To most people, the terminology and jargon within medical niches can be confusing, and that applies as equally to speech therapy as it does any other. This can be incredibly frustrating for the parents of children with speech and language difficulties as sometimes they struggle to fully comprehend what speech therapists explain about their child’s problems.
We are not suggesting that those who work within speech therapy deliberately try to confuse parents. They are likely to use words and phrases that they almost take for granted, given that they use them daily. In addition, we are sure most speech pathologists try to explain the terminology they use to parents.
Nevertheless, that may not always be the case. Additionally, when parents read subject matter relating to their child’s language issues, they might encounter several words they do not fully understand. So, we thought it would be helpful if we went through some of the more common terminology used within speech therapy and gave you a short explanation of what it all means.
Articulation: This term is used to describe how we pronounce words. Children with articulation problems will struggle with certain sounds and either avoid them or substitute them with alternative sounds.
Assessment: Normally, the first appointment with a speech pathologist will involve carrying out a speech and language assessment on the child to ascertain their level of development. This will be done using observations, simple language tests, and asking questions of the child.
Delay: Used to refer to the condition of children whose speech and language development is progressing slower than is typical for their age. This can either delay their speech or their overall understanding of and use of language.
Dysfluency: Dysfluency refers to the term used when a child’s speech flow is irregular. This can manifest as stuttering, prolonging certain sounds, repeating sounds, words, or phrases, and pauses in the flow of their speech.
Echolalia: Just as an echo in a large empty concert hall means you hear a sound again, in speech therapy, echolalia occurs when a child repeats specific words and phrases for no apparent reason and out of context.
Modelling: Often used when parents play a significant role in helping their child’s speech therapy. Here, the parents demonstrate the correct means of speaking and using words to their child and then encourage the child to copy them.
Milestones: Milestones are used to assess the progress of a child’s speech and language development. They are used to guide how children should communicate at specific ages, such as 12 months, 18 months, two years, three years, and so on.
Parallel Talk: This is what parents should do to help their children’s understanding of language. Specifically, as the child plays or participates in an activity, the parent gives a running commentary. For example, “You kicked the yellow ball”, “You can see the large dog running”.
Phonological Awareness: This is required to be able to read, write and speak. Essentially, it is the skill of being able to identify sound patterns; examples of that are a child knowing that “bat” and “cat” rhyme and how the “TH” sound is pronounced so that they say “that” and not “that”.
Semantics: This is the language skill we develop in knowing what someone means when speaking. For example, when someone says, “I am so angry I could explode,” they mean they are furious rather than turned into a human bomb that is about to go off.
Syntax: This is what allows us to communicate with each other. It is how the words and phrases we write or say fit together to form sentences that make sense and can be understood by others.