What does a children’s speech pathologist do?

You may already know that a speech pathologist can help your child with a lisp or with a stutter, but did you know they can also help with things like swallowing, learning letter sounds or writing a narrative?

Speech Pathologist Brenna Donovan, from Kids First Children’s Services in Sydney’s northern beaches, explains just some of the things that speech therapists do for kids.

Speech Pathology at Kids First (Brenna Donovan)

Many people are surprised when they find out the wide variety of disorders that a paediatric speech pathologist can diagnose and treat.

A child’s speech pathologist often diagnoses and treats many different things!

How speech pathologists help kids

Below is a list of the many areas that a speech pathologist can diagnose and treat:

 1. Voice Disorders
Voice disorders arise for many different reasons but a common one is when a child uses their vocal cords in an abusive way (e.g. constant screaming).  This can cause damage to the vocal cords which in turn causes children to lose their voice easily and/or have a hoarse or raspy sounding voice.

 2. Literacy Difficulties
Speech Pathologists help children learn to read, spell and get their ideas out on paper.  They help with learning letter sounds, learning the rules of those tricky English spellings (e.g. “ee” and “ea” make the long “e” sound) and learning to read increasingly difficult words.  They also help children understand what they are reading.

3. Language Disorders
Children need to both understand what is being said to them and be able to express themselves.  If you child is having difficulty with either of these, a speech pathologist can help!

 4. Speech Sound Disorders
Have you ever met a child that you just can’t understand?  This child may have a speech sound disorder in which they cannot clearly make the sounds that they should be able to.

5. Stuttering
Stuttering can look different in different children.  Some may repeat whole words like “What-what-what-what is that?” or some may repeat just one sound “Mmmmmmmmm-um, come here please.”  A paediatric speech pathologist helps children overcome stuttering.

 6. Feeding/Swallowing Disorders
A speech pathologist will work as a part of a team to help with feeding and swallowing difficulties.  They may work alongside a paediatrician, occupational therapist, dietician or ear, nose, throat doctor.

 7. Social Skills
Children who have difficulty navigating social situations can often practise with a speech pathologist.  Things like greetings and farewells, turn taking or how to have a conversation may be addressed in therapy.

 8. Cognitive Skills Deficits
Higher level thinking skills like memory, planning, organisation and flexible thinking can be assessed and treated by a speech pathologist.  Often times, children with difficulties in these areas will be seen by a team of specialists such as psychologists, occupational therapist and doctors.

© 2016 Kids First Children’s Services

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