Holistic Services for Children with Communication, Language, and Literacy Disorders

Speech language pathologists can maximize the success of children with communication, language, and literacy disorders by taking a holistic approach to the delivery of speech/language assessment and therapy services. By focusing on a child’s development that encompasses their communication, language, literacy, social-emotional, physical, and functional life skills, clinicians can truly make a difference in the lives of children and families. Pediatric speech language pathologists can provide services in a child’s natural environment where they spend a large portion of their days such as school and home environments. In a private practice clinic, the therapist can address functional speech, language, and literacy goals in a meaningful way. Services should always take into consideration the needs of families.

It is important to know the etiology or why a child may demonstrate communication, language, and/or literacy disorders. For some, there may be a genetic reason such as stuttering/fluency disorder or dyslexia. Others may have acquired speech/language impairment due to traumatic brain injury. Some children may have speech/language delays in the area of expressive and receptive language.

Nevertheless, speech/language pathologists can provide valuable services to remediate a variety of needs. Did you know that the current graduation rate for students with disabilities is 67.1 % compared to 84.6 % for general education students (Data on Disabilities-National School Board Association)? The school to prison pipeline is another unfortunate reality for some students with disabilities. Therefore, it is crucial for parents, teachers, and counselors to know the signs for communication disorders and ensure that children receive a comprehensive speech, language, and literacy evaluation and evidence based therapeutic intervention from a licensed speech language pathologist.

In a holistic approach, developmental history, neurological systems, speech, and language needs should all be considered for a child’s optimal communication. A child’s neurodevelopment influences their learning. If a child has difficulty with their neurological systems, they will be required to put more effort, patience, and focus into developing their speech and language skills. When neurological systems of a child work more efficiently, higher cerebral functions improve. Some cerebral functions include auditory processing and integration as well as receptive and expressive language skills.

To improve these functions, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy may co-treat in a private practice or school settings to address functional goals. For example, sensory strategies may be used with an autistic child while working on receptive and expressive language tasks. A speech-language pathologist or physical therapist may decide to introduce basic yoga techniques to provide movement breaks and increase engagement in therapy sessions. Did you know that when a child participates in yoga, the child will regulate yogic breathing which promotes self-control and impulse control? Children make connections through language and do so more efficiently when movement is involved.

Additionally, brain function is made possible by oxygen. Breath support lays the foundation for yoga. Movement increases blood flow. An increase in blood flow indicates the amount of oxygen transported to the brain. Breathing exercises are beneficial during stuttering therapy to increase speech fluency or the use of easy starts as a fluency technique. Clinicians may also utilize breathing exercises to calm a child who is struggling to self-regulate their emotions during a speech/language sessions.

Movement helps to increase the number of connections between neurons. This can be beneficial for individuals with apraxia of speech whose speech muscles require movement. Increased movement, repetition of movement, and crossing midline all help improve coordination. Research shows that exercise and movement increase growth of new neurons in the brain. Incorporating movement into a speech language pathology session is great for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), executive function difficulties, and speech/language disorders, to enhance concept knowledge, build vocabulary, target visual imagery, and increase social skills, self-confidence, and focus during a targeted learning activity.

It is very important for speech/language pathologists to provide assessment and therapy services in a welcoming environment that will help facilitate gains in critical speech, language, literacy, and social skills. Holistic care incorporates the needs of children and families so that they can increase functional communication, literacy, and life skills. Good practices for health and wellness should be encouraged so children have adequate rest, nutrition, exercise, and socio-emotional health. Building Successful Lives, Speech & Language Services is committed to providing holistic services for children and families in metro Atlanta and online communities. If you are a family in need of community based services, please contact us to see if we may be of assistance.