Children with Speech Disorders

Speech or language impairment is a collective term for deviations from the linguistic rules adopted in the language environment, completely or partially preventing verbal communication and limiting the ability of social adaptation of the child. Usually, they are caused by variations in psychophysiological mechanism of the language, do not meet the age norm, and can influence the mental development. Specific Language Impairment (SLI) is a condition which is characterized by a persistent delay in the language development and without any typical handicapping condition. Specific Language Impairment has various names. The experts use interchangeable terms for such disorders: speech disorder, speech defects, language deficiencies, hypoplasia, speech language pathology, speech abnormalities, language delay, language deviance, language impairment, language disorder and language disability etc. However, all this is called speech or language impairment.

Children with speech disorders include children with mental and physical disabilities of varying degrees, causing a number of communicative disorders and cognitive functions of language. Practice shows that awareness of the issues of speech and language impairment is very low, which, of course, complicates psych correctional work with the group of children who suffer from such disorders. Therefore, it is necessary to clarify some issues that relate to this group of disabilities. According to National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, “Speech or language impairment means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.”

LAO states that nearly 10% of students in California suffer from various disabilities, which affects their education. Speech and language impairment makes the second largest category after learning disabilities. Almost one quarter of students with disabilities of California suffer from speech or language impairment. The table below shows the results of the study conducted during the period of 2011-2012 among the California students who are at the age of 3 and older (“Overview of Special Education in California”).

Today, the issue of speech and language impairment is the least studied in the psychological aspect. The lack of knowledge in this area is felt quite strongly since the violation of language development takes the first place in terms of frequency among the various forms of mental disorders, and their incidence has been steadily increasing over the past decades.
The history of studying the primary hypoplasia of speech begins when the constitutional delay of speech is noticed. Despite the fact that there is a huge amount of work on this issue, there is no generally accepted definition of primary hypoplasia of speech.

Initially, the studying of speech pathology in children was mainly carried out in clinical settings. Before there appeared new linguistic studies of children’s speech, speech therapists were focused on the data collected by clinicians. Only in the late 60s of the XX century, representatives of the psych-pedagogical direction created their own terminology, taxonomy, and theoretical models of the mechanisms of speech disorders. In the last three decades, this area of research is the most prolific and has priority. During the last two decades, clinical area of researching the problems related to speech impairment in children is under certain stagnation. In order to add experimental data and new theoretical developments to this issue, an independent scientific direction, the childhood logopathalogy, should be created. It should be based on the study of the state of speech impairment. The first step in creating such childhood direction was made in Leningrad in 1991. There was created a logopathalogy association.

Effects of SLI on Children

Physical Effect

Speech or language impairment causes congenital cleft of upper lip and palate. As a result, it has impact on the child’s body, leading to severe functional and morphological changes. Specific Language Impairments affects the affected children negatively. Children are not able to grasp what they are taught in the class by their teachers. This therefore makes them lag behind in class academically. They are not able to express themselves well due to their speech difficulty, they will therefore not participate much in class which may lower their academic capability.

They suffer problems in reading problems which will adversely affect their academic performance. They may not be able to read on their own without someone to help them in their study. They are therefore likely to suffer and lag behind. They suffer emotional stress as they are isolated by their peers. This will negatively impact on their academic life.
Speech or language impairment affects the physical, cognitive, and social domains of the child.

Cognitive Effect

Language contributes to the child’s views on the world. Mastering substantive actions and knowing the items are closely related to the perception of sound. Mastering such characteristics as volume, tone, and pitch of sound enhances the objectivity of perception and its integrity. If the child suffers from speech or language impairment, he or she simply cannot develop fully and learn about the world around.

Social Effect

Children affected with SLI are likely to lose self-esteem. They feel embarrassed when they are with their peers. Their peers will probably laugh at them due to their poor speech. This will overall affect there capability, whether in class or in the social life. They are likely to lag behind in social learning as they shy away from the people.

The social development of the child is a multifaceted process that involves the assimilation of cultural and moral values of the society, the personality traits that define relationships with other children and adults, development of self-awareness, and awareness of his/her own place in society. If the child suffers from speech or language impairment, he or she is simply deprived of all the possibilities listed above.

Children with speech disorders belong to heterogeneous large group, for which the mastery of speech and native language is the only way of gaining education and personal development. Deviations from the standard indicators of age in the development of the spoken language cause the failure of the child to enter into the social contact with adults and peers. He/she faces problems in mastering learning activity that impedes the assimilation of general knowledge, developing learning skills of reading and writing in elementary school, and personal progress of the child. This leads to aggravation of contradictions between modern requirements for speech readiness of children for school and teaching conditions for this process.

In order to solve the problems of preparing children for school, it is necessary to develop the speech and nurture love to language in the early childhood. An original method of teaching preschool children literacy and reading should be developed so that children with disabilities might be fully included in a classroom of typically developed children.,An outstanding teacher should regard harmonious unity of educational and training efforts as a necessary condition for comprehensive training of every child to school.

Causes of Specific Language Impairment

Specific Language Impairment has had a good of share of controversy on its causes. In the early years of the mid-1970s, people did not know much of this disorder. There was not much research done to verify the causes of this disorder. People argued that Specific Language Impairment was brought by conditions such poor parenting, brain damage which may have been caused at the time of birth or some ear disease which may have been at the time of birth. These explanations were not strongly scientifically backed so as to explain the causes of Specific Language Impairment.

The condition of Specific Language Impairment is confusing as it occurs when all the other body developments are normal, such as hearing. The condition of SLI is becoming clear that, it may be out of genetic interaction that this condition is caused. The idea that genes may be a contributing factor, was further supported by a research which was done between monozygotic and dizygotic twins.  Monozygotic twins, who are genetically identical, had more traits alike when they took an SLI diagnosis test than the dizygotic twins. The dyzygotic twins may have a wide variance because they have at least 50% of segregating genes. These genes take different forms over time. The dizygotic twins will therefore be different from each other. ( Fisher 2005 )

Despite the fact that the condition of Specific Language Impairment having being declared that it was a genetically transferred disease, it was still complicated as it did not follow any inheritance pattern of any corresponding dominant or recessive pattern. There was a family in London, England, that was an exceptional. The KE family was a three generational family. It was extensively studied by the Genetists. For every affected parent of the family, 50% of the children were affected by the Specific Language Impairment. (Fisher 2005)
It was explained that a piece of DNA mutated on a gene on the chromosome 7. FOXP2 was the gene that was under study. It was established that the gene FOXP2 did not affect language only (Fisher 2005 ). The gene rather controlled a range of other various genes that had various effects on the development of various organs of the body which included the brain system that were important for speech and language. Structural and functional brain-imaging studies have shown that affected family members have abnormalities in the caudate nuclei and cerebellum as well as in Broca’s area, which is a classic language center. (Fisher 2005 )

Some researchers have argued that the condition of Specific Language Impairment was out of a certain brain abnormality. They argued that the brain of the affected people did not have clear brain lesions in either of the brain hemispheres.

Others argued that this condition was not really a speech difficulty problem but it was a problem which was reflected with a general perceptual difficulty to processing of rapidly timed events. Speech was the hardest of the activities. To sum it up, the problem of Specific Language Impairment is a problem that has no definite cause which should be analyzed in a deeper means and at different dimensions.

Symptoms/characteristics of Specific Language Impairment

At the age of 2-3 years, the children with the condition of Specific Language Impairment exhibit speech slow learning traits.  Children who are normal are able to acquire language skills faster than the kids who are affected by this situation. They are not able to grasp the various vocabularies than their colleagues who grasp them easily. At this stage the children with SLI can only speak a few words and as well as understand a few words too. They are able to only combine a few phrases in their speech. They make short sentences which are very simple. There speech is difficult to understand due to the poor pronunciation by the children.

At the age of 4-5 years, the children have a limited wealth of vocabulary which is comparable to those of 2-3 years.  They also have a poor sentence structure formation which is as well comparable to that of 2-3 year old children. They have phonological problems- the way their speech sounds is not really mature. They also make sentences which are simple.

One notable characteristic about children affected by Specific Language Impairment is that, they have a problem with short term memory also known as STM. SLI is attributed to inability to hold verbal materials in memory for a short time which is otherwise known as phonological short term memory. This was proved when the researchers gave some nonsense words to the children. If a certain word such as ‘retcospod’, it would be difficult for the Specific Language Impaired affected children to remember the word as they continue to repeat the meaningless word. (Bishop, Adams, & Norbury, 2006)

It was also found that English-speaking children who are affected with SLI have difficulty in verbs. It was found that they had difficulty in the construction of past tenses of verbs ending with ‘ed’. For example, in a sentence like, ‘He  decided to go to the cinema.’. They would omit the ‘d’ at the end of the word ‘decided’ and only state the word ‘decide’ which is grammatically wrong (Bishop, Adams, & Norbury, 2006). Children affected by SLI have difficulty understanding speech especially someone who is rapidly speaking. This is because they exhibit a deficit with perception of auditory input. They therefore take longer to understand what they have been told.

Solving the SLI condition

Language is an inexhaustible source of mental development of the child, the treasury of all knowledge. Language educates, trains, and develops the child. The important role in forming the personality of the child, including the development of language, belongs to the family as the first word and first sentence baby hears in the circle of native people. However, some parents feel that the child begins to learn the literary language only at school and do not pay attention to the formation of the speech of children at the preschool stage. Actually, the process of learning language begins when the child starts to pronounce the first sounds. It is a pity, but some children suffer from speech impairment. Thus, parents and teachers should make all efforts in order to help the child to recover from the disorder.

The teachers can help to solve this issue by following some tips

According to National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, a teachers should:

  • Make sure that needed accommodations are provided for classwork, homework, and testing. These will help the student learn successfully.
  • Recognize that he/she can make an enormous difference in this student’s life!
  • Find out what the student’s strengths and interests are and emphasize them.
  • Create opportunities for success.

The child with speech or language impairment should have Individualized Education Program. “The IEP of a child with a mild speech impairment might focus only on correcting the impairment or minimizing its effect.”(Introduction to Special Eduation Programs). The basis of preparation of children for school classes is the language development: making up fairy-tales, stories, and stories from nature observations by children.

We can try to help the children affected SLI by developing an exercise lesson. Exercise has been proven to bring about helpful solutions to people with this problem. Also exercise has been associated with many other benefits that help body to overcome as well as mitigate a number of health complications as long one it is well administered and the respondents paying details to the prescribed training program. In this lesson formulate short term goals. Here the goals may involve the children’s brains be able to distinguish varying syllables such as ‘da’ and ‘ba’ or ‘ma’ and ‘na’. The children will now be able to note the tiny differences between syllables. In the lesson we are to use wacky farm animals, clowns or funny animated characters. These will keep the exercise entertaining and one likely to realize good results from it. An exercise program should be entertaining so that the adherents can concentrate more on participation which will temporarily make them forget the difficulties I the training itself. When the entertainment value is upheld, more positive results are likely to be realized and also make the trainees master the skills so that they can be in a position to do it on their own with enthusiasm. The characters emphasize and will dramatize the funny sounds. ( Kids Source)

For children who are in their early years, we utilize the use of pictures as well as the names of the pictures. This will enrich there vocabularies as well as their pronunciation of the new words. We can also use computer soft ware exercises. They alter sound and make it more distinguishable for the kids who are affected.

As a long term goal, make the children understand their condition and learn how to live and overcome it. Make them feel that they are not different from the rest. Provide the relevant moral support to the children. They will therefore have the courage to associate with their peers as well as be active in class. They will therefore not be socially and emotionally be pressurized due to their conditions. They will be able to learn from their environment.

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