Speech & Language Therapy for Children in Canton, Ohio & Surrounding Communities
Mercy Pediatric Speech Therapy provides outpatient services for children from birth to 18 years old. Children are treated for a variety of disorders, including speech disorders, receptive and expressive language disorders and feeding/swallowing disorders.
Parents and caregivers play an active role during the evaluation process. Their input is used to develop goals that will be functional for the child. Ongoing family education is provided, as well as activities that can be used in the home. Most therapy sessions are one-on-one, allowing for focused and intensive treatment.
Our experienced staff of therapists continue to receive education, allowing them to provide the highest standards of care. The pediatric speech therapists at Mercy look forward to providing care to the children of our community.
Speech Therapy for Articulation
The pediatric speech pathologists at Mercy Medical Center are trained in the identification of and the treatment of a variety of speech disorders. A child may be diagnosed with one or a combination of the following:
Articulation is the production of speech sounds. An articulation disorder occurs when a child is unable to produce one or several sounds. Causes of articulation disorders include a cleft lip/palate, shortened frenulum (tongue tied), or an abnormality in muscular function as seen with cerebral palsy. A child with an articulation disorder may be difficult to understand due to these sound distortions or substitutions.
Phonology is the science of speech sounds and sound patterns. A phonological disorder occurs when a child is unaware of these rules/sound patterns but rather develops their own pattern. These errors often significantly impact the child’s overall speech intelligibility. A child may use only sounds produced in the front of the mouth (i.e. using “tup” for cup and “doe” for go). Phonological disorders are often linked to multiple ear infections or hearing loss. Children with this diagnosis are at high risk for later reading and learning disabilities and therefore early intervention is extremely important.
Dyspraxia is an impairment of the organization of movement need for production of speech sounds. Dyspraxia occurs when a child is unable to move or coordinate muscle movement of the lips, tongue or jaw. A child with dyspraxia may exhibit inconsistent sound errors; deviant errors – those which are non-typical or non-developmental; or general discoordination of oral motor movements for speech or swallowing.
It is normal for children to have immature or unintelligible speech in early years. A trained speech pathologist will provide a complete examination and determine if a delay or disorder does exist along with determining the severity of the delay. Home programs and parental support will be provided along with the appropriate treatment for the child’s disorder.
If you have concerns regarding your child’s speech, we recommend that you discuss them with your pediatrician. Once a prescription has been obtained by your pediatrician, an appointment can be made.
Speech Therapy for Language Disorders
Language disorders in children is a broad spectrum with varied communication patterns. Language can be broken down into general categories of expressive and receptive language. A child with a language disorder may struggle academically and socially.
Expressive language is characterized as the means of communication expressed to a listener. The means of communication can be through gestures, eye contact, utterances by infants, words, phrases and sentences. If you are concerned about your child’s expressive language you may see the following:
- People do not understand your child when he/she speaks.
- Your child only uses a few words to label objects and situations.
- Your child only uses one or two words instead of using sentences.
- Your child had difficulty with grammar such as using plurals or “ing” endings.
Receptive language is characterized as auditory processing, interpretations, listening and comprehension. Parents questioning their child’s receptive language may see the following:
- Your child does not easily follow directions. He/she may need one direction at a time.
- Your child may have difficulty listening and understanding a story.
- Your child may have difficulty pointing to pictures or words in a book when named.
- Your child may have trouble answering ‘wh’ questions (who, what, when, where, why).
- Your child has difficulty paying attention to a task for a length of time.
It should be noted, a child’s language varies depending on developmental milestones and normal age levels.
A parent or guardian plays a significant role in the development of language as well as the caregiver or teacher. If a child is found to have a language disorder following an initial assessment, the Speech Language Pathologist may recommend continued Speech Therapy as well as suggest homegoing exercises to further enhance language skills at home and school.
Augmentative / Alternative Communication
The goal of speech-language therapy is to help children make the most of their communication skills, and allow children to fully express their needs, wants and ideas to their family, teachers and peers. Sometimes, however, a child does not have enough speech/verbal ability to do this, or the speech that they do have is not understood well by others. When this happens, an augmentative/alternative communication (AAC) device or strategy may be considered.
