The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that some one in four people will experience a language-based disability at some point in their lives. In the most extreme cases, a person might not be able to communicate, or understand what is being said around them, due to damage to the brain’s language centers. These individuals are referred to as having aphasia.
Aphasia affects people of all ages, but it is most common among older adults, when a person’s skills in spoken and written language are likely at their peak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 1 million Americans have aphasia each year. But if you look at speech therapy as a whole, there are only about 65 schools nationwide. There are less than 50 speech therapy programs in private practice throughout the country. And in the very few public institutions of higher education that offer speech therapy programs—possibly only five or six—fewer than 300 graduates earn a degree in this field each year.
Education is a key part of any child’s life. Learning to talk and communicate is one of the most important skills a child will learn, and speech therapy can be an important part of that process. Speech therapists are professionals who specialize in helping children and adults overcome speech impediments and other communication disorders.
Speech therapy is often the domain of special needs schools, but there are also many traditional schools that offer speech therapy as well. If you’re considering a school for your child, it’s important to know what kinds of options are available — or if you should be looking into a different type of school altogether.
At its most basic, speech therapy is the practice of improving a person’s speech through activities and exercises designed to address specific issues. It involves understanding how people speak and what parts of their bodies they use to do so, then teaching people how to use those parts properly. Children who have problems speaking clearly or who struggle with certain sounds are often referred to a speech therapist.
Speech therapy is a type of treatment for people with speech and language disorders. If a student has a problem using the muscles in their mouth, face or throat to make sounds, speak clearly or swallow, they may be referred to a speech-language pathologist.
There are many causes of speech and language disorders. They can be developmental (due to some sort of delay), educational (students may not have learned how to make certain sounds), medical (they may have problems with their hearing or difficulties swallowing) or emotional (they’re often common in kids who have autism spectrum disorder).
A speech-language pathologist can evaluate a student’s speech, language, cognitive communication and swallowing skills to identify any issues. They can then design an individualized treatment plan that helps with their oral-motor skills, articulation (how they make certain sounds), vocal quality and fluency.
Schools with speech therapy programs are educational programs offered by public schools and private contractors that provide speech therapy services. These programs are typically focused on students who have difficulty communicating, whether these difficulties stem from a physical disability or a learning disability. Public schools may offer speech therapy services to students who qualify for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which provides certain services to students with disabilities in order to help them be successful in school. Private speech therapists often contract directly with the parents of individual students in order to provide their children with specialized speech services for a fee. There can also be cases where a school will use both public and privately contracted speech therapists to ensure that all students receive the best possible care.