The Power of the Pause

I recently received an inquiry from a well-meaning dad who was concerned about his son’s overuse of the phrase, “You know.”

You know how it goes. We tend to use phrases like “umm” “well like’ and “you know” either out of habit or because we lack the skill and ability to respond quickly. Often, we have been trained at an early age that being responsive is respectful or we may be uncertain or uncomfortable with silence. Filler words are part of our natural compulsion to fill the space and can be easily be corrected through speech therapy.

There are two places where filler words commonly appear, at the beginning of a statement and in between ideas. Next time you ask a friend or employee a question, observe their speech pattern. You might notice that their first reaction is to jump in and answer. And when proper wording eludes the speaker, the filler words pop out.

When we use filler words we are verbalizing our thought process. Armed with this information, it is easy to avoid using filler words:

The secret is to PAUSE.

Although we live in a fast-paced society that seemingly demands instant answers, we must use the pause to our advantage. We may feel pressure to answer right away, but ultimately, we should only speak when we are ready.

Back to the dad’s request. His request for services was a perfect referral for Great Speech…until we asked the age of the prospective client. Turns out “the child” was a 43-year old grown up who had no idea that his father was reaching out for clinical assistance. In this case, dad would be best sharing his observations with his son. Sometimes awareness is the best impetus for change.


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Does your child speak clearly?

Though communication begins with babbling, the actual art of articulation involves incredible coordination of many body parts including your tongue, lips, jaws and vocal chords. Try making the sound of the letter B with your tongue in the front of your mouth instead of the back. With a slip of the tongue, you have totally imparted the wrong message.

And while certain speech mispronunciations can be viewed as part of a child’s charm when they are younger, there are specific speech milestones. Each sound is expected to be produced clearly by a certain age. Interestingly it is different for boys and girls.

Does your child have a speech disorder?

Here are some revealing questions to ask yourself:

  • Is he/she easily understood by others?
  • Do people perceive them as being younger because of speech difficulties?
  • Is he/she experiencing frustration when trying to communicate?

There is a common misperception that speech disorders can be outgrown. And sometimes they can. But generally, articulation disorders, like saying “lellow” instead of “yellow” requires the intervention of a licensed speech and language therapist who specializes in working with children specifically on articulation. And while saying “nana” instead of “banana” may be endearing at age three, by age four that pattern of speech should be corrected.

Early detection and treatment can positively impact your child, both academically and socially. A simple screening may give you the answer you need.


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Great Lessons for Bilingual Parents

There is a difference between language and speech. Language is unique to humans and is defined as the underlying system that allows humans to interact, share their ideas and thoughts. Language is divided into receptive language, aka understanding language and expressive language, the ability to express thoughts and ideas. Language is essential for cognition and academic development.

Speech, on the other hand, is the ability to coordinate complex system of breathing and articulation, using your tongue, lips and jaw to express language.

Bilingual Homes

Bilingual children are those exposed to another language from birth. That is different process than children who are exposed to one language at birth and then taught a second language later in life.

Lessons for Bilingual Parents

Raising bilingual children poses unique challenges. But probably the biggest challenge is one we all face. What is the best way to foster language development? The answer is to chat in the presence of your child from birth. Narrate your daily activities using short sentences: I’m washing dishes; Dad is cooking dinner. We are walking.

In a bilingual home, parents should speak to their children in the language in which they are most comfortable. The reason for this is that language conveys not only thoughts but also emotions. And emotion does not always present successfully in a second language. Also, it is preferable to model proper speech and grammar, a task at which not everyone excels.

It is also recommended not to mix two languages in one sentence. Though it is a natural tendency on our part, it is preferable to avoid the mix during the early language development stage.

Though raising bilingual children adds an additional chapter to the parenting manual, the benefits are great!

If you can teach your child any language what language would it be?

Photo by moodboard


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Coping with a Speech Diagnosis: A Toolbox for Parents

Late bloomer or language problem?

Each child develops at an individual pace. Some children experience language delay. Other possible speech diagnoses included speech or language disorders.

Securing a speech diagnosis involves an evaluation by a licensed speech and language therapist. While the process will give you a definitive diagnosis and treatment options, parents may find this “toolbox” of suggestions helpful in successfully navigating this new experience.

