Articulation Therapy is a speech and movement therapy technique that help children with articulation problems to produce sounds and speak more fluently. With the application of music, voice, or mirror images, children are able to produce sounds and words more clearly. The sounds they produce have a human quality and are typically not produced using phonological components (the letters of the alphabet) such as “th”, “d”, “z”, etc. In some cases, they can also produce words or phrases that are phonetically constructed from a word that comes from a different language.
Articulation Therapy treats children who have a speech and movement disorder but may not have a speech disorder themselves. This is because the disorder does not always require speech production in order to convey messages to others. Sometimes, a child with the articulation disorder is not entirely aware that he or she is not communicating properly. For example, sounds like “ch” may be produced when spoken, yet they are not clear enough for someone else to understand.
With Articulation Therapy, your child will be helped through an individualized, treatment plan that will be tailored to meet your child’s specific needs. First, the audiologist will perform a physical assessment of your child’s mouth, including the strength and flexibility of the jaw and lips. Next, the audiologist will create a series of sounds and phrases using the mirror method to determine where the sounds are created and how they relate to your child’s mouth and its structures.
In addition to using mirror imaging, Articulation Therapy also utilizes a structured teaching methodology known as the Phonological Complexity Approach. The Phonological Complexity Approach (also known as the Phonics Check) assesses the complexity of a child’s speech by examining the relationships among the sounds your child produces and their meaning in the English language. There are nine levels of complexity – from the easiest to the most complex – and your child’s level of comprehension is based on their level of understanding the content. Once the Phonological Complexity Approach has been completed, the audiologist will provide your child with a listing of their difficulty levels and an individualized instruction plan to help them reach each level of complexity.
For children who are beginning to speak, it is best to use a combination of these three methods. The first step is usually a session at the early stage of a child’s development, which will train the ear to recognize sound patterns. This initial training program will usually last between thirty and sixty minutes and should be repeated at least four times a week. Once this training has been completed, the child will have a much easier time understanding and recognizing spoken words. It is important to use speech therapy for children from birth to age 5; however, this strategy works best for those children who are having difficulties with speech at an earlier stage.
Once the ear has been trained to recognize speech sounds, it is necessary to move onto Phonological Analysis, which determines how well the child is able to understand words. An auditory examination is first needed to determine if your child has mastered the basics of speech articulation. In this step, the audiologist will review the child’s hearing, both within the audible range and in the silent ranges. Listening skills will also be reviewed, along with the ability to recognize speech sounds. If a child has not yet reached the level of spoken articulation, an overview of the child’s oral health will also need to be conducted.
In some cases, it may be necessary to conduct an additional assessment during the Articulation Therapy process to determine if the child has reached the level of spoken articulation. This additional assessment is done during a home practice visit. During a home practice visit, you can ask the audiologist questions about your child’s current level of speaking fluency; you can ask the audiologist to record your child’s response to simple spoken commands; and you can ask the audiologist to record your child’s response to different word or phrase units. Once the audiologist has reviewed your child’s verbal communication and listening skills, you and your child can start working on a personalized treatment plan to help your child reach his or her full speech potential.
A great majority of children with Autism will not achieve total speech fluency. However, by using a variety of methods, many children can begin to understand spoken words and begin to reproduce them. There are several different methods of Articulation Therapy that vary according to the age and level of fluency your child is at. In some cases, the therapist may use mirroring; in other cases, hand-eye coordination may be used to create a more natural-sounding verbal response; and in other cases, the child will be asked to listen closely to spoken words in order to imitate the sound. In addition, some children with Autism have a difficult time understanding the meaning behind the sounds of the word they are learning. For these children, a combination of all of the above techniques can be used in order to create an effective treatment plan for your child.