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Pediatric Speech Therapy

Children who receive early services are less likely to fall behind developmentally, academically and socially.

Pediatric services cover the ages of birth to 17 years. Early intervention for speech or language impairment is essential for preventing or managing delays in communication or swallowing development. Such delays can be caused by cerebral palsy, down syndrome,autism spectrum disorder, congenital or acquired brain injury, stroke, and other developmental diagnoses.

Lake Regional's Speech Therapy department offers procedures and treatments that are individualized to meet the needs of each child. Our therapists also work to help parents and caregivers transition to school-based services, when appropriate.

Pediatric Conditions We Treat

Articulation or Motor Speech Disorders

Articulation impairments are characterized by specific sound impairments that are defined by one or more of the following:

  • Substitution: One sound is substituted for another in one or more positions in a word. For example, "baf" for "bath," or "take" for "cake."
  • Omission: One or more sounds is omitted from words.
  • Distortion: The sound is produced in words, but is distorted or incorrectly made. Distortion errors commonly include mispronunciation of the sounds r, l and s.
  • Addition: sounds are added to words that don't belong.

Articulation errors are common as speech and language skills develop in young children. However, when articulation errors persist past an age where the sounds should be produced normally, a speech therapy assessment may be warranted. The ages at which articulation errors are normal or abnormal vary for each sound. Your pediatrician is a good resource to determine if you should be concerned about your child's articulation and can refer you to a speech therapist for evaluation.

Apraxia of speech is a motor disorder caused by difficulty of the brain sending the correct message to the mouth and articulators to correctly form speech sounds. It is not a result of weakness of the mouth. Symptoms of apraxia of speech may include severe delays in talking, very limited speech output, speech that is limited to only a few sounds, speech that is very difficult to understand, or speech that has errors that are not patterned (as in articulation impairment).

Lake Regional's speech therapy team has years of experience evaluating and treating articulation and motor speech delays in children, capitalizing on fun play for your child while targeting speech changes.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism is a developmental disorder that presents itself in early childhood. Children with autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), have social, communication and language problems. They may also have problems using social skills to connect with other people. Communication skills such as understanding, talking with others, reading or writing may be hard for a child with ASD. The goal of speech therapy intervention is to improve social communication and other language impairments, modify behaviors to improve the quality of life, and increase social acceptance.

Children with autism may do the following:

  • Have trouble changing from one activity to another
  • Flap hands, rock, spin or stare
  • Get upset by certain sounds
  • Like only a few foods
  • Have limited and unusual interests
  • Have unusual reactions to sensory input

Lake Regional's speech therapists are experienced in working with a team of other professionals to help diagnose and treat autism. The team may include developmental pediatricians, neurologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and developmental specialists. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) play a key role because problems with social skills and communication are often the first symptom of autism.

General or Specific Language Delays

Some children may exhibit difficulty learning language, which can be caused by difficulty using spoken language or processing language.

These children may have difficulty in any of the following language areas:

  • Phonology (sounds of language)
  • Morphology (use of the units of language)
  • Syntax (language grammar)
  • Semantics (language meaning)
  • Pragmatics (social language)

If you have concerns regarding your child's language development, discuss your concerns with your child's pediatrician. Your pediatrician can request a language evaluation to determine your child's level of function on assessments that compare their language to national normative data of language function in same-age children.

Lake Regional speech therapists use current, standardized assessment measures as well as skilled observation to evaluate language function of children from toddler through school age. Treatment is provided to qualifying children that is designed to be fun, engaging and learning-rich.

Swallowing and Feeding Difficulties

Children who have difficulty getting food to the mouth, chewing food, swallowing food or transitioning to the next level of food during development may have feeding or swallowing difficulties, known as dysphagia. At Lake Regional Health System, the Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy departments can help your child eat better.

The Speech Pathology department can evaluate chewing and swallowing by checking the stages of the swallow, which include:

  • Taking food off of the spoon and taking liquid from the bottle or cup
  • Chewing food or controlling food and liquid in the mouth
  • Moving food and liquid through the mouth
  • Swallowing food and liquid through the throat without coughing or feeling as though the food or liquid are getting stuck

Talk to your child's pediatrician if you notice that he or she is having difficulty chewing or swallowing food. Signs of difficulty may include:

  • Food refusal or limited acceptance of foods
  • Difficulty transitioning to foods of different textures
  • Gag, cough, or vomiting while eating
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Poor weight gain
  • Difficulty swallowing

The pediatrician can order a swallowing evaluation in the Speech Therapy department. The speech therapist may evaluate your child using special equipment in the X-ray department or by watching your child eat in a child-friendly pediatric treatment room. Young children may be referred to another hospital, depending on the situation.

The speech therapist may also work closely with occupational therapy if your child has difficulty bringing food or liquid to the mouth or if your child seems to avoid food textures, tastes or temperatures.

The speech therapists at Lake Regional Health System are all licensed in the state of Missouri and receive ongoing training to stay current on feeding and swallowing standards.

Voice Impairment

Voice changes in children can occur for several reasons, including neurological changes, infection, hyperfunctional use and unusual growths. Contact your child's pediatrician for an evaluation if you notice a change in your child's voice. The pediatrician may send your child to an ear, nose, and throat doctor. An ENT can then guide a small camera through your child's nose and throat. This makes it possible to see the vocal folds which are located in the voice box.

Voice treatment by a speech-language pathologist may also be recommended. Voice difficulty that might require therapy includes:

  • Hyperfunctional voice disorder (overusing the voice)
  • Paradoxical vocal fold motion (vocal fold movement that is not normal)
  • Paralyzed vocal fold
  • Vocal nodules (small bumps on the vocal folds caused by overuse)

The voice evaluation will include completion of a case history, perceptual voice measures and instrumental voice measures.

Voice treatment can include:

  • Education about how the voice works
  • Recommendations for lifestyle changes that can improve the structure or the function of the voice
  • Recommendations and treatment activities for changing how the voice is used
  • Exercises to improve the strength and efficiency of vocal fold movement

Lake Regional's speech pathologists have years of experience treating voice disorders and trained at some of the top universities in the country. Through continuing education, they are able to use up-to-date voice treatment methods to help children return to normal voice function.

Please note: If your child has a change in the way his or her voice sounds that lasts more than three weeks, you should always take him to the pediatrician for an evaluation. If the doctor's treatment plan does not help your child return to normal voice function, you should schedule an ENT evaluation.

NOMSASHA's National Outcomes Measurement System (NOMS) is a voluntary data collection system developed to illustrate the value of speech-language pathology services provided to patients with communication and swallowing disorders. According to the most recent data, Lake Regional outperforms national benchmarks for patients who gain one or more levels of improvement on these measures. Learn more about NOMS and see how Lake Regional performs on individual measures.