Speech is the main way we communicate with others. It develops naturally and requires the coordination of multiple body parts, including the brain, mouth, jaw, chest, neck, and abdomen (and you thought saying “What’s up?” was easy).
Many people deal with language disorders, making it challenging to communicate with others. Sometimes, a person knows what they want to say, but there’s a disconnect between their words and thoughts.
Before we go much deeper, let’s clarify the difference between speech and language disorders.
Speech vs. Language Disorders
While “speech” and “language” are often used interchangeably, they are quite different. Speech refers to the sounds that form a language, whereas language refers to the collection of words that are used to communicate meaning.
Speech disorders affect the ability to produce sounds, while language disorders affect the ability to either communicate thoughts or understand what is being said. Both kinds of disorders can occur at any age.
Common Speech and Language Disorders
This is a speech disorder that interrupts the flow of speech. People who stutter have everything they want to say mapped out in their brains but have a hard time saying it. They struggle with starting sentences and often repeat sounds or words.
Many children experience some form of stuttering between the ages of 2 and 6. It only becomes an issue when the stutter doesn’t resolve within six months.
The best way to treat a stutter is to see a speech-language pathologist as soon as possible. It may not completely resolve the issue, but it should improve the flow and fluency of speech.
Apraxia occurs when the brain has difficulty coordinating the movements necessary for speech. Kids with childhood apraxia of speech, utter their first words later than expected and have a limited range of sounds. This is because they have difficulties positioning their jaws, lips, and tongues correctly.
Apraxia can be treated with speech therapy where patients practice how to say words and phrases with the support of a speech-language pathologist.
Dysarthria is a speech disorder that is caused by weakness in the mouth, face, or throat muscles. This results in slow, monotone, or slurred speech that is hard to understand. Common causes of dysarthria include stroke, brain damage, and brain tumors.
The first step in treating dysarthria is identifying the root cause of muscle weakness. Once that has been taken care of, speech therapy may be used to regain normal speech.
Aphasia is a language disorder that also results from a stroke or brain damage, head trauma, or brain tumors. It affects the ability to speak and understand speech.
Severe aphasia can make communication almost impossible. The telltale signs are short and incomplete sentences that often don’t make sense, and difficulty understanding others.
This disorder may be treated with speech and language therapy. Researchers are working on medications to improve blood flow to the brain and enhance recovery, but it may be a while before testing is complete.
Speech and language problems can be scary and confusing. However, most of them can be resolved or at least improved with speech therapy. If you suspect someone close to you has a speech or language disorder, encourage them to see a speech-language pathologist as soon as possible.
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