Children learn to talk at their own rate. They start by babbling and their first words emerge around their 1st birthday. By their 2nd birthday most children have at least 50 words, are using 2-3 word phrases and asking questions, lots of questions! If your child is not meeting these milestones, they may be considered a late talker. Therapy for late talkers involves a lot of play and creating opportunities for your little one to express their needs and likes. We use evidence-based programs such as Hanen’s ‘More Than Words’ and ‘It Takes Two to Talk’ to teach parents language stimulation strategies that they can use at home to support their child’s language development.
Unclear speech is generally obvious to parents and teachers and can be caused by several factors. The table below explains the difference between articulation and phonology and general expectations for different ages.
There are a number of different therapy approaches used to treat speech sound errors including articulation therapy, minimal pairs and multiple oppositions.
Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is a rare motor speech disorder that affects the brain’s ability to plan and program the movements required for speech. While a child with CAS knows what they want to say, when they speak, their brain has difficulty making plans to tell the speech muscles to move the lips, jaw and tongue in specific ways, resulting in poor coordination, inaccurate speech sounds and uneven stress and intonation. CAS is a complex disorder and symptoms can often persist beyond childhood. Treatment programs that target the motor control aspects of the disorder are available. These include the Nuffield Dyspraxia Programme, ReST (Rapid Syllable Transition Treatment) and DTTC (Dynamic Temporal Tactile Cueing).
Language forms the foundation of how we learn and therefore it is important to provide appropriate support as early as possible. Understanding language is also known as comprehension or receptive language and includes:
The type of therapy is determined by the area(s) of difficulty.
Language forms the foundation of how we learn and therefore it is important to provide appropriate support as early as possible. Using language through speaking and writing is also known as expressive language and includes:
The type of therapy is determined by the area(s) of difficulty.
Phonological and phonemic awareness are the early literacy skills that form the foundations of learning to read, write and spell. Put simply, children need to understand that the words we speak are made up of sounds that can be broken up and moved around.
Therapy to support children to develop their phonological and phonemic awareness skills involve using nursery rhymes, songs and activities based on having fun with and playing around with letter sounds.
Once these skills have been mastered children can then apply them to writing by learning about how letters and groups of letters represent the sounds in words through phonics instruction. They can then use this knowledge to read and write printed words.
Children who have speech sound errors are at higher risk of having difficulties learning these early literacy skills so it’s important to keep this in mind.
We live in a literate society and everyone needs to learn how to read and write through instruction, but some children don’t develop these skills as easily as others. Reading & spelling is incredibly important for more than just getting through school but for engaging with friends over text, entering the workforce and becoming independent.
Literacy difficulties may look like a reluctance to attempt to read and write or having to put in lots of effort and guessing words based on the first letter or relying on pictures. Reading disorders can occur in isolation or may be due to underlying language and/or learning difficulties.
Some children have difficulties reading but are able to spell while others are the opposite and some find both tasks hard. While related, reading & spelling are distinct skills that use different parts of the brain. While reading is a decoding activity (break it down and put it together) spelling is an encoding activity (retain, identify the sounds & recall the letters that match). It’s a big job, did you know that there are 9 ways to spell the sound “ay” - baby, rain, day, name, great, eight, straight, vein & they!
At Speak & Write, all our therapists are trained in the Spalding Method which is an evidence-based multisensory approach to literacy development. It incorporates letter-to-sound association practice, spelling, reading comprehension strategies and letter formation.
Writing is an extension of our expressive language skills or how we use language. For many children, they may have great ideas they can share verbally but have difficulty transferring them to text. Perhaps they only write short sentences that lack description, are missing words or their ideas don’t quite make sense.
Writing involves understanding different text types and how they are constructed - a narrative is very different to a discussion which looks nothing like a procedure!
We used strategies such as mind maps and diagrams to help students collect, organise and order their ideas. We also introduce scaffolds and templates to help them plan their writing and give them the skills and confidence to get started, which can often be the hardest part.
Executive functions are the mental processes that we use in planning, memory, attention and problem-solving. They help us self-regulate so we can effectively plan, prioritise and sustain effort towards a goal. They allow us to move from just wanting to do something to actually getting it done!
Speak & Write start by conducting a full language assessment aimed at pinpointing the problem or ‘missing link’ so that the student and parents have a better understanding of how this may be impacting the student’s academic success.
Therapy plans are then developed with the student’s and parents’ goals in mind, which involve teaching the students techniques and strategies to overcome or manage their difficulties.
We teach our students the skills to:
Working with adolescents is a particular passion of the team at Speak & Write. The transformation we see in teenagers’ self-esteem, once they learn the above, inspires us all.
Forming meaningful friendships and connections with peers is a priority for children and their parents. While the skills necessary to make friends and navigate social situations effectively can come naturally to some, others may benefit from additional support and guidance to develop these skills and understand their purpose. We seek to encourage social engagement without promoting masking.Some important skills that support social engagement include:
Stuttering is a type of dysfluency that interrupts the smooth flow of speech. Stuttering most often starts around 3-4 years old and can appear suddenly or gradually and be mild to severe. Stuttering can be very unpredictable and vary depending on the child, the setting they are in or who they are talking to. While some children’s stutter may disappear without treatment it is impossible to know who will experience this and the current recommendations are to seek early intervention.
Stuttering can take several forms including:
While we don’t know for sure what causes stuttering, we do know how to treat it!
Speak & Write implement the following evidence-based programs and will determine the best program to help your child:
The Lidcombe Program is a behavioural treatment for young children who stutter, developed in Australia in the 1980s. It involves training parents to provide feedback on their child's speech and helping the child monitor and modify their own speech. The program emphasises positive feedback for fluent speech and has been shown to be effective in reducing stuttering in about 75% of children who complete it. It is a promising option for parents of children under the age of 6 years.
Please see the Lidcombe Program Outline for further information.
The Oakville Fluency Program is a behavioural program which aims to reduce stuttering to very little- no stuttering. The program is most appropriate for children over 6-years of age. The program is a combination of two successful stuttering treatments.
- Syllable-timed speech (saying each syllable to a rhythmic beat)
- Verbal contingencies (specific feedback) within the Lidcombe Program
Parents' input and training is essential to the success of the program.
Please see the Oakville Fluency Program Outline for further information.
The Camperdown Program is a speech restructuring program used to treat stuttering in adolescents and adults. The aim of the program is to provide the client with a way to communicate with as little-no stuttering as possible.
Please see the Camperdown Program Outline for further information.
As a parent, some easy ways to start supporting your child if they have a stutter is to not interrupt them or ask them to start over, give them time to finish their thought or sentence and avoid making comments like “take your time” or “slow down”, even if well intended.
Please see the Stuttering Dos & Don’ts handout for further information.
We often don’t give much thought to our voice or the voice of others unless something sounds a little funky. The voice might sound breathy, rough or strained or you may have noticed a change in strength or pitch.A speech pathologist’s role when treating a voice disorder is to promote and support healthy everyday voice use. The cause of the voice concerns will determine the therapy approach taken. Education and awareness form the basis of indirect therapy. Vocal hygiene includes encouraging a range of behaviours to look after the voice as well as stopping habits that can do permanent damage.
Making lifestyle changes (like not spending all day screaming at their siblings) or managing medical conditions such as allergies or reflux can have a significant impact on the voice. Direct therapy looks like functional exercises and treatments that work on improving the quality and function of the muscles used when producing voice. When it comes to the voice, we don’t want to mess around so consultation with an ENT (ear nose & throat specialist) is alway recommended before starting any therapy to check on any structural issues and ensure the necessary care is taken.