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Teenager and toddler having discussionSPEECH AND LANGUAGE DISORDERS

Speech and language disorders are disorders that affect communication and/or oral functioning that affects speech. There are a number of these disorders and they range from sound substitution or inability to produce certain sounds to the inability to understand language or produce speech that can be understood.

What are the symptoms?
There are two types of communication disorders:
With speech disorders, a person has trouble in producing speech. An articulation disorder is when a child has a problem making the sounds necessary for speech. Stuttering or a lisp would be an example of this type of disorder. Some people have problems pronouncing certain sounds like l or r.

A phonological disorder, also a speech disorder, is a bit more complicated. In this case, the person is capable of making all of the sounds, but their speech is still not easily understood. People with this type of disorder may have a voice that sounds very different, speak very, very softly or at a high pitch.

A language disorder is when a person cannot understand and/or communicate with other people. It is usually assumed that this is due to some type of neurological problem, but the cause may be unknown. People with language disorders may have trouble matching a word with its meaning, be unable to create sentences, be unable to comprehend what another person is saying or be unable to express themselves through language. They may have a limited vocabulary as well. It is not unusual for people with a language disorder to have more than one of these symptoms.

What causes them?
There are a variety of causes for speech and language disorders, but often the cause is unknown. Stroke and traumatic brain injury are common causes of communication disorders in adults. Some of the more common causes in childhood are hearing loss, autism, cerebral palsy, neurological disorders, brain injury and mental retardation. Physical problems like cleft palate or lip (where the lip is split) or other physical deformities or injuries can also result in speech and language disorder.

What can be done?
For people with these disorders, a speech-language pathologist may be able to help. In some ways, a speech-language pathologist is like a counselor. By working with the child, family and teacher, her job is to help improve a child’s speech. She can develop a therapy plan for a child that may involve exercises to work on certain sounds. She can talk to the student’s teacher about ways to help the child communicate in the classroom. There are also products on the market, such as computers with a speech function, that students may be able to use to communicate better. A speech-language pathologist can also work with the family to develop a plan on how to help a child communicate that can be used both at school and in the home.

Language disorders tend to be complex because they often involve cognitive problems, or problems with the brain. Because the early years of a child’s life are when language skills are developing, it is important that these disorders be caught as early as possible in order to begin treatment and work on overcoming or dealing with the disorder.

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