Augmentative/alternative communication strategies vary from low technology solutions, like picture cards, communication boards, or sign language, to high technology devices that generate speech output using high quality computer voices.
Some diagnoses that require intervention with AAC include:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Severe Dyspraxia/Apraxia
- Severe Dysarthria
- Down Syndrome
- Vocal Cord Paralysis/Dysfunction
- Selective Mutism
- Cleft Palate/Severe Craniofacial Anomaly
- Head Injury
- Agenesis of the Corpus Collosum
Our therapy center has some of the most current augmentative communication devices available to evaluate a child’s potential use of this type of equipment. These devices can also be used within the therapy session to improve a child’s expression or to work on specific skills needed for using AAC.
If you feel that your child could benefit from augmentative/alternative communication strategies, please discuss this with your pediatrician, and obtain and referral/prescription if needed.
Therapy for Feeding and Swallowing
Another area that many people do not typically associate with speech therapy is the treatment of feeding and swallowing problems.
Feeding and swallowing problems can affect both infants and children. With infants, difficulties with feeding/swallowing can include:
- Problems coordinating such/swallow/breath for nipple feeding
- Problems with latching on for breastfeeding
- Difficulty with coordination for spoon feeding
- Refusal of spoon feeding
- Refusal of specific foods
- Difficulty transitioning to solid foods
- Problems with severe spitting
- Crying or turning head away when trying to give bottles or spoon feedings
Our therapists treat infants with a variety of strategies and techniques, depending upon what difficulty is observed.
In older children, there is a wide range of difficulties that a child may have. If your child exhibits any of the following problems, an assessment is strongly recommended:
- Difficulty chewing
- Refusal to eat/drink certain foods or food textures (i.e. yogurt, crunchy foods, etc)
- Loss of food/liquid from the mouth
- Coughing or gagging during meals or with drinking
- Small bits of food still in mouth (on tongue or in cheeks) after a meal
- Decreased coordination of tongue, usually related to a diagnosis such as cerebral palsy
- Problems drinking from a cup
Treatment of feeding/swallowing problems can be as simple as switching to a different nipple/bottle to more intensive therapy that focuses on exercises and activities that improve a child’s coordination or ability to tolerate foods and food textures. The speech therapist will sometimes work in conjunction with the occupational therapist to address feeding/swallowing issues as needed, and will also frequently work with a nutritionist/dietitian or gastroenterologist, depending on the needs of the infant/child. The length of treatment will vary from a few sessions to over a year, depending upon the severity of the child’s difficulties.
If you have concerns about your child’s feeding/swallowing, you should discuss this with your pediatrician and obtain a prescription/referral if an evaluation is needed.
Early Intervention with Speech Therapy
Early intervention services are provided for children from birth to three years who have been diagnosed with a speech and language disorder, or are at-risk for developing a speech and language disorder.
Therapy sessions focus a great deal on teaching caregivers how to interact with the children and stimulate language development in the home. Therapy sessions are well-structured, but most interventions use a play-based technique for encouraging communication skills. Based upon the evaluation and input from the caregivers, a treatment plan is designed. Goals may include targeting associative sounds, such as animal sounds; increasing a child’s ability to understand simple words; increasing a child’s ability to follow simple directions; increasing a child’s ability to communicate wants and needs; increasing imitation of sounds. Sign-language is frequently used, in addition to spoken language. This can help to significantly decrease frustration until a child develops his or her first words.
Therapists work with caregivers and make referrals to other agencies, as needed. These agencies, such as Help Me Grow and Healthy Start can assist families with making decisions related to the care of the child. Assistance is also provided to help children transition into preschool programs, which can also address their speech and language needs.
If you have concerns about your child’s development, we recommend that you discuss them with your child’s pediatrician. The pediatrician can make a referral for a speech and language evaluation.
What to Bring to a Speech Therapy Evaluation
What to bring to your child’s evaluation:
- Prescription for evaluation and treatment with the doctor’s diagnosis
- Insurance card
- Past therapy reports, doctor’s reports, school IEP (if available)