When you are new to the speech therapy process, it can be difficult to understand the difference between speech and language. It’s all talking, right? On the contrary, this is an important distinction and directly impacts the treatment methods we use, as well as our recommendations for home. Here is how I like to break it down:
Speech refers to the production of sounds. Any issue related to the way a child moves his mouth, uses his voice, or puts sounds together falls under the umbrella of speech. Speech does not refer to the meaning of words or the content of what a child is saying. Speech goals might cover articulation errors, oral motor skills, breath support, volume regulation, rate of speaking or motor planning.
Language refers to meaningful content. It can be expressive, which is what the child can communicate or receptive, which is what the child can understand. Language is not just spoken! There are many ways to communicate language including with high tech devices, body language, facial expression, written communication, sign language or gestures. Language goals could include things like grammar, vocabulary, answering questions, expanding sentences, or even social skills.
Part of the initial evaluation process is determining whether a child’s communication difficulties are rooted in speech or language. It is important to note that children can have deficits in both areas! Plenty of our clients here at the clinic have both speech AND language goals.
If you aren’t clear on what your child’s goals are targeting, don’t be afraid to ask! The more you understand, the better you will be able to work with your child at home to support his or her progress.
–Elizabeth Clark McKenzie, MS, CCC-SLP