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Your child’s speech-language pathologist will assess 4 main areas of your child’s development: receptive language skills, expressive language skills, oral-motor and feeding skills.
Receptive Language Skills
Receptive language skills address what your child understands. This includes how they receive and decode messages from others. Activities that your child’s therapist may address include responding to sounds, identifying body parts and clothing, following directions, understanding concepts like “in” and “out” and “up” and “down,” etc.
Expressive Language Skills
Expressive language skills address how your child communicates. This includes how your child is sending messages to others and expressing their wants and needs. There are many different ways your child can communicate. They include producing words and sentences, speech sounds, sign language, gestures, using pictures and a variety of alternative communication devices. You and your child’s therapist will determine which one is the best option for your child and family.
Oral-Motor refers to how well your child is able to move and coordinate the muscles in and around their mouth. Some children have low tone (hypotonia) and some have high tone (hypertonia) throughout their body – which also includes the muscles in and around their mouth. Other children need help coordinating their tongue and lips. This may effect how well they are able to chew and swallow food, tolerate different food textures, move their tongue to produce specific speech sounds, etc.
Feeding therapy refers to how well your child is eating a variety of tastes and textures. This includes transitioning between textures (purees to solids, meltables, hard munchables, soft cubes, etc), self-feeding (finger feeding, spoon feeding, etc) and drinking (from a bottle, spout cup, straw cup, open cup, etc).
When to seek help. . .
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, please talk to your child’s pediatrician, contact Tennessee’s Early Intervention System (TEIS) or contact us and we can help address your concerns.
If you are concerned about your child’s oral-motor and feeding skills and have noticed that your child is choking, coughing or gagging while eating and drinking, please talk to your child’s pediatrician and speech-language pathologist as soon as possible.
Screenings and Evaluations
We offer speech and language screenings for children from 12 – 36 months of age for a cost of $10. The speech and language screenings are short (usually less than 20 minutes) and will allow us to determine if a full evaluation is necessary.
Speech-language, oral-motor and feeding evaluations are also available from birth to 36 months. These evaluations will determine if therapy services are recommended for your child.
If an evaluation has been completed, but therapy services are not recommended, your child’s therapist may recommend a HOME PROGRAM. The HOME PROGRAM includes activities for your child’s specific needs that your family and your child’s teachers can work on during daily activities. If a HOME PROGRAM is recommended, the therapist will also recommend a follow-up evaluation in 6 months to make sure that your child’s speech and language skills are still progressing.
When most parents hear that their child will be receiving physical therapy, their immediate thought is usually, “WALKING!!!” However, the role of the physical therapist in our Early On program begins on a much more basic level. A pediatric physical therapist is trained to assess each child and implement a plan to promote typical gross motor development. What does that mean? We look at movements such as rolling, sitting, crawling, standing, walking, and the transitional movements required to achieve these skills. As every child develops differently, it will be important to determine what movements are difficult for your baby. The quality of movement may be affected by abnormal tone, muscle weakness, lack of coordination, and poor sensory integration. Your physical therapist will help you learn to overcome these obstacles in order to facilitate normal movement, with focus on the quality of movement achieved.
Becoming a parent for the first time introduces a person to a whole new world, with its own language, rules, schedule, and paraphernalia. If by chance your child has some special needs, the learning curve for you is enormous! Not only do you have to learn to be a parent, you feel the need to become a medical expert overnight just to understand the barrage of information that is coming at you. Never fear – we are actually here to help you, not confuse you. Here is some general information about one area of care your child might receive: occupational therapy.
On a brief historical note, occupational therapy (OT) got its start in veterans’ hospitals helping wounded vets recover skills lost to injury and illness. The field has since branched dramatically, providing care to the very young, the very old, and anyone in between. We work in clinics, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, corporations, etc. Yes, some OT”s can help you with skills needed to perform your job, but we also look at “occupation” in a much broader sense.
For a child, development is the primary occupation – learning skills and growing independent is his major task. Play happens to be the main way that development occurs. So, the pediatric occupational therapist is there to make that play as purposeful as possible. In pediatric occupational therapy, there are several main areas that are traditionally addressed:
- fine motor skills: the ability to use hands and fingers to pick up and manipulate things
- visual motor skills: the ability to use the eyes and hands together
- sensory skills: the ability to make sense of all the senses (touch, movement, sound, sight, smell, emotions) and uses the senses to respond to the environment
- self-help skills: the ability to eat, sleep, bathe, dress in an age-appropriate way
These are the areas that you can trust your child’s OT to help you with – from answering questions to providing treatment activities. If you are having difficulty with any of these areas, talk to your OT.