  • Be curious. It is ok to request literature and ask questions about the diagnosis, type and frequency of speech therapy, estimated length of treatment as well as home exercises to reinforce treatment. Depending on the diagnosis, you may also want to request names of support groups in your area.
  • Explore your own feelings about the speech diagnosis. Sometimes the diagnosis is liberating, a reinforcement of a gut feeling you had. But even a minor speech issue can trigger feelings of inadequacy, anger, sadness or guilt. Those feelings are normal and sometimes just the acknowledgement is healing. Other times you may need to seek help from a family therapist.
  • Evaluate the diagnostic impact on your child. Sometimes a child is relieved to begin the process and address the issue. Other times, it is seen as a stigma. Find the right opportunity to explore your child’s feelings. Listening and validating are the key.
  • Observe family dynamics. Often a change in family dynamics, even a minor one, can trigger behavioral issues in the child or siblings. Anticipating a possible change is your best defense. Other parenting tools include maintaining consistency in routines, responsibilities and rules and consciously focusing on each family member’ strengths. Sometimes you can involve the whole family in the therapeutic process, though it is best to consult the therapist on best practices.

Most importantly, quality family time is essential for healthy social skills and language development. I am a big proponent of family dinners, outings and playing games as well as private time, both for couples and each child…because every interaction has infinite potential.

What has worked for you?

Photo by sean dreilinger

Sofia Robirosa is a Licensed Marriage and family therapist and owner of Infinite Therapeutic Services in Plantation, Florida. For more information, please visit her website

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Your Guide to the Most Common Types of Voice Disorders

Speech Therapy After Strokes: Exercises That Help Restore Language

Someone in America has a stroke every 40 seconds.

A stroke is an abrupt disruption in the blood supply to the brain, due to a clot or a burst in a blood vessel, it can be caused by things like diabetes, smoking habits or high cholesterol, and it can affect a person’s quality of life in many different ways, namely by damaging their ability to communicate.

Thankfully, there are many exercises that help victims relearn how to speak properly. If you or anyone you know is in this situation, keep reading and learn more about speech therapy after strokes.

What is Aphasia?

In simple words, aphasia is what we mentioned before: when someone has a stroke and, as a result, loses the ability to control their use of language.

It happens when the left side of the brain suffers the stroke and the language center ends up being affected.

Note this language disorder doesn’t affect your intelligence, but your communication skills. And there’s no one single way in which it manifests. Rather, it can affect one or more types of communication, such as your:

  • Ability to read;
  • Ability to use numbers;
  • Ability to comprehend written text;
  • Ability to write;
  • Ability to talk properly or at all.

But not everything is bad, so let’s jump into the simple exercises that can make a huge difference in your speech skills.

Speech Therapy After Strokes: 6 Exercises That Help

Since aphasia can affect different communication skills, there are different types of aphasia and the right solution for each varies.

Today, we bring you a variety of exercises that work on different competencies. With time and professional aid, you’ll figure out which ones are ideal for your specific case.

1. Tongue Movements

Your tongue plays a big role in your ability to produce certain sounds. Therefore, if you’re having a hard time speaking properly and making the correct sounds to form specific words, doing some tongue exercises could be a good solution.

So, try moving your tongue:

  • Side to side: stick your tongue out and move it from one corner of your mouth to the other, holding it on each side for 2 seconds.
  • Up and down: stick your tongue out and try to reach your nose and your chin alternately, holding it on each position for 2 seconds.
  • In and out: stick your tongue out for 2 seconds, put it back in for 2 seconds, and repeat.

It’s a good idea to do these strengthening exercises in front of a mirror, as you can make sure that you’re doing each movement correctly. 

2. Breathing Exercises

If your aphasia happens because you have trouble controlling your breathing cycles and so you end up taking breaks amidst sentences, which makes it difficult for people to understand them, you should take some time to do breathing exercises.

Breathing mindfully in front of a mirror for one minute straight, repeating certain sentences and breaths, and planning out your breaths for the sentence you’re about to say are three good ideas.

3. Keeping a Diary

This one can be hard to start if your stroke has impaired your ability to write, but it can be extremely helpful in the long run. You can always get some help from friends or family members to make the process smoother. 

Besides helping with your writing and comprehension abilities, keeping a diary helps with memory and concentration, so if you’ve been struggling with those as well, writing a diary is definitely a good habit to take on.

Plus, it can be very therapeutic and it can help you with your overall wellbeing after you went through a traumatic experience like a stroke. 

