When Mythology Can Be Harmful

As a conscientious parent concerned about your child’s apparent speech or language problem, you most likely have done some research into speech or language disorders, and how online speech therapy could help. And your research has probably led you to either incomplete or incorrect information.

Take, for example, the quite common belief that there is no reason to be worried about a speech delay since your child will outgrow it. Or that you should avoid using “baby talk” with a tiny infant. Maybe you have read that, if your home is bilingual, you are practically guaranteed that your kid will come out with some kind of speech problem.

If any or all of the above is making you anxious, know that you aren’t alone. You could save yourself a lot of unnecessary anxiety by speaking with an expert speech therapist. Voice your concerns and get complete, and accurate information from someone who is credible. In the meantime, let’s debunk some of the common myths.

Myth 1: Online Speech Therapy Only Helps Stutters and Lisps

Stutters and lisps are probably the most famous speech disorders. But that doesn’t mean that they are the only ones. The truth is that online speech therapy is helpful for a broad range of speech and language disorders such as aphasia, executive dysfunction, and apraxia, to name but a few.

Perhaps the problem is rooted in the name of the discipline itself, speech-language therapy. Speech-language therapy encompasses a diverse set of challenges. The common denominator is they all involve some facet of communication.

A more accurate list of those challenges would look something like this:

  • Fluency — cluttering and stuttering

  • Speech — articulation and phonological disorders

  • Language — comprehension, and production of spoken and written language

  • Cognition — capacity to solve problems, attention, and memory

  • Voice — vocal tone and its various characteristics

  • Auditory Rehabilitation and Auditory Habilitation — recovery techniques connected with speech, language & hearing disorders; cochlear implants

  • