May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

May 6, 2011

Since May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, I thought I would dedicate my first blog post to promoting my profession, speech-language pathology, and what it is we do.

Since 1927, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), has been using the annual May is Better Hearing and Speech Month campaign to inform the public about communication disorders. As a speech-language pathologist, I would be remiss if I didn’t spread the word about this campaign and provide a little information about communication disorders.  So here’s a brief synopsis of Communication Disorders 101.

Communication disorders can affect people at any age. The infant who failed the newborn hearing screening. The two-year-old who only says a few words. The first grader who never uses the right pronoun. The fourth grader who can’t pronounce his Rs correctly. The middle school student who doesn’t understand figurative language. The high school student who stutters. The 30-year-old teacher who is constantly hoarse from talking all day. The 50-year-old with a hearing loss. The 80-year-old who has had a stroke affecting the brain’s language center. These are all people with a communication disorder. As you may have figured out, there are many types of communication disorders: hearing loss, speech sound production disorders, childhood language delay, specific language disorder,autism, stuttering, and voice problems to name a few.

So as a parent, here are some things that you can do to foster good speech and language development.

  • Working in elementary schools for eight years, I came across many children whose language skills were delayed because they just hadn’t been exposed to enough language before entering school. That’s not to say that a lack of exposure is the cause of every language disorder or delay, but it is the cause of many of them. Young children need to hear literally several thousand words per day in order to become proficient communicators. You can talk to your child about the things you’re putting in your grocery cart. You can read books to child. You can talk about what you’re going to do during the day. The point is to expose your child to a lot of language. And for the most part, TV doesn’t count.
  • Check out ASHA’s website, specifically the page on typical speech and language development. It shows the average age at which most children achieve communication milestones. If your child doesn’t do most of the items in his of her age range, seek the advice of a licensed and ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist or audiologist.
  • Help prevent noise-induced hearing loss. I could get up on a soapbox and tell you all about how listening to loud music can cause hearing loss, which can lead to communication, academic, and social problems. I could do that, but I won’t because there’s already a website that does that much better then I ever could. Go to Listen to Your Buds to find out about the campaign to prevent hearing loss caused by listening to too much loud music.

You can find more information about Better Hearing and Speech Month by visiting the ASHA site.

Do you have questions about speech therapy? Gainesville-area parents can contact me for an in-home consultation, and everyone is welcome to comment here or email me for more information.