Many do not know that the month of March is recognized as National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. At Great Speech, we are committed to raising awareness around inclusion within the speech therapy community, as well as contributing to educating the public about the needs and supports of this diverse group. Creating a better understanding and awareness around developmental disabilities helps to better support and include all people in our communities.
For many individuals with developmental disabilities, communicating clearly and effectively can be challenging. Speech therapy services can be highly beneficial when it comes to supporting communication skills in an individual with a developmental disability. You can get started with one of our highly qualified and experienced speech and language pathologists by scheduling your free introductory call today!
What is a Developmental Disability?
Developmental disabilities are commonly defined as impairments or deficits in learning, physical, behavior, or language areas. These include:
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Intellectual or Learning Disabilities
Other Developmental Delays
How Do Developmental Disabilities Affect Speech?
Developmental disabilities can affect speech and language skills in a wide variety of ways, and these symptoms can vary widely among individuals and can depend on the specific disability.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – Autism spectrum disorder is a neurological disorder that can have significant effects on the way an individual is able to communicate and relate to the world and people around them. ASD typically affects social interactions, behavior, and the individual’s ability to verbally communicate. Autism spectrum disorder is referred to as a wide-spectrum disorder, meaning that while all individuals with ASD experience certain challenges, the severity to which each individual experiences these difficulties will be different from case to case.
Intellectual Disability – A developmental or intellectual disability refers to a disability that is the result of any condition that inhibits or impairs brain development, either before, during, or after birth. This condition can be the result of inherited or genetic factors including Downs Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, or other chromosomal abnormalities, as well as problems during pregnancy such as maternal alcohol ingestion, premature birth, oxygen deprivation, or head trauma. Intellectual disabilities can range in severity, from mild to moderate, severe, or profound. These types of disabilities are characterized by limitations that significantly affect adaptive behavior and intellectual functioning, including reasoning, learning, and problem-solving abilities. Adaptive behavior refers to the collection of social and practical skills required for everyday life such as communication, literacy, understanding concepts such as time and money, and the ability to follow directions. Individuals with intellectual disabilities often require help and support to understand instructions or questions and to communicate themselves.
Learning Disabilities (dyslexia etc) – An individual with a learning disability may face challenges related to reading, spelling, and/or writing. They may also struggle to communicate and express their thoughts and ideas in a clear and effective manner. They may also struggle with following directions, understanding and responding to questions, and reading comprehension.
ADHD – ADHD is a condition of the brain that inhibits an individual’s ability to maintain focus and attention. An individual with ADHD might have difficulty sitting still or staying in one place, and may frequently appear agitated and restless. Challenges related to concentration, focus, organization, planning, starting and completing tasks, and learning new skills are also common. They may also appear impulsive and struggle to think before acting or reacting.
Cerebral Palsy – Cerebral palsy is a condition that affects an individual’s movement abilities. Speech can be unclear, slurred or they may not be able to speak at all. Many individuals with Cerebral palsy use pictures, symbols, or an alternative communication device to express their wants, needs, and ideas. They may also have difficulty with physical skills such as walking and manipulating objects with their hands. In most cases, individuals with cerebral palsy are able to understand what others are saying and can make their own decisions. However, many people with cerebral palsy are also affected by an intellectual disability.
If you or a loved one is struggling to communicate due to a developmental disability, speech therapy is an important next step. Get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!
Types of Speech Therapies for Developmental Disabilities
The role of speech therapy for individuals with developmental disabilities and how speech therapy can help with developmental disabilities is often misunderstood. In the case of most developmental disabilities, early intervention offers the best outcome for a child to acquire necessary speech and language skills, as well as practical and social skills. Individuals with developmental disabilities can benefit tremendously from time with a speech and language pathologist.
Speech therapy for developmental disabilities will often include some or all of the following methods:
Oral Motor Exercises – These types of exercises will address difficulties related to the control and coordination of the muscles that move the tongue, lips, mouth, and jaw. Speech therapy can focus on exercises that will strengthen these muscles, which can be particularly helpful for individuals with Down’s Syndrome and Cerebral palsy.
Sign Language and Gestures – Some individuals struggle to acquire spoken language. When an individual has cerebral palsy, or non-verbal autism spectrum disorder (ASD), they often benefit from learning some simple sign language and hand gestures to communicate their needs. This method is often temporary, as the individual works on acquiring spoken language skills.
Alternative Communication Methods – This can include the use of pictures and symbols, as well as electronic devices that generate speech. These techniques allow the individual to communicate their needs and wants as they work to develop their spoken language skills.
Phonation and Articulation – In several developmental disabilities, individuals often have difficulty effectively articulating their speech. In addition to the oral motor exercises described above, their speech therapist will work with them to master specific target sounds, words, and phrases.
Speech Fluency and Resonance – Individuals with developmental disabilities may also display symptoms of stuttering. Speech therapy can demonstrate techniques related to stuttering modification and fluency shaping to improve the general fluency of speech.
Cognitive-Communication Therapy – This type of speech therapy is designed to work with the individual in order to help them to improve their communication skills and ultimately work to restore cognitive function. Cognitive disabilities can be caused by a variety of factors and can be present at birth, a result of a traumatic brain injury, or caused by a mental illness. These cognitive deficits occur when the neural pathways of the brain that are responsible for speech and language production become damaged or destroyed. Through neuroplasticity and participation in cognitive speech therapy, these pathways can again begin to heal and become stronger.
The Bottom Line
It is vitally important to remember that every individual with a developmental disorder is special and unique. No two individuals with a specific disorder will have identical symptoms and experiences. With March being Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, take some time to learn about these disabilities and how you can support individuals with disabilities in your community. Virtual speech therapy through Great Speech offers a fully customizable experience, and connecting you or a loved one to an optimally suited therapist is easier and more convenient than ever. Get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!