TEENAGER SPEECH DISORDERS
Reasons a teenager may need speech therapy
There can be several reasons that make it necessary for a teenager to receive speech and language therapy. Some of these reasons include:
Articulation: A teenager can have difficulty producing certain speech sounds correctly or they can not produce the speech sound at all. For example, substituting /r/ with /w/.
Language: A language disorder can encompass both receptive and expressive language. A receptive language disorder means a teen is struggling to comprehend certain aspects of language (i.e. following verbal or written directions). An expressive language disorder means a teen is struggling to produce certain aspects of language (i.e. describe certain events, images, or objects). Sometimes, an individual can have both a receptive and expressive language disorder.
Pragmatics: A pragmatic disorder means that a teen is struggling with the social aspects of language (i.e. turning taking, conversational maintenance, etc.)
Fluency: A fluency disorder means that stuttering or cluttering is present in the individual’s speech (i.e., the repetition/disruption of speech and speech sounds).
Voice: A voice disorder encompasses issues with the quality, loudness, and pitch of one’s voice.
Parents and caregivers may not be aware that teenagers are in need of speech and language therapy, just as young children are in some situations. Usually, there are signs that a teenager might be in need of a speech and language evaluation, and therefore, they might be in need of speech and language therapy. Some of these signs include:
Frequent misarticulations (mispronouncing certain speech sounds)
Frequent repetitions of sounds and syllables (what one might expect to hear from someone who stutters)
Difficulty describing events, objects, and expressing oneself
Difficulty comprehending and following multi-step directions or even one-step directions
Difficulty in social situations and difficulty with following what is considered ‘social norms’
An inability to comprehend figurative language (metaphors, ‘sarcasm’, etc.)
Difficulty with reading comprehension and writing
Struggling to respond to questions/anxiety around responding to questions (both written and verbal)
An inability to maintain eye contact or an inability to utilize appropriate body language
TEENAGER SPEECH DISORDERS CAUSES
What causes communication disorders in teens?
Like with most speech and language disorders, in many cases, there is no known cause for communication disorders in teenagers. However, in some instances, a cause can be found following an event, illness, diagnosis, or a series of factors all compiled into one communication disorder diagnosis. It can be frustrating for parents or caregivers when they are not sure what has caused their child to develop a communication disorder. Especially if that child has had a seemingly average developmental history, which is, unfortunately, the case for many.
Some factors that can cause a communication disorder, or may be linked to a communication disorder are:
Low birth weight or prematurity
Family history of communication disorders
Certain genetic disorders (i.e., Down Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, etc.)
Illness (i.e., brain tumors, etc.)
Accidents/Injuries (i.e., Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Cerebrovascular Accident (Stroke), etc.)
Abnormal structures (i.e., cleft lip, cleft palate, etc.)
TEENAGER SPEECH DISORDERS DIAGNOSIS
How are speech and language disorders diagnosed in teens?
Speech and language disorders are diagnosed in teens very similarly to how they are diagnosed in young children and adults. A series of events typically take place in order to make sure the teenager is actually in need of speech and language services, and if they are in need, the next step is typically to make sure the child receives those needed services.
Referral: A teenager may initially receive a referral from a healthcare provider, an educator, or maybe even from their parent/caregiver for a speech and language evaluation. The referral will be dependent on what concerns are present.
Background Information: After the referral is made and a meeting with a speech-language pathologist takes place, the speech-language pathologist might begin the meeting by gathering background information on the teen. This information might include medical history, family history, and developmental history.
Assessment: If the speech-language pathologist feels it is necessary, they will typically perform a norm-based assessment in order to determine if a speech or language disorder is present.
Diagnosis: If the assessment indicates a speech or language disorder is present, the speech-language pathologist might suggest speech and language treatment.
TEENAGER SPEECH THERAPY
How speech therapy works for teenagers?
Speech therapy for a teenager depends on the individual and their personal needs as well as their diagnosis. For example, a teenager with a language disorder (receptive or expressive) is not going to have sessions centered around articulation (the pronunciation of certain words).
Some teenagers receive therapy services in the privacy of their own homes over teletherapy, at school through the school system, or they may attend therapy at a private practice. Wherever they attend therapy, it should be in a comfortable environment where they can express themselves. Some focuses of therapy might include:
Language: Language treatment focuses on the comprehension and the use of language. This includes both written and verbal language (i.e., answering questions, following directions, reading/writing, etc.)
Articulation: Articulation treatment works on the correct production of speech sounds.
Pragmatics: Pragmatic treatment focuses on the social use of language (i.e., eye contact, conversation topic maintenance, turn-taking, etc.)
Fluency: Improving the fluency of an individual who stutters or clutters.
Voice: Treatment focuses on improving the quality, pitch, and loudness of the individual’s voice.
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