4. Singing Therapy

So you’re having a hard time talking. But have you tried singing? When you sing, you use a different part of your brain located on the right side, which explains why some people can do it after a stroke, even if their ability to speak has been damaged.

Through singing therapy, otherwise known as melodic intonation therapy, you can become more aware of the rhythm you produce in each sound you make, which will help you relearn how to communicate.

By learning to use the right side of the brain in order to community, instead of the now damaged left side, you’ll be able to say what you want to say again.

6. Word Games

When we say word games, we mean any brain game.

If you’ve been having a hard time using numbers since you’ve had a stroke, you can start doing some easy sudoku games. If words are harder for you, crossword puzzles or word search games can be useful.

Whichever type of brain games you choose to do, they’ll definitely also help with your thinking and comprehension abilities, so you’ll always win something from this new habit.

7. Mobile Apps

A final thing that can help you in your recovery is the use of technology.

Nowadays, there are many apps that have been developed specifically for people who’ve had a stroke and some of them are even free, so as long as you have an Android or an iPhone, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use them.

A few examples you could try are Constant TherapyLanguage Therapy 4-in-1 and SmallTalk.

Patience and Practice Are Key

Losing the ability to do something that you’d been doing every single day for so many years is a hard thing to accept.

If this has happened to you, it’s perfectly normal to feel defeated at first. But it’s important that you know that things get better. It’ll take some time and work, but speech therapy after strokes can have great results.

So take your time to work on yourself, experiment with different exercises and find what works best for you.

And of course, getting professional help makes the entire process a lot easier and smoother. So feel free to schedule a free initial consultation and we’ll help you find the best way to recovery!


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Does Better Hearing Promote Better Speech? Four Telltale Signs of Hearing Loss

LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Do we have to listen to hear or hear to listen?

Hearing is a passive act; unless you are hearing impaired, the act of perceiving sound by the ear simply happens on its own.  Listening however is an active conscious choice. Total concentration is required for your brain to actively take what you hear and make the words meaningful.

Communication involves both hearing, listening and speaking. The relationship between the three is so intertwined that the month of May has been designated as Better Speech and Hearing Month (BHSM).

In a recent poll, both speech therapists and audiologists identified excessive tech use as their number #1 concern. Speech therapists report a decline in communication and human interaction while audiologists claim loud volume damages our hearing.

Good news! Here are my recommendations:

  • Set reasonable parameters of tech times vs. tech-free time
  • Model balanced behavior by putting your cellphone/iPad away during dinner or playtime
  • Carve out quality time with your children. Reading and playing games are two easy and effective way to encourage language development and active listening.

Concerned about your child’s speech development?  Reach out to a Great Speech therapist and request a consultation

Worried that your child is having trouble hearing? Audiologist Dr. Leah Light shares four telltale signs. Ask yourself. “Does my child….?”

  • Need to look to hear
  • Accuse others of mumbling
  • Put the ear against sound sources like speakers or refrigerator
  • Say “What?” or “Huh?” repeatedly

My experience as a speech and language pathologist, I know that early intervention is the key for better speech, hearing and listening. Audiologists and speech and language therapists can work with babies, even newborns, to diagnose and treat for better hearing, better speech, better listening and ultimately, better communication.

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7 Signs of Voice Disorders and How Speech Therapy Can Help

Voice disorders affect many children and adults in the United States. More than half of all the children with voice disorders receive speech therapy for their disorder. 

Speech therapy is an important step for people with voice disorders. It may even prevent the necessity for voice surgery or other invasive procedures. 

How do you know if you or your child needs voice therapy? 

Keep reading for 7 signs of voice disorders and how voice therapy can help with those disorders. 

1. Weak or Quivering Voice

One tell-tale sign of a voice disorder is a weak or a quivering voice. This happens because of the throat being constricted – willingly or unwillingly. 

A quivering or weak voice can be common in those with spasmodic voice disorders. Spasmodic dysphonia affects over 50,000 people in North America.

To combat a spasmodic voice disorder, a speech therapist will work with the patient to control their breathing during speech. They’ll also instruct the patient how to place their tongue to speak more efficiently.

For those with severe disorders, voice therapy may be added to medical procedures depending on the doctor’s diagnosis.

2. Hoarse Voice Disorders

If you’re losing your voice or have a hoarse voice, chances are your vocal cords are swollen. This is why we sound hoarse after getting over a bad cough or sore throat. 

If voice hoarseness or a sudden loss of voice occurs without illness, it may have been caused by voice abuse or vocal cord paralysis. 

If your voice is hoarse, stay away from cigarettes, smoking, drinking alcohol or eating spicy foods. You can help a hoarse voice by resting your vocal cords and avoiding yelling or talking/singing too loud. 

Voice therapy can help those who’ve had a hoarse voice for a long period. A speech pathologist will instruct healthy vocal behavior and identify harmful behaviors.

If the hoarseness is caused by nodules or polyps, surgery may be recommended alongside lost voice treatment. 

3. Strained or Choppy Voice

A strained or choppy impaired voice can also be a sign of spasmodic dysphonia. This affects the muscles in your larynx, more commonly known as your voice box. 

It may be harder to identify symptoms as they tend to come on slowly over a long period. You may notice a strained or choppy voice only once in a while, and observe it getting worse or more frequent over time.

The medical treatment for spasmodic dysphonia is injecting botox to your vocal folds. This makes them weaker, which helps you speak normally. 

Along with injections, voice therapy can help you produce a more efficient, less painful voice.

4. Breathy Voice

Poor function of the vocal cords can result in a breathy sounding voice. This may be caused by a benign tumor, polyp, or larynx/thyroid cancer. 

A breathy voice is also another sign of spasmodic dysphonia. It could also be caused by paralyzed vocal cords. 

Assuming that your breathy voice isn’t caused by a tumor that needs to be removed, voice therapy is a great solution. Vocal cord paralysis is one of the most common reasons to participate in voice therapy. 

In this case, a speech pathologist will teach the patient how to compensate for their paralyzed vocal cords. This includes working on your pitch, breathing, and positioning of your head when you speak.

5. Pain While Speaking/Singing

Pain or discomfort while speaking or singing is often associated with muscle tension dysphonia. This is caused by misuse of the muscles around your voice box. 

Muscle tension dysphonia can occur on its own, or be caused by a polyp or nodules on the vocal cords. On it’s own its called primary muscle tension dysphonia, and it’s called secondary muscle tension dysphonia when it’s caused by other factors. 

Primary muscle tension dysphonia could occur because of allergies, other illnesses, or a significant increase in vocalization. It could also be caused by stress or other emotional events. 

Secondary muscle tension dysphonia occurs when you overcompensate for underlying issues. For example, you have a nodule on your vocal cord so you use more force when speaking or singing. 

Voice therapy is highly recommended to treat muscle tension dysphonia. Therapists can customize your voice therapy treatment depending on the type and severity of your muscle tension dysphonia.  

To treat primary muscle tension dysphonia, speech therapists first try to identify what affects your voice. Once these triggers are identified, the therapist can put a plan in place to overcome those triggers. 

With secondary muscle tension dysphonia, both the underlying condition and the compensation for that condition are examined. Just because the surgery or medication fixed the underlying problem, doesn’t mean the compensation won’t continue. 

Voice therapy helps break the speech habits that you gained when compensating for your condition. 

6. Vocal Fatigue

Vocal fatigue is a voice disturbance common in those who use their voice a lot. Professors, singers, and others whose profession it is to speak commonly suffer from vocal fatigue. 

Overuse of vocal cords can result in long-term damage. If you suffer from vocal fatigue, you must find a voice therapy program. 

A voice therapist will help you learn to speak in a way that’s less harmful to your vocal cords. You may be able to reverse some damage that’s already been done. 

7. Change in Voice After Trauma/Surgery

Trauma to your vocal cords can cause an array of voice disorders. A popular example of this comes from Drew Lynch, who developed a stutter after being hit in the throat with a softball. 

Even surgery for thyroid cancer, nodules, and polyps can leave you with a voice disorder. 

No matter what type of voice disorder you develop, voice therapy can help reduce the amount of stress on your voice and assist in the healing of your vocal cords.

Let’s Talk About it

Now you know how to identify the signs of a voice disorder. You also realize how important voice therapy can be in protecting vocal cords and speech habits. 

All you need to do now is enroll in voice therapy. Great Speech is an online voice therapy service that will customize therapy to meet your needs and work with your schedule.

Schedule your free consultation with us today! 

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Vision Board Promote Communication

Three Benefits of Creating A Vision Board: Tips to Make It A Fun Holiday Tradition

Every December, I purchase a variety of poster boards, collect magazines, head to our local art store for scrapbooking materials and send out a calendar invite to the members of my family.

The agenda: Visualizing our New Year goals together, one board at a time. 

I did not create the concept of the vision board, a powerful tool which Olympic athletes have been using for decades to improve performance. What I did is to take this performance tool and turn it into a family activity to encourage communication, introspection, the sharing of ideas, feelings and goals to my family of boys.

Four boys to be exact, ages 4 to 18. Five if you include my husband. Ever try to discuss feelings with boys? In general, having long deep meaningful conversations can be a rare occurrence.

Here’s how vision boards can be beneficial, entertaining and a great communication tool.

Benefit #1: A Vision Board Promotes Language-Building Skills and Family Conversation.

As a clinical speech and language therapist and founder of Great Speech, an online speech therapy company, I am constantly searching for different activities to promote communication and goal setting for our therapists to initiate with clients as well as ways to promote language skills and conversation in my own family.

After creating a vision board for myself in 2015 and then with my husband in 2016, I confidently decided creating vision boards as part of a New Year’s resolution with the members of my family would be an amazing interactive, goal-setting, language-building activity for us to do together.

It was an epic failure.

The kids, then ages 7, 11 and 14 resisted. My husband and I persisted and created individual boards, chatting and encouraging each other as we worked. Proudly, we displayed our boards in our bedroom closet wall for easy access and constant reflection. 

As time passed, our kids began to comment about our artistic talents, our goals and progress. There was a lot of eye rolling and some teasing, with occasional words of encouragement.

The conversation had started.

Benefit #2: Vision Boards Promote Introspection and Goal Setting.

The following year, we decided to give it another try, tweaking the process to make it more kid-friendly. We increased the magazine selection, decreased the activity time, added a dinner in their favorite restaurant and let the kids pick the art supplies. 

I wouldn’t call it a success but there were three boards (our youngest just colored). 

Last year was a success. Our oldest son created a very detailed, introspective and intentional vision board of whom he wanted to meet and what he wanted to accomplish during the course of the year. His goals were conceptualized in a crystal-clear fashion. He even gave his board a title, 2019 will be the GOAT (Greatest of all Time). As the oldest, he set the tone for the others and in true male fashion, the project turned competitive.

Here is the true sign of success: one of our sons recently asked about the date for this year. Another requested to go with his brothers to the art store to pick out the supplies. And the third created a playlist, without being asked.

It’s official. We have an annual tradition and way of visually sharing our goals as a family unit.

Benefit #3: Visualization is One of the Most Effective Mind Workouts.

A word of caution: Avoid defining success by your first attempt. Personalize the activity to meet the needs of your family. If there is any conversation, positive or negative, give yourself a pat on the back.

Teaching kids, whether in your family, classroom or clinic, to be introspective and intentional is a lifetime skill which grows in importance as we get older.

And definitely don’t give up. Visualization is one of the most effective mind workouts you can share with your kids, students or patients. Keep in mind this type of activity can be adapted to other times of the year, like the beginning of the school year or before starting a new job. 

For tips on how to effectively integrate this activity into your family, practice or classroom, download my eBook. Then share your vision boards with me. 

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Speech Therapy Exercises for Remediation of the R Sound

Rip, Rug, Run: Speech Therapy Exercises for Remediation of the R Sound

Does your child have a language disorder? If so, they’re not alone. Approximately 8-9 percent of young children have some kind of speech or language disorder.

One of the most common speech and language disorders a child may experience is an inability to pronounce the /r/ sound correctly. This particular speech impediment is known as rhotacism.

If your child has been having a hard time pronouncing the /r/ sound, these speech therapy exercises can help.

Variations of the /R/ Sound

The “R” sound is a very challenging one. This has to do, in part, with the fact that there are so many different ways in which it can be pronounced. It all depends on that letters with which it’s combined.

There are actually 32 different /r/ allophones (sounds) and 21 different /r/ phonemes (collections of sounds).

Clearly, there’s a lot of room for error.

The good news, though, is that your child likely doesn’t have a problem pronouncing all of these different variations of the /r/ sound.

They might be fine with consonant blends (words like free or cream) but struggle with vocalic /r/ sounds (words like are or air).

Before you start teaching them speech therapy exercises that will help them with their pronunciation, it’s important to do some screening to figure out which variations are difficult for them.

You can test how your child pronounces the basic /r/ vocalizations by seeing how they pronounce the following types of /r/ sounds:

  • /ar/
  • /air/
  • /ear/
  • /ire/
  • /or/
  • /er/
  • /rl/
  • the letter /r/ by itself

You can also schedule an evaluation with a speech therapist for a full assessment to figure out which sounds your child needs help with.

Start and End with Success 

During their initial screening or test, you’ll likely identify some /r/ words that your child can pronounce correctly.

Make a list of these words. This will become your child’s warm-up list. They should say these words at the beginning of each practice session.

When your child pronounces these words, have they pay attention to the way their jaw, tongue, and mouth move. Have them listen back to their pronunciations, too. That way, they can learn to distinguish between correct and incorrect /r/ sounds.

You also ought to have your child say these words at the end of their practice session. That way, even if they’ve had a particularly difficult time, they still end the session with a victory.

Connect /R/ to a Vowel Sound 

Now, let’s get into some specific exercises you can do with your child to help them improve.

It’s often easier to pronounce the /r/ sound when it’s connected to a vowel sound.

Have your child start the with a vowel sound like “eee.” Have them hold it for a few seconds, the slowly teach them to combine with the /r/ sound. By drawing it out this way, they’ll soon learn to combine the two sounds and turn an /e/ sound into an /r/ sound.

Repeat this exercise with all the other vowel sounds (long, short, etc.).

Use Visual Cues

It can also help to give your child visual cues to teach them how to pronounce the /r/ sound properly. In order to pronounce the /r/ sound, they will need to change the way they move their tongue. Obviously, this is easier said than done.

One way to teach your child the proper tongue movement is to use your arm to demonstrate.

For example, extend your arm in front of you, then pull it up and in toward the body. Explain to your child that this is the same movement their tongue should make when they’re trying to pronounce the /r/ sound.

Make it Fun

If you want your child to stick with these speech therapy exercises long enough to see results, you need to find ways to make it fun.

Luckily, the /r/ sound is a fun one to learn.

Try having your child pretend they’re an animal. They can practice growling like a bear or roaring like a lion to work on their /r/ sounds in a fun and entertaining way.

You can also play pirates and have them work on their “argh” sound while wearing an eye patch. The options are endless!

Tips for Encouraging Kids to Practice

There are lots of benefits that come with practicing speech therapy exercises.

But, in order to see improvement, it’s important to encourage your child to practice regularly. They won’t see much progress if they only work on these exercises during their speech therapy sessions.

Of course, getting kids to practice is easier said than done. This is especially true when you’re practicing something difficult like changing the way you speak.

So, how do you get your child to practice their speech therapy exercises? Start by giving these tips a try:

  • Use the TV as a tool: When your child is watching TV or a movie, have them listen to what the characters are saying and repeat words or phrases back to you.
  • Find learning opportunities in everyday tasks: When you’re eating out at a restaurant or shopping for groceries, look for opportunities for them practice (have them point out the grapes or raspberries).
  • Combine practice with something else they enjoy: Try pairing these exercises with something fun, like kicking a soccer ball or playing with Legos.

Don’t underestimate the benefit of offering rewards, either.

Sometimes, you just have to offer your child something in order for them to practice. Maybe they can earn a piece of a toy after every practice session or points they can cash in later for a larger prize.

Want to Learn More Speech Therapy Exercises? 

These speech therapy exercises are highly effective for teaching children to pronounce the “R” sound correctly. Do want to learn more helpful exercises? If so, be sure to contact us at Great Speech today.

Schedule a free consultation and learn how our services can help your child improve their speech and pronunciation.

Our services aren’t just for children, either. We offer speech therapy services for a wide range of people, including those suffering from Parkinson’s disease, those looking for accent modification, and those who are recovering from traumatic brain injuries.

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A comprehensive guide to the most common speech disorders or speech and language disorders

A comprehensive guide to the most common speech disorders or speech and language disorders

Speech disorders are no uncommon condition. An estimated 7.5 million Americans have some sort of problem with their speech. These millions of people could have any number of speech conditions ranging from selective mutism to vocal cord damage.

There are certain speaking disorders that are more common than others, though. Each disorder has specific causes and symptoms that you can use to identify them.

We’re going to go over some of the most common speaking disorders that occur in both children and adults. Keep reading to learn more.

Apraxia of Speech (AOS)

Apraxia of Speech (AOS) is a condition where you are physically unable to say what you want. This is usually the result of damaged neural pathways or brain damage. When the pathways that connect the brain to the speech muscles are damaged, you are unable to physically say what you want to say.

You can think of the words, write down the words, and understand speech, but your ability to actually speak those words is inhibited or impossible. The level of severity can range with this condition. Some people maintain an ability to be understood while others are incoherent in their speech.

There’s also a specific subset of this condition called Childhood Apraxia of Speech. This is a childhood disorder where the neural pathways for speech don’t develop normally or on the “normal” timeline.

Children with this condition can:

  • Be late talkers
  • Have abnormal mouth/jaw movements
  • Emphasize syllables incorrectly
  • Have inconsistent pronunciation

The causes of this condition, both in children and adults, are neurological. This could be genetic or the result of TBI (traumatic brain injury) like concussions, strokes, infections, etc.


Chances are you’ve heard someone stutter before. It’s very common with an estimated 3 million Americans having a stutter at some point.

There are two subsets of this condition: developmental stuttering and neurogenic stuttering.

Stuttering is characterized by the repetition of sounds, interruption of speech, repetition of words, or overuse of fillers like “um” or “er”.

Developmental stuttering is most often seen in children, and 75% of kids grow out of their stutter. This is usually the result of kids not developing their speech correctly, causing them not to be able to get the words out as fast as they’re thinking them. It can be helped with speech therapy.

Neurogenic stuttering is usually caused by traumatic brain injuries like head trauma, concussions, strokes, etc.


Lisping is another well-known condition that you’re probably already familiar with. Most of us think of the “th” instead of “s” sound as a lisp, which isn’t incorrect. But there are actually 4 different kinds of lisps that are considered speech disorders.

The common one we think of is the “th” sound that’s made incorrectly instead of an “s” sound. This is called interdental lisp, and it occurs when the tongue pushes past the front teeth when trying to make the “s” sound.

While lisps like this are most common in children, they can persist into adulthood. Lisping is what’s known as a functional speech disorder. This means that it can be adjusted and sometimes corrected with speech therapy.

Speech therapy for those with lisps includes relearning pronunciation, muscle strengthening exercises, and general annunciation coaching.

Spasmodic Dysphonia

People with spasmodic dysphonia (SD) suffer from abnormal spasms in the vocal cords. This can cause the voice to sound strained, tight, broken, soft, hoarse, and/or jittery.

An estimated 50,000 people have SD in the United States. However, this is considered a low estimate since many physicians believe that people are misdiagnosed or go undiagnosed.

Unlike most of the other things we’ve gone over so far, this condition is more common in adults than in children. Onset is usually between the ages of 30 and 50. There’s no single cause of SD; most agree that it’s related to aging and changes in muscles and nervous system pathways.

Those who have trouble talking or find that their voice is particularly shaky or hoarse because of SD can have success with speech therapy.


Aphasia is a condition that occurs after a traumatic brain injury, usually stroke. Those who suffer from a stroke have a one in three chance of developing aphasia. There are an estimated 2 million people with aphasia in the United States.

Brain injury can affect the blood flow to our brain, especially during a stroke. When this happens in language and communication centers in the brain, it can lead to this condition.

Aphasia is characterized by:

  • Trouble getting words out
  • Difficulty finding/saying the correct words
  • Difficulty understanding communication
  • Inability to produce coherent words/sentences
  • Difficulty/inability reading and writing

Those with aphasia have trouble speaking and communicating properly. There are things that can treat aphasia post-injury to help relearn communication skills that may have been lost or inhibited because of the injury.

Autism and Speech Disorders

Autism spectrum disorder affects 1 in 100 people, making it one of the most common disorders on this list. Not all people with autism have trouble speaking. But, problems with speech, communication, and social cues are some of the most common symptoms of autism.

Difficulty or inability to speak because of autism spectrum disorder can be helped with speech therapy. Therapy can include:

  • Learning communication cues
  • Learning the meaning of words
  • Socializing with others
  • Learning exercises to help make speaking easier

Parents or relatives of those on the spectrum are often encouraged to come along to therapy sessions. This helps the person communicate effectively with the encouragement of their loved one.

Common Speaking Disorders: Wrapping Up

Speaking disorders might seem uncommon, but millions of people around the world are affected by them. It could be something as simple as a childhood stutter or a result of a traumatic brain injury. Whatever the case, speech disorders can affect communication, confidence, and even mental health.

Hopefully these descriptions of the most common disorders can help you understand them a bit better. If you want more information on these disorders and how they can be treated, check out our website.

You can also contact us with any questions.

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