Speech Therapy: Expectations vs. Reality

Learning can be real fun!

Parents who seek information about a speech or language difficulty that their child is having might find that there is a wealth of mistaken or lacking information.

For example, you might have read that very young children’s language can’t be helped until age 3. Or that speech therapy is mainly playtime, or that computer programs and iPads can provide the help that you need.

It’s important to speak with an expert speech and language pathologist who can answer your questions and tell you what is and isn’t true about speech therapy. Until then, here are a few of the common incorrect expectations that people have about speech therapy.

Expectation: It’s too early to begin solving speech issues if kids are younger than three.

Father And Young Son Reading Book Together At Home

Reality: Some websites incorrectly list that very young children aren’t quite ready for speech therapy. According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, they’re wrong! Communication skills start developing at birth, but it mainly depends on your child and where they are in their development.

In order to avoid concerns and address many priorities for children with disabilities, it’s especially important that infants and toddlers who might have disabilities have access to developmentally encouraging care whenever they’re ready for it.

There isn’t a ‘right age’ for when a child should begin speech therapy as many variables come into play. The most significant variable that determines whether or not a child is ready for speech therapy depends on how well they are functioning in their language, speech, and cognitive development and the rate at which he or she is progressing along with developmental averages.

So, some kids might be ready for speech therapy when they are babies, but other children might not be ready until they’re older.

Expectation: Speech therapy is just a chance for kids to get more playtime.

Nursery children playing with teacher in the classroom

Reality: While speech and language pathologists (SLP) do use toys and books, integrating these helpful tools wastes zero time. Kids are more open to engagement with learning objectives during playtime, so it’s an especially great complement to teaching.

An SLP might use a doll to help a child get more comfortable with the “d” sound. They could better illustrate the “t” sound with a toy dump truck. Tying the learning into the world through activity makes children associate therapy more with everyday life and less with just sitting at a table. Words can flow better when there is less pressure. Learning through activity also allows things to just happen like they tend to do in life.

Expectation: Speech therapy can be accessed on computer programs and iPads.

Son holding tablet while sitting on sofa with mother

Reality: Unless you’re working with an SLP one-on-one over video conferencing, it’s unlikely that a child will gain many of the benefits that in-person, hands-on speech therapy can provide. Communication takes into account contextual and social aspects of speaking with people in different ways.

Screens don’t provide any hints as far as context or body language go. There’s a whole other layer of the situation, background noise, and prior experiences in language that screens don’t account for, either. There are many aspects to teaching effective communication.

Excessive screen time can impede language and speech development, so while it’s not the same as in-person classes there are some quality apps and programs intended for speech therapy.