Your two-year-old is pointing instead of speaking. Your dad had a stroke and is struggling to be understood. Your year-old baby doesn’t seem to hear your comments.
All could be signs of speech, language or hearing problems, and all should be checked.
As part of Better Hearing and Speech Month in May, the new Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in Jacksonville University’s College of Health Sciences will hold a free “Identify the Signs of Speech, Language and Hearing Disorders” event from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 31, in its Lazzara Building lobby.
The event is open to the public, and JU speech-language pathologists and audiologists will be available to answer questions and offer information. Attendees can learn about a variety of topics, from brain injury, dementia and hearing loss to autism, swallowing problems, stuttering and more.
Dr. Christine Sapienza, Dean of the JU College of Health Sciences and Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, answered some questions about speech-language issues and the event.
How did the idea for the event arise?
As part of May 2014 Better Hearing And Speech Month, we want to raise awareness and educate the community about communicative disorders. We are there to help parents and caregivers understand these topics, and to help troubleshoot something they might be concerned about. We can advise on assessments and treatments for those with problems speaking, understanding or hearing.
What are the most common speech and language problems?
The most commonly thought of are lisping and stuttering, but the range of speech pathology services is very diverse. Often, it’s articulation issues or a language disorder or a delay in kids that comes to a parent’s attention. It might be a child struggling with pronunciation, or she isn’t understanding or speaking as soon as one might anticipate. Other issues surround our parents. As they age, we become worried about their health. We provide prevention and intervention information to those who come to this event.
What signs should a person look for?
Most speech-language skills are well-developed before preschool, so if, for example, you have a three-year-old who is not comprehending multiple-step instructions, or isn’t speaking simple phrases, that may be a concern. You should contact a speech-language pathologist. The child should be able to follow multi-step commands, and express simple concepts regarding his or her needs, such as “I need to go potty,” that sort of thing. A child should find it easy to communicate with his or her parents and teachers, and be understood. One way to gauge it is, are they comparable to their peers? Is their speech clear? Do they struggle in producing sounds? With regard to our aging parents, you should be aware of signs of declining memory and any distinct changes in speech or other body movements.
What are some basic standards of speech-language performance?
For children, at a year and a half old or so, your child should have a working vocabulary of 50 to 100 words and be able to follow some directions, as well as understand and communicate needs. By 2 to 3 years old, you would expect formulation of three-word sentences.
What’s a common myth about speech-language issues?
For example, having a lisp or having difficulty with your Rs at a very young age likely isn’t a sign of a larger problem. It may not be a big deal. However, if they are not performing comparably to others in their age group, that can be a concern. With hearing, for example, let’s say your 14-month-old picks up his toy that makes music, but is laying it directly on his ear in order to hear it. That may be a sign of hearing loss.
Why is there a stigma against people with speech problems?
Having a speech or language problem is not always related to intelligence. The disorders are distinctive and not all from the same cause. Don’t judge, don’t make guesses. Seek professional help.
Can speech problems be corrected?If so, which ones are most easily corrected, and which require more work?
Most disorders, if caught early, are able to be rehabilitated. Those that have more complex causes, like neurological disorders, require more careful assessment and interventions.
Why are speech pathologists in such high demand, and how is JU addressing that demand?
Speech-language pathologists are involved with all age groups and are responsible for assessing and intervening with a significant number of functional, organic and neurological disorders. We are involved in every step of health care rehabilitation and are heavily involved in educational programming for our school-age children. Those numbers are large, and our role is huge.
For more about JU’s College of Health Sciences and its new Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, visit http://ju.edu/COHS.