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Speech vs. Language

What Is the Difference Between Speech and Language?

When a person is unable to produce speech sounds correctly or fluently, or has problems with his or her voice, then he or she has a speech disorder. Difficulty pronouncing sounds or articulation disorders, and stuttering are examples of speech disorders.

When a person has trouble understanding others (receptive language), or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings completely (expressive language), then he or she has a language disorder.

What Is an SLP?

speech services in san francisco

Speech and Language Pathologists (SLP) take into consideration the medical, physical, psychological, cultural, and social factors together with other relevant details that may contribute to the communication impairment. The SLP performs a speech and language evaluation.  After the evaluation, the SLP will produce a report describing his/her findings and recommendations for treatment. If therapy is recommended, the SLP will create a program to help the individual with the parts of speech and/or language that are troublesome. The individual and/or his/her caregiver are encouraged to support the SLP within the session and the goals of therapy in the home environment.

Selecting an SLP

How do I select a Speech/Language Pathologist?

  • Your primary care physician can make recommendations
  • Your insurance company can provide a list of those SLP s/centers that are covered by your policy
  • You can look at the ASHA website (American Speech Language  and Hearing Association) and find licensed SLPs in your area

Treatment Options for Adults

A qualified Speech/Language Pathologist can assist with specific exercises to improve the clarity, rate, timing, and pacing of speech, and assist with retraining language in order to retrieve and organize language for clear communication. The compromised communication of an adult experiencing any of these stroke, disease, or surgery-related conditions requires increased patience both by the speaker and the listener. It is important that significant adults be included in the therapy process. Their support is often essential in the success of goals in treatment.

Currently, the Hearing and Speech Center offers services to evaluate and treat adults with cochlear implants. We have extensive counseling and support services for adults with hearing loss. For adults with speech and/or language disorders related to other problems or issues discussed above (e.g. aphasia, apraxia, dysarthria, dysphagia), we currently refer them to another clinic or agency for evaluation and treatment.

Causes of Adult Speech/Language Problems:

Speech and language concerns in adults may stem from a variety of sources. Adults may experience life-long speech and/or language issues, such as stuttering, or as a result of a hearing loss. They may have recurring problems with voice disorders that can stem from vocal strain. Adults may have English as their second language, and therefore speak with an accent which they wish to reduce. Other causes can be as a result of various diseases, conditions, and surgeries that can results in a speech and/or language disorder. Common causes of problems can be a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or tracheostomy.

Description of Common Conditions:

Frequent terms applied to speech and language disorders that are a result of one of the latter issues are aphasia, apraxia, dysarthria, and dysphagia. Aphasia or loss of language usually results after a stroke to the language areas of the brain. The person may experience difficulty finding the word they want to use. Apraxia may also result from a stroke to the motor speech centers of the brain resulting in the adult having difficulty coordinating the movements necessary for clear speech. Dysarthria can also result from a stroke to the motor speech areas of the brain but refers to a muscle weakness that results in slurred or unclear speech. Dysphagia refers to swallowing disorders.

Treatment Options for Children

When a person is unable to produce speech sounds correctly or fluently, or has problems with his or her voice, then he or she has a speech disorder. Difficulty pronouncing sounds or articulation disorders, and stuttering are examples of speech disorders.

When a person has trouble understanding others (receptive language), or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings completely (expressive language), then he or she has a language disorder. Sometimes the problem is related to another condition such as hearing loss, developmental delay, or autism. As your child ages and his or her speech/language develops, the signs and symptoms you should look for will also change.

If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, take a look at our developmental benchmarks:

Early Years

  • Can your child respond to choice, simple where and familiar who questions?
  • Can your child follow 2-part commands that are not routine directions given without gestures?
  • Can your child ask basic questions with correct inflection, e.g. Daddy gone?
  • Can your child combine two meaningful words, e.g. “play ball”?
  • Can you understand at least 50% of your child’s speech, even with mistakes, e.g. “wabbit” for “rabbit”?
  • Does your child enjoy playing alongside other children?

Preschool Years

  • Can your child follow multi-step directions including those that are unrelated?
  • Can your child understand basic time words, e.g. yesterday-today-tomorrow?
  • Is your child beginning to understand and use specific vocabulary at 3 years and more often at 4 years?
  • Is your child using category words, e.g. toys, and emotion state words, e.g. sad, happy?
  • Is your child, by 4, asking questions to get information and listening to your answer?
  • Does your child have a few true friendships?
  • Is your child beginning to pretend to be other people, e.g. fireman?
  • Can you understand 90% of your child’s speech even with mistakes?

Early School Years

  • Is your child embarrassed by or concerned about their ability to communicate clearly?
  • Does your child understand concepts used in directions that you and their teacher use, e.g. before, if… then?
  • Can your child listen to a complete short book/chapter of their choice, answer questions about the events, and retell favorite parts in their own words?
  • Does your child have adequate vocabulary to talk about their day/experiences in several sequential sentences with details?
  • Can they understand another child’s feelings and point of view in both play and conversation?

When to See a Speech/Language Pathologist

  • Average length of sentence does not at least equal age of child
  • Above 2 years does not say 50 words, depends on gestures to communicate basic wants/needs
  • Above 2 years uses mostly vowel sounds
  • Above 3 years conversation is mainly repeating what is said
  • Above 3 years in bilingual home has difficulty in both languages
  • Above 4 years has not developed social language
  • Above 4 years can’t answer questions about their day
  • Above 5 years sentence structure is noticeably faulty
  • Above 5 years does not use dramatic play with dialogue and commentary
  • Above 6 years has not mastered all speech sounds
  • Above 6 years answers questions with related information rather than giving specific and complete responses
  • At any age if there are concerns by the parent, doctor, teacher regarding the child’s speech and/or language
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