Wearing a Mask and Speech

At this time with the pandemic, it is important to wear a face mask to keep our patient’s safe.

In doing so, the mouth is not observed during speaking. This can be difficult in many ways.

I am finding that wearing a protective facial covering is deceasing my patient’s ability to see my facial cues . This is very important for learning. My reinforcing smile is not being observed. My patients learning to produce speech sounds can not see my oral movements.

This week I will try to use a mask with a clear covering so my lips can be seen. I will update how it goes.

Do children growing up in a bilingual household, talk later than children who are only learning one language?

Children that are learning to speak two languages should reach the same developmental milestones as children that are only learning one language. These milestones would include one word by age one and also able to use two-word phrases by age two. However, it is common for children that are exposed to more than one language to mix up grammar and syntax rules.

If a child has been acquiring one language, and then another language is introduced, there may be a “silent period” for several months while they are learning the second language. 

So, does speaking more than one language cause a speech and language delay? There is no evidence that speaking more than one language causes delays.

Parents who use sign language with their young child. Are they decreasing language development?

There is a lot of misinformation and inconsistent advice.

Will sign language slow down or stunt speech development?

There is no research to support that claim. In fact, research supports it benefits language development.

Recent studies have shown that learning basic functional signs may help with the prevention of behavior problems for children at risk.  It may be easier for a child to learn sign language before they are able to learn motor planning for speech production. This ensures brain development continues responsible for language acquisition.

Using sign language will give your child the tools to help them functionally communicate. It may help ease frustrations for the parent and the child. It teaches children that their communication is very powerful. It allows the child to feel empowered, helping build their intrinsic motivation.

Pick a few easy functional signs to start with, such as more, all done and help.

Learning specific signs is easily obtained via the internet.

“Hippotherapy” Using Equine Movement as a Speech Language Therapy Tool:

Why does a speech language pathologists (SLP), incorporate hippotherapy in practice? 

To engage sensory, neuromotor and cognitive systems to promote functional outcomes in the area of communication.

Many patients I see who experience communication disorder have difficulty with sensory regulation and are consistently moving about the clinic room. These kids struggle with the ability to positively sustain attention to presented therapy tasks. This often accompanies children exhibiting symptoms associated with attention deficit disorders and an autism spectrum disorder. The SLP if often focusing much of the time trying to establish joint attention before being able to focus on therapy targets. 

These speech therapy patients who commonly have difficulty with attention in the clinic receive between 2500 to 3500 neuro motor inputs via the 3-dimensional equine movement. This helps stimulate the patient’s sensory and cognitive systems and improves their ability to attend to therapy directed tasks. The patient is no longer seeking to move about the room and is now experiencing the purposeful equine movement; yielding improvements with positive attentional focus. It is then possible to more effectively engage the patient with purposeful intervention techniques that are often used in a clinical setting. 

A patient who has limited success in a clinical setting, where the patient struggles to attend to structured intervention tasks and is expected to sit at a table or on a mat, will likely benefit from using hippotherapy. This tool offers both a dynamic and static surface that can be manipulated to increase positive therapeutic outcomes.

Once the patient’s attention is gained with the help of the purposeful equine movement, the SLP can overlay traditional intervention strategies while mounted. The strategic options are endless.  Language based intervention can be incorporated using all sorts of toys, manipulatives, literacy activities, articulation/phonologic intervention, semantic training, as well as comprehending and executing multi-step instructions.

One of the best aspects of speech therapy treatments that incorporate hippotherapy is that patient’s do not realize its therapy! They show improved engagement because they are having fun on the horse.

Terri Hutchison M.A., CCC-SLP

Speech Language Pathologist