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Speech Therapy

Speech Therapy

Speech Therapy

Both children and adults can have speech and language disorders. They can occur as a result of a medical problem or have no known cause.


Children’s speech and language development follow a typical pattern. If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, you should consult a speech-language pathologist.


  • Childhood Apraxia of Speech
  • Dysarthria
  • Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders
  • Speech Sound Disorders: Articulation and Phonological Processes
  • Stuttering
  • Voice


  • Preschool Language Disorders
  • Language-Based Learning Disabilities (Reading, Spelling, and Writing)
  • Selective Mutism


  • Early Detection of Speech, Language, and Hearing Disorders
  • Medical and Developmental Conditions
  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Autism (Autism Spectrum Disorders)
  • Cleft Lip and Palate
  • Right Hemisphere Brain Injury
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Communication Options
  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication
  • Speech for People with Tracheostomies or Ventilators


  • Helping Children with Communication Disorders in the Schools
  • Speech Referral Guidelines for Pediatrics


A spoken language disorder (SLD), also known as an oral language disorder, represents a significant impairment in the acquisition and use of language across modalities (e.g., speech, sign language, or both) due to deficits in comprehension and/or production across any of the five language domains (i.e., phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics). Language disorders may persist across the lifespan, and symptoms may change over time.

When SLD is a primary disability—not accompanied by an intellectual disability, global developmental delay, hearing or other sensory impairment, motor dysfunction, or other mental disorder or medical condition—it is considered a Specific Language Impairment (SLI). An SLD may also occur in the presence of other conditions, such as:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Intellectual Disabilities (ID)
  • Developmental Disabilities (DD)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Psychological/Emotional Disorders
  • Hearing Loss

Each of these affected populations may exhibit unique characteristics and behaviours, but all share common characteristics of language problems (Rice & Warren, 2004).

The relationship between spoken and written language is well established (e.g., Hulme & Snowling, 2013). Children with spoken language problems frequently have difficulty learning to read and write. Additionally, children with reading and writing problems often have difficulty with spoken language, particularly as it relates to higher-order spoken language skills, such as expository discourse (Scott & Windsor, 2000). See language in brief.

Some children with language disorders may have social communication difficulty, because language processing, along with social interaction, social cognition, and pragmatics, comprises social communication. See social communication disorders.

Learning disabilities (LD) and language disorders are also closely linked, although the exact relationship between the two is not fully agreed upon. Language disorders are typically diagnosed before learning disabilities and frequently impact a child’s academic performance. At that point, the child is often identified as having a learning disability, even though a language disorder often underpins the academic struggles, especially those associated with learning to read and write.



Preschool children (3 to 5 years old) with language disorders may have trouble understanding and talking.


Some children have problems with understanding, also called receptive language. They may have trouble:

  • Understanding what gestures mean
  • Following directions
  • Answering questions
  • Identifying objects and pictures


Some children have problems talking, also called expressive language. They may have trouble:

  • Asking questions
  • Naming objects
  • Using gestures
  • Putting words together into sentences
  • Learning songs and rhymes
  • Using correct pronouns, like “he” or “they”
  • Knowing how to start a conversation and keep it going

Many children have problems with both understanding and talking.
Some children also have trouble with early reading and writing, such as:

  • Holding a book right side up
  • Looking at pictures in a book and turning pages
  • Telling a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end
  • Naming letters and numbers
  • Learning the alphabet

What if my child speaks more than one language?
A child does not get a language disorder from learning a second language. It won’t confuse your child to speak more than one language in the home. Speak to your child in the language that you know best. Children with language disorders will have problems with both languages.
How are preschool language disorders evaluated?
Speech-language pathologists, also called SLPs, usually are part of a team. The team includes you, the child’s teacher, and other professionals. The team can see if your child’s language skills are at age level. SLPs evaluate children while they play. They want to know:
• Does your child know what to do with toys?
• Does your child use pretend play?
For understanding and talking, the SLP will see if your child:
• Follows directions
• Names common objects and actions
• Knows colours, numbers, and letters
• Follows routines like putting his coat away or sitting during circle time
• Sings songs or repeats nursery rhymes
• Gets needs met at home, during play, and at preschool
What causes preschool language disorders?
Often the cause of a language disorder in not known. Some causes of preschool language disorders may be:
• Family history of language disorders
• Premature birth
• Low birth-weight
• Hearing loss
• Autism
• Intellectual disabilities
• Syndromes, like Down syndrome or Fragile X syndrome
• Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
• Stroke
• Brain injury
• Tumors
• Cerebral palsy
• Poor nutrition
• Failure to thrive
What are the types of preschool language disorders?
Problems with understanding are called receptive language disorders. Problems with talking are called expressive language disorders. Children may have problems with both. Sometimes a language disorder is called specific language impairment, or SLI.
Types of preschool language disorders may include problems with:
• Understanding basic concepts, questions, and directions
• Learning new words
• Saying words in the right order
• Having conversations and telling stories

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