Speech Therapy in Singapore: How Does It Work and Does Your Child Need It?

by | 2 Feb 2024 | Blog, Speech & Language

Speech therapy, also known as speech and language therapy  and speech-language pathology, is a specialised field that focuses on the assessment and treatment of communication, speech and swallowing  disorders.

 It is conducted by skilled professionals known as speech-language pathologists (SLPs) or speech and language  therapists.

 These experts utilise various techniques to improve communication skills, such as articulation therapy, language intervention activities, and more, depending on the specific speech or language disorder.

Speech therapy is beneficial for individuals of all ages, whether they are experiencing speech disorders that develop in childhood or speech impairments in adults caused by injuries or illnesses like stroke or brain injury.

Does my child have a speech disorder? 

There are several speech and language disorders that can be effectively treated through speech therapy. Let’s explore some of the most common ones:

1. Problems with Speech

“Speech Sound Disorders” is the umbrella term referring to conditions where a child’s articulation or pronunciation is delayed or differs from expected speech development.  Children with these speech sound disorders may drop, swap, distort, or add word sounds, affecting their ability to communicate effectively.  For instance, they might say “thith” instead of “this.”  or “otay” instead of “okay” at five years old.  Speech therapy can help individuals overcome these challenges by changing their habitual speech patterns and improve their speech clarity.

2. Difficulties with Fluency 

Fluency disorders impact the flow, speed, and rhythm of speech. Stuttering and cluttering are two common types of fluency disorders. Stuttering is characterised by difficulties in producing sounds, leading to blocked or interrupted speech or repetition of words. Cluttering, on the other hand, involves speaking rapidly and merging words together. Speech therapy techniques can help individuals with fluency disorders enhance their speech fluency and expression.

3. Resonance Disorders

Resonance disorders occur when there is a blockage or obstruction of regular airflow in the nasal or oral cavities, leading to alterations in voice quality. This can be caused by a variety of factors, such as cleft palate, neurological disorders, or swollen tonsils. Speech therapy can assist individuals with resonance disorders in improving their resonance and overall speech production.

4. Receptive Language Disorders

Receptive language disorder affects an individual’s ability to understand and process what others say. People with this disorder may appear disinterested during conversations, struggle to follow directions, or have a limited vocabulary. Receptive language disorders can be associated with other language disorders, autism, hearing loss, or head injuries. Speech therapy interventions can help individuals enhance their comprehension and communication skills.

5. Problems with Expressing Themselves 

Expressive language disorder refers to difficulties in conveying or expressing information. Individuals with expressive disorders may struggle to form accurate sentences or use incorrect verb tenses. This disorder can be associated with developmental impairments such as Down syndrome or hearing loss, as well as head trauma or certain medical conditions. Speech therapy can aid in improving expressive language skills and overall communication abilities.

6. Problems with Cognitive-Communication 

Cognitive-communication disorders occur when there is an injury to the part of the brain responsible for thinking and communication. These disorders can result in memory issues, problems with problem-solving, and difficulties with speaking or listening. Biological problems, abnormal brain development, certain neurological conditions, brain injuries, or strokes can contribute to cognitive-communication disorders. Speech therapy can help individuals regain and enhance their communication and cognitive skills.

7. Aphasia

Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder that affects a person’s ability to speak, understand others, read, and write. While stroke is the most common cause of aphasia, other brain disorders can also lead to its development. Speech therapy plays a crucial role in helping individuals with aphasia regain their language skills and improve their communication abilities.

8. Dysarthria

Dysarthria is characterised by slow or slurred speech due to weakness or lack of control over the muscles used for speech. Nervous system disorders, facial paralysis, and weakness in the throat and tongue muscles, such as those seen in multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and stroke, can cause dysarthria. Speech therapy exercises and techniques can help individuals with dysarthria improve their speech clarity and intelligibility.

9. Social Communication Difficulties 

Some people have persistent difficulties with the use of verbal and nonverbal language for social interaction.  They might not be able to understand the exact meaning of words in the situation, follow rules in conversation, or understand what is not explicitly stated.    This can cause problems in participating in social settings, forming friendships, achieving academic success (ex. Working with groups) and performing successfully in the work setting.  Speech and language therapists choose from researched methods and use these in helping persons with social communication difficulties. 

10. Feeding and Swallowing 

Feeding and swallowing disorders can lead to health, learning and social difficulties, which in turn affect a person’s family.  Feeding disorders include problems with sucking, eating from a spoon, chewing and drinking from a cup.  It can also present as a very limited choice in food.  Speech and language therapists can help persons with swallowing and feeding difficulties.

Speech Therapy for Children

Speech therapy for children is tailored to the specific needs of each child, taking into account their speech disorder, age, and individual requirements. The therapy may be conducted in a classroom or small group setting, on a one-on-one basis or tele-therapy. During speech therapy sessions for children, speech-language therapists employ various strategies and activities to stimulate language development and improve communication skills. Some common approaches include:

  • Interactive Language Intervention: SLPs engage children in talking and playing, incorporating books, pictures, and other objects to promote language development.
  • Modelling Correct Sounds: SLPs demonstrate correct sounds and syllables during age-appropriate play, teaching children how to produce specific sounds accurately.
  • Providing Strategies and Homework: SLPs provide strategies and homework assignments for both the child and their parent or caregiver, enabling them to continue speech therapy exercises at home.

Speech Therapy for Adults

Similar to children, adults undergoing speech therapy receive an initial assessment to determine their specific needs and the most effective treatment plan. Speech therapy exercises for adults focus on improving speech, language, and cognitive communication skills. Additionally, therapy may involve retraining of swallowing function for individuals experiencing swallowing difficulties due to injuries or medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or oral cancer. Some common exercises employed in speech therapy for adults include:

  • Cognitive Communication Improvement: Activities targeting problem-solving, memory, organisation, and other cognitive skills can enhance overall communication abilities.
  • Social Communication Enhancement: Conversational tactics and strategies are taught to improve social communication skills in various settings.
  • Resonance and Breathing Exercises: Breathing exercises can improve voice resonance and strengthen oral muscles, aiding in speech production.

Resources for Speech Therapy Exercises

There are several resources available for individuals looking to try speech therapy exercises. These resources include:

  • Language Development Games and Toys: Interactive games and toys, such as flip cards and flashcards, can be used to stimulate language development.
  • Workbooks: Workbooks containing exercises and activities that target specific speech and language skills.
  • Working with a Speech Therapist: Having your child work closely with a speech therapist can immensely improve your child’s speech and language abilities. Kaleidoscope offers individualised speech therapy to support children struggling with literacy skills in school. 

Duration and Success of Speech Therapy

The duration of speech therapy varies depending on several factors, including the individual’s age, type and severity of the speech disorder, frequency of therapy sessions, underlying medical condition, and treatment of any associated conditions. 

Some speech disorders may improve with age, while others may require long-term therapy and maintenance. Communication disorders caused by strokes or medical conditions, for example, may improve with treatment as the underlying condition improves.

Research suggests that early intervention is crucial for the success of speech therapy, especially in young children. Starting speech therapy early and actively involving parents or caregivers in therapy exercises at home can significantly enhance the outcomes. 

Speech therapy has proven to be highly effective in treating a wide range of speech and language delays and disorders in both children and adults. With timely intervention, it can improve communication skills, boost self-confidence, and enhance overall quality of life.

Whether it’s articulation disorders, fluency disorders, receptive or expressive disorders, or cognitive-communication disorders, speech therapy can provide the necessary support and intervention to improve communication skills. 

By starting speech therapy early and actively participating in therapy exercises, individuals can enhance their speech clarity, language development, and overall communication abilities.

Medically reviewed by: Zanel Lee

Zanel is an educational therapist with more than 15 years of experience in the field.
She is currently the deputy director of our Ready Let’s Go Early Intervention Programme.

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