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The Complexities of Speech and Language: How Speech Therapy Helps Children Thrive

The story of language is a fascinating tale of adaptation and evolution that begins—according to some theories—with a series of grunts and sounds and develops into a vast communication system capable of expressing the depths of human experience, emotion, and intricate understanding.

In the scientific community, varying theories argue about how exactly humans developed speech. Our ability to formulate complex concepts with words, compose ornate and inspirational speeches, write mystery novels, histories and addicting Netflix series are what separates us from other animals. Within the species, we all develop language a little differently. Some children might struggle with speech as they grow up, but with the right guidance and therapy, they can overcome obstacles and become proficient, successful communicators and grow up to live active and productive lives.

Speech Milestones and Development

The human mind is so complex. Everybody is different when it comes to how they develop things like motor skills and speech skills. General milestones help parents get a sense for where their child is when it comes to certain developmental characteristics and helps them determine whether their child might need a little extra push to ensure they are on track. According to most scientific sources about speech milestones, they go as follows:

  • From birth to about five months, a baby’s form of language is limited to those adorable coos, babbling sounds, and giggles

  • At six months, they are likely to understand simple one-syllable words

  • At one year to a year and a half, they might be answering questions with nonverbal cues, labeling simple objects such as “cat”

  • From eighteen to twenty-three months, the vocabulary is at about 50 words

Speech therapists are trained professionals who study the development of human speech patterns and perform assessments and treatments of communication problems. They specialize in known speech disorders and impediments that slow the progress of a child’s speech progress.

Speech therapy can address any number of disorders including:

  • Articulation disorders

  • Fluency disorders

  • Resonance disorders

  • Receptive disorders

  • Expressive disorders

  • Cognitive-communication disorders

  • Aphasia

  • Dysarthria

How Speech Therapy Helps Guide Your Child Towards Better Communication

There are different ways of conducting speech therapy sessions. It all depends on your child’s particular needs, age, and disorder. For example, some sessions might be one-on-one, others may happen in a small group or in a classroom. So depending on your child’s needs, they may be doing any number of exercises or activities including:

  • Interactive play. This prompts a child to interact through talking and playing, using books, pictures, toys, or objects in order to stimulate language development

  • Articulation therapy. The speech therapist might model correct sounds for the child to prompt them to learn correct sounds.

  • Feeding and swallowing therapy. The SLP teaches the child exercises to strengthen the muscles of the mouth. This might include facial massage and tongue, lip, and jaw exercises.

If you notice your child might be having some trouble communicating or understanding language, it’s best to get him assessed by a professional speech pathologist. Speech impediments are more common than you think and can be easily overcome. Prominent people like Samuel L. Jackson, 80s icon Bruce Willis, and even James Earl Jones—the man known for the voice of Darth Vader—suffered from speech conditions.

The Beginnings of Language — From Grunts to Sophisticated Communication

We would be remiss here if we didn’t add a small tidbit regarding the fascinating history of speech in the human species. About two million years ago one of our predecessors, homo habilis brought about the use of tools. While most agree that language appeared with Homo Sapiens about 30,000 to 100,000 years ago, the mystery of how language actually evolved is still debated. Most language theories fall into two major camps:

One theory proposes that language came about as an evolutionary adaptation. This refers to the gradual adaptation of a population that enhances their chance for survival in its environment. In other words, language evolved as a way to help the species survive. The idea is that humans needed to communicate in order to hunt, build, farm, and defend themselves from the harsh environment, so they had to develop language in order to survive. This gave our species a very distinct survival advantage.

Another theory proposes that language evolved as a byproduct of evolution. So, that the ability to construct language developed naturally from the growing brains of early man and that language was kind of stumbled upon. That is, as our brains grew neural structures simply allowed speech to evolve.

The answers of course, like anything in science, have many factors to take into consideration. It’s an area that continues to attract further study.

Get Your Child On the Road to Better Speech and Language Skills

As a child overcomes their speech problems, it’s as if the world opens up to them. A speech pathologist can give your child the interaction and targeted exercises that will help your child develop and thrive. Call Villa Children’s Therapy today.

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