SPEECH THERAPY: WHEN AND WHY SEEK THE SPEECH THERAPIST

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Dr. Emanuela Breglia, Speech therapist in Dubai explains

What is it'is speech therapy?

Speech therapy is a multi-faceted profession. It is an interdisciplinary branch of habilitation and rehabilitation medicine and is combined in various fields.

Who is the speech therapist?

A speech therapist is a therapist who works with people of all ages to help them communicate to the best of their ability. Due to our fundamental role, we speech therapists are often an integral part of multidisciplinary teams present in schools, hospitals, doctors' offices and private clinics.

When is the specialist's intervention required?

Whenever the following situations arise:

  • Stuttering and other disorders of verbal fluency
  • Defects of pronunciation and difficulties with speech sounds
  • Language delay
  • Lack of language properties
  • Learning difficulties
  • Deafness
  • Difficulty in reading and writing secondary to language problems
  • Difficulty in the social aspects of communication, for example, with taking the communicative shift, such as children who interrupt frequently
  • Autism
  • Organization, memory, attention and problem-solving
  • Sudden or progressive loss of the ability to communicate orally
  • Linguistic and cognitive problems secondary to severe acquired brain injury
  • Language, speech and cognitive problems in dementia, including Parkinson's disease
  • Voice problems
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing

With reference to the pediatric age, it is well known that every child acquires new skills in a unique and personal way, and for this reason we must not compare children with each other. However, research tells us when the majority of children develop certain skills by a certain age. This is useful for identifying those children who cross this limit and have to go to the speech therapist.

For every ageto there are warning bells to watch out for. Which ones are they?

First of all, it is important that parents are aware of the path to be taken, especially in delicate early childhood, when the greatest progress is expected. I therefore list some warning signs for children 0-5 divided by areas of speech therapy interest that can help families monitor their children and decide whether it is appropriate to contact a speech therapist

Consult a speech therapist, neuropsychiatrist or speech therapist if you:

  • 0-3 months does not smile or interact with others
  • 4-7 months non lalla (makes sounds and sounds typical of newborns)
  • 7-12 months makes few sounds, does not use gestures such as waving bye-bye with the hand
  • 0-12 months does not pay attention to the sounds of the environment
  • 7-12 months not responding if you call him
  • 7 months - 2 years shows that you don't understand what others are saying
  • 12–18 months says a few (0-5) words
  • 1-2 years does not follow simple instructions such as "give me your hand"
  • 1½ – 2 years does not form sentences
  • 2 years speaks less than 50 words
  • 2 years does not produce the sounds p, b, m, h, w, y correctly within words
  • 2–3 years old has difficulty interacting and playing with other children
  • 2½ – 3 years problems and difficulties with first reading and writing, do not like books
  • 2½ - 3 years has difficulty "letting out" sounds and words, repeating the first sound of the words "ppp-palla", taking too many breaks, lengthening the "fffffattoria" sounds
  • 3 years does not produce the sounds k, g, f, t, d, and n correctly within the words, it is incomprehensible even for adults who know it well
  • 0-5 years if something seems to be wrong with the child's voice, such as "speaking through the nose", having an unusually hoarse, weak or scratchy voice

As for instead children in ageto drain, language and communication problems take on different appearances:

From 5 years:

  • Do not understand simple requests like "give the napkin to mom"
  • Having a narrow vocabulary
  • Difficulty in understanding due to multiple pronunciation errors
  • Don't have friends
  • Not being able to answer simple questions like "Who ___?" "Thing ___?" "Where is it ___?"
  • Do not formulate sentences of at least 3 elements

From 6 years onwards: 

  • Don't talk and play regularly with friends
  • Failing to carry on simple conversations
  • Don't understand concepts like "long" "short" "full" "empty"
  • Don't make sentences of at least 5-6 words
  • Don't conjugate verbs
  • Still have speech defects
  • Presenting hesitations, revisions, repetitions of sounds, extensions of sounds that make verbal expression laborious.

From 7 years onwards:

  • Failing to make friends
  • Not being able to answer slightly more difficult questions that require elaboration and reflection "How___?" "Because__?
  • Not being able to use conjunctions and connectives to connect the "preche" "and" "or" "how" ideas
  • Failing to use pronouns properly
  • Failing to carry on a simple conversation
  • Not being able to use language to express oneself, argue, negotiate
  • Yelling to compensate for the lack of dialectics
  • Not being easily understood
  • Not being able to tell past events or simple stories

Children from 8 years old usually report longstanding difficulties, at this age the only relatively new wake-up call is difficulty in understanding the text when reading, and in processing the written text, which reflects errors in speech.

Dr. Emanuela Breglia

You work in Dubai. Puor tell your experience?

My role at the High Hopes Pediatric Center in Dubai mainly involves the treatment of dysarthria, verbal dyspraxia and speech motor problems, for which I am highly specialized. Most of my patients are children with genetic syndromes (such as Down Syndrome), or complex clinical presentations and special needs that include high levels of assistance in walking or various other areas of daily life.

C.as the role of the speech therapist is changed in recent months to deal with the emergency new Coronavirus?

The impact of the recent pandemic has certainly made itself felt on all speech therapy services around the world and in all rehabilitation settings. According to a recent survey by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapy (UK), many speech therapists have been called to respond promptly to the emergency due to the new Coronavirus. Hospitals have had to provide for an increased need for post-extubation vocological and swallowing rehabilitation of COVID-19 patients admitted to intensive care.

When the COVID-19 emergency forced us to limit our in-person services, we therapists immediately offered telerehabilitation sessions. It would have been a real shame if our little patients had regressed to those skills they had hard-won prior to the pandemic! Thanks to the collaboration with the parents, it was not difficult to obtain very positive results despite small and great difficulties due to distance.

For us speech therapists employed in pediatric schools and clinics all over the world, however, the priority has remained to maintain continuity of care, which has led to a rapid transition to telemedicine and tele-rehabilitation services. This was my case, being a pediatric speech therapist currently employed by High Hopes Pediatric Therapy Center Dubai.

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