- A speech disorder is an impairment of voice, articulation of speech sounds, and/or fluency. These impairments are observed in the transmission and use of the oral symbol system.
- A language disorder is therefore the impairment or deviant development of comprehension and/or use of a spoken, written, and/or other symbol system. The disorder may involve: the form of language, the content of language, and/or the function of language in communication in any combination.
- A communication disorder is an inability to understand or use speech and language to relate to others in society. This can be divided into four areas:
Language – this involves listening, speaking, reading and writing
Articulation – the pronunciation of sounds and words
Voice – the sound produced by vibration of the vocal cords
Stuttering – a disruption in the normal flow or rhythm of speech
The brain is extremely complex and our understanding of how it works is very limited. For the majority of communication disorders, we do not understand the cause. However, we do have an understanding of how to help many children maximize their speech and language development.
Causes of communication disorders include:
- Hearing Impairment: Full or partial hearing impairment may cause difficulty in speech and language development. An assessment of hearing ability is one of the first steps in the investigation of speech and language problems.
- Physical Disability: Cleft lip and palate, or malformations of the mouth or nose may cause communication disorders. More involved disabilities such as cerebral palsy may preclude any speech at all and for these non-verbal children, augmentative communication methods may be used.
- Developmental Disability: Some children,not all, with a developmental disability or Down Syndrome may be slower to learn to talk and may need extra assistance.
Treatment depends upon the actual disorder identified and therefore treatment runs the full gamit of medical and psychological therapies.
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