Speech-Language Pathology & Reading, Writing and Spelling Disorders

We learn and share experiences about the world through communication. Communication includes listening, understanding, speaking, reading, and writing. The ability to communicate is essential for personal, social, and educational growth and affects quality of life. A Speech-Language Pathologist is a specialist who can assess, identify and provide therapy to children and adults in all areas of communication including articulation of speech production, motor speech disorders, understanding and using spoken language, and reading/writing skills development.

Speech and Language Disorders include difficulties in one or more of the following areas:

  • producing speech sounds clearly (including articulation, phonology and motor speech disorders)
  • recognizing and using vocabulary (difficulty finding the right words, forgetting word meanings)
  • putting words together to make sentences (words in the wrong order, missing words, sentences fragments)
  • understanding sentences
  • following directions
  • speaking smoothly without blocks, repetitions or tension (stuttering)
  • using a clear voice with appropriate pitch, volume and clarity (including abnormal nasal resonance)
  • pre-literacy and literacy skills (including phonological awareness, decoding, reading comprehension and writing)

How can a Speech-Language Pathologists help treat speech and language disorders?

A Speech-Language Pathologist is trained to assess and identify specific areas of disorder and delay and to develop appropriate treatment programs for children and adults. Therapy is planned to meet individual needs, and skills are practiced in the therapy setting and at home.

Dyslexia and other reading/writing/spelling difficulties

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. (adapted from IDA, 2002) Difficulties with reading, writing and spelling are evident when reading, writing and spelling abilities are below the level of other areas of development, and when children are still struggling with these skills despite considerable instruction.

How can a Speech-Language Pathologist help treat Dyslexia and other reading/writing/spelling difficulties?

A Speech-Language Pathologist is trained to assess and identify difficulties with phonology and phonemic awareness (sounds) and morphology (meaning) of language. With specialized training in the Orton-Gillingham approach, a Speech-Language Pathologist can develop individualized programming for reading, writing and spelling. The Orton-Gillingham approach acknowledges that English spelling is determined by both meaningful elements as well as letter-sound associations.

TIPS for better communication:

  • Reduce background noises that may be distracting (e.g., turn down the volume of the radio or TV or move to a quieter place).
  • Keep sentences and questions short when speaking with someone with reduced understanding.
  • Encourage more information (“Tell me more.”)
  • Encourage children to talk about their experiences and to use appropriate names/labels (not “thing”, “that”)
  • Be an active listener. Look at the speaker and pay attention to eye gaze and gestures.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • If you are not sure, repeat the part of the message you understood and then ask for clarification.
  • Do not speak louder to get your message across unless the person has a hearing loss.
  • Be patient and allow extra time for responses.

Types of speech and language disorders:

(Adapted from Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists)

Articulation disorders – occur when a person cannot correctly produce one or more sounds (e.g., “date” for “gate”; “poon” for “spoon”). May be the result of delayed development, poor muscle control, cleft lip/palate, hearing impairment, or neurological damage from stroke or head injury.

Voice disorders – include inappropriate pitch, loudness, quality or total loss of voice. May result from damage to the vocal cords because of surgery, or from cleft palate, cerebral palsy, disease or yelling (vocal abuse).

Fluency disorders (stuttering) – a disruption in the normal flow or rhythm of speech. Characteristics may include repetitions of sounds, syllables, words or phrases.

Apraxia – a speech programming disorder that makes words and sentences sound jumbled or meaningless.

Dysarthria – a group of speech disorders resulting from paralysis, weakness or lack of coordination of the muscles required for speech.

Aphasia – a language disorder due to brain damage or disease resulting in difficulty in formulating, expressing, and/or understanding language.

Dyslexia – A specific learning disability characterized by difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition and poor writing, spelling and comprehension.