Children who have difficulty with speech can have physical deformities or delays that alter how they form words. A speech impediment can cause a child to be the butt of jokes or a target for bullies. Both parents and children must learn to deal with the impediment as well as the social repercussions. Even though the children may not be able to control their speech difficulties, they can control how they react to the bullying and teasing they may receive from other children.
Speech Impediment Definition
A speech impediment is anything that prevents a person from speaking or producing normal speech. Speech impediment types include:
- Cleft Palette
- Inability to produce specific sounds
- Apraxia of speech occurs when children can’t produce certain sounds in a specific order
- Cluttering is also considered to be a speech impediment by some, although it has nothing to do with speech. It has more to do with the articulation of words as they are being spoken. Thoughts are accurately expressed but come out disorganized and out of order.
Stuttering, lisps and cleft palettes can cause a child to have difficulty speaking. Not only do these issues make them hard to understand, they can be frustrating for the child. The harder the child tries to speak normally, the more difficult it becomes.
Cleft palettes can be corrected through surgery. A minor impediment may remain, but with adequate speech and linguistic therapy speaking patterns can improve dramatically. Both lisps and stuttering can be treated through various forms of speaking exercises that help people change the way they form and enunciate their words. The severity of the child’s condition will determine how well the child overcomes their difficulties. If started early enough, progress can be dramatic over time.
Speech Disorders and Delays
Speech disorders and delays can result from both physical and mental issues. The physical malformation of the jaw or maxillary region of the face can hinder normal speech patterns. Cleft palettes and malformed jaw structure are often the culprits if a physical deformation is the cause. Some deformities are caused from injuries received during birth or through other accidents.
Children who experience high levels of anxiety or other mental disorders can suffer from cluttering and disorders that make it difficult for the child to form or pronounce certain letters and sounds. Children diagnosed with cluttering have difficulty putting their words in order. They have coherent and understandable thoughts, but when they try to put them into words, they come out disorganized and out of natural order.
Apraxia, on the other hand, is the inability to produce specific sounds either singly or in conjunction with another sound. Children who have difficulty speaking because they cannot form letters, sounds and verbal movements are often placed in speech therapy sessions to help them overcome the disability. In some cases, extensive speech therapy is needed to correct the issue.
Some children may suffer from soft tissue deformities that may prevent them from completely overcoming the problem. If that is the case, learning how to speak as efficiently as possible is important, not only so they can effectively communicate with others but to reduce the amount of difficulty when speaking. Talking to an orthodontist and having a brace or mouthpiece fabricated can also help with soft tissue deformities
Dealing with Speech Impediments
Dealing with speech impediments can be hard for the parents and traumatizing for the students. For the student, the frustration of constantly being misunderstood or made fun of by their peers can be heart-wrenching. Children who are put in speech therapy may show marked improvement if they truly to understand what is going on with their body and why the impediment exists. This can be extremely hard for small children. The smaller a child is, the more the parent should try and work with them on proper speech and motor function when it comes to forming the sounds needed to make words.
Although parents do not deal with the impediment, they do have to be there for their children as they deal with it. They must make arrangements for the medical appointments, speech therapists, surgeries and other treatment options their child may require. Parents must also struggle with the daily teasing that may occur. Children with speech impediments are often picked on and bullied by their peers and older students.
Parents must work with their children from the very beginning. Teaching them that it is OK to be different is one way of handling the problem. Making sure children receive the right types of speech therapy is another. In some cases, it is necessary to confront the bullies and hold them accountable for their actions. This is subjective, however, and may not work in every situation. Parents should closely monitor the situation (with the help of their school) and try and find effective ways of coping with the problems their children may face.
Each child is unique and will react differently to both the speech impediment as well as how they are treated because of it. Some children will take it in stride, while others will be devastated and upset. Raising a child to accept their differences and still be the best possible person they can be, is incredibly important and speaks volumes on self-confidence and personal value.
Helping Children Cope
Children with speech impediments must learn to accept their disabilities. Children who have the problems since birth deal with it naturally because they know no other way to be. It is part of who they are. Genetic defects can both directly and indirectly affect various types of speech impediments.
Very young children who are diagnosed at an early age, can receive treatment while they are learning how to talk. This is ideal because they are allowed to learn what works best for them from the very beginning instead of trying to learn in a way that will only hinder their speech patterns. It also allows them to accept their current limitations without frustration and anger. Children who receive help with their speech as soon as they begin to make sounds and form words will be much better adapted and less likely to be bullied or hounded because of their problems.
In a school environment, teachers and faculty members need to be made aware of any issues that the child has concerning their speech, speaking patterns and hearing. This will prevent any miscommunication and will avoid frustration for the child as they try to make themselves understood. Children may get easily frustrated if they have a difficult time communicating with other kids or adults who are unfamiliar with their issues.
Speech impediments do not have to define how a child is perceived. A child who is born with a disability thinks of their condition as normal. They do not perceive themselves as different and, many times, will have difficulty seeing any major difference between themselves and other children. Frustration is mainly a problem when they try to make themselves understood to people who are not familiar with their specific issues. Teaching children to speak as clearly and as slowly as possible can help others understand. It may also be a good idea to teach children that using hand gestures may also be helpful, especially if their speech patterns are extremely hard to understand.