Let’s Bust Speech Therapy Myths

speech therapy mythsSpeech-language pathology, otherwise known as speech therapy, is a highly misunderstood concept. Sure, we have all likely heard about it. But unless we, or someone we know, directly benefits from speech therapy, our understanding will likely be misconstrued. This article will serve to debunk the most common speech therapy myths.

Myth 1: Speech therapists only treat stutters or lisps.

These are two of the most well-known speech disorders. The stutter is prominently featured in the Hollywood blockbuster, “The King’s Speech.” However, it should be understood that speech therapists treat a wide range of disorders. These include language impairments, dysphagia (i.e., swallowing disorder), voice, pragmatics, and social language disorders.

Myth 2: Your child will outgrow it.

While some children do outgrow developmental delays, there is no way to ensure that your child will outgrow their speech or language impairment. At best, play it safe, and have your child evaluated and treated as soon as possible.

Myth 3: Speech therapy is “playtime” for my child.

Speech therapy often takes on a naturalistic approach. This means that instruction merges with play. For example, if a child is working on the /t/ sound, toys such as trucks and Mister Potato Head may be introduced. Play is especially helpful for instruction because it is more likely that a child will remain engaged in their learning process. Parents should replicate play introduced with speech therapy at home.

Myth 4: My child is just lazy. They could talk if they needed to.

While a child may have a sibling who does the talking for them, resulting in a slight language development delay, children instinctively practice their language skills as they emerge. So long as it’s short-lived, this should not impact the child for long. It also remains true that girls tend to talk sooner than boys.

Myth 5: The siblings of children with speech disorders are likely to develop a speech disorder.

On a daily basis, children are exposed to a variety of people speaking around them. In general, consider the variety of positive influences on your child’s communication development versus the negative influences of a sibling or peer with disordered speech or language.

Myth 6: Speaking in “baby talk” is bad for your child’s language development.

It is common for adults to use “baby talk” with infants and young children. This is not something to be concerned about. Babies often enjoy the rhythm of “baby talk,” therefore increasing their attention to higher pitched sounds accompanied with exaggerated facial expressions and gestures. In general, when using “baby talk,” be sure to use short phrases/sentences and repetition. This technique will support language development versus deterring it.

Myth 7: Bilingualism results in a speech or language disorder.

It is common for children who grow up learning a second language to experience a period of time where they speak less. However, this is not necessarily indicative of a speech or language disorder. Instead, the child processes new vocabulary and grammatical rules associated with each language. Language development milestones remain the same for bilingual children. Also, it is common for children to substitute vocabulary across languages (e.g., “Spanglish”).

The above speech therapy myths are simply a few of several misunderstandings. When in doubt, consult your child’s pediatrician or speech language pathologist for clarification about your child’s development. To learn more, check out Sign and Speech Development and Language, Working Memory, and Processing Speed.