, to catch up on speech conventions and mechanics, and through the school in order to support access to the curriculum. He does virtual speech therapy so I have been able to witness and experience what they really work on together.
Speech Therapy In School And Why To Take Advantage Of It
Speech therapy is commonly thought of as something appropriate for a child with a stutter or lisp but it’s not uncommon for speech therapy to be offered as support on the IEP when neither is present.
Speech therapy covers many areas under the umbrella of “speech disorders and communication problems.” Some areas it covers are comprehension, clarity, voice, fluency, and sound production helping treat impairments from stroke, brain injury, and autism. source
Speech therapy likely does not look like what you think it does. It isn’t someone sitting at a desk correcting the patient every time they lisp. In application, it looks more like games and answering questions with the therapist and patient working together for a goal.
But speech therapy does also address the mechanics of speech and sound. In other words, how to form words and make the correct sounds in order to be clearly understood. This may include stuttering, lisping, and working on muscles for speech sounds.
Speech therapy in the school setting may include the mechanics, but more often it includes social- and cognitive communication. This is common for autistic children who tend to interpret what they hear in the most literal sense. For these children, speech therapy is about learning idioms and identifying if language is literal or figurative.
Don’t discount speech therapy as something that isn’t for your student on the IEP if their speech is clear. The support they receive in speech therapy is extremely important for their progression through the academic curriculum.
Areas Of Speech Therapy
Many adults and children receive benefits from speech therapy. The Cleveland Clinic points out the following disorders in particular:
- Articulation Disorders
- Cognitive-Communication Disorders
- Communication Disorders
- Difficulty Swallowing
- Expressive Disorders
- Fluency Disorders
- Hearing Impairment
- Receptive Disorders
- Resonance Disorders
Muscle Strengthening. Some disorders that impact speech is due to low muscle tone. So one focus of speech therapy may be strengthening these muscles.
Problem Solving can be an activity in speech therapy when the goal is to improve cognitive-communication.
Conversational Tactics. Those with autistic spectrum disorders benefit from explicit teaching of concepts that neurotypical people learn implicitly. One of these areas is conversational tactics when the goal is to improve social communication lagging skills.
Breathing Exercises. For some people diagnosed with resonance disorders, breathing exercises are beneficial.
Group Therapy. This is common in schools for those with social- and cognitive-communication disorders. Getting to practice together with other students experiencing the same challenges can be very helpful.
Model Sounds. For children modeling what you want them to do can be one of the most impactful strategies.
Games. Engaging children in games is a great strategy to teach other parts of speech therapy and is used to teach almost every type of strategy to children.
Homework. Expect there to be strategies to practice together at home. 30 minutes a week is a typical session, but not sufficient to learn these skills. Practicing and modeling these concepts at home will help the student progress.
Mechanics Of Speech And Sound – Speech Therapy Basics
This is what is most commonly thought of when talking about speech therapy and may have a physical component to it such as cleft palate, stroke, or trauma. However, it may be due to a difficulty in execution or planning.
When focused on articulation the goal is to recreate the sounds in the correct way. This is usually the approach when the root cause is around physically moving the muscles of speech.
Phonological approaches are around finding patterns of errors in speech and giving children rules to learn in order to correct their speech in this way.
Speech Therapy Is For Social- And Cognitive-Communication
In general, speech therapy for children getting support for social- and cognitive-communication disorders should appear like board games, card games, or other back and forth engagement.
Children engaging in games are more open to learning. And there are so many ways to make speech therapy fun and turn it into a game.
There is even speech therapy-specific card games that in practice are little more than flashcards, but even these can be incorporated into a larger game. Typically they have a picture and description of a social situation and the student answers what the best response would be.
Another area of focus may be literal language. This is common for those with disorders on the autistic spectrum. It is typical that these students need to have sayings laid out directly for them and further explanations.
When my son started speech therapy around this concept the therapist would hold up a card with a picture and words and ask what it meant. One of them was “I was so hungry I could eat a horse!” He started out by thinking that it meant the person wanted to literally eat a horse.
We worked together on many sayings and he can now identify whether a saying is literal with a high degree of accuracy. He probably knows more about idioms than typical children his age.
Why You Should Say “Yes” To Speech Therapy On The IEP
Speech therapy is one common support on the IEP as it should be. It doesn’t just support how to speak it goes into practical applications to help students work towards academic goals by supporting what the curriculum is teaching or what is appropriate for their ability.
Teaching articulation of speech is important for some students and may even be combined with other important aspects of speech therapy for children who need it.
If you think your student would benefit from speech therapy due to a need for understanding language by having it explained literally to them, ask the IEP team when you meet if they qualify. Be sure to request that a Speech-Language Pathologist be present in your meeting to speak on whether your child qualifies.
Testing is usually needed to determine whether speech therapy is appropriate for a student. Be prepared for this if you are asking it to be added on. The testing has usually been done during the IEP qualification process when in-depth testing was performed. But additional testing may be needed if those tests did not indicate a lagging skill.
If you want the school to provide speech therapy for a child that is not on an IEP, it is likely that you will need to go through the process of requesting an IEP and the full battery of tests that entails. In most states, they have 60 school days to complete this testing so request this in writing as soon as you can before the gaps become too large to manage.
Speech therapy supports students with learning articulation, sounds, social conventions, spoken language, as well as written communication intricacies. It is so much more than we usually consider when referring to speech therapy.