What Is Speech Therapy?

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Speech therapy focuses on receptive language, or the ability to understand words spoken to you, and expressive language, or the ability to use words to express yourself. It also deals with the mechanics of producing words, such as articulation, pitch, fluency, and volume. Adults may need speech therapy after a stroke or traumatic accident that changes their ability to use language; for children, it generally involves pursuing milestones that have been delayed.

Some children only need help with language, others have the most problems with the mechanics of speech, and some need every kind of speech help there is.

The professional in charge of your child's speech therapy -- called a speech-language pathologist, speech therapist, speech teacher, or whatever combination of these words your school district pastes together -- will work to find fun activities to strengthen your child in areas of weakness. For mechanics, this might involve exercises to strengthen the tongue and lips, such as blowing on whistles or licking up Cheerios. For language, this might involve games to stimulate word retrieval, comprehension, or conversation.

Speech therapy may be provided by your child's school as a part of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The speech therapist should be par to your child's IEP team, both for evaluating your child's speech and language abilities and deciding how therapy should be administered -- in a group or individually, in class or as a pull-out, once or twice a week or more.

Make sure you understand everything about your child's speech evaluation and recommended therapy before signing an IEP, and ask questions at the start of the school year to monitor the service delivery.

You may also choose to get speech therapy outside of school. Be sure to check with both the therapist's office and your insurance to find out what kind of speech therapy and how much of it is covered.

For more on finding a therapist and evaluating therapy, read "Before You Pick a Therapist" and "Do a Therapy Checkup."

For more on speech therapy, visit the folder on speech therapy on this About.com site or the site of ASHA, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Also Known As: speech pathology, speech-language pathology, speech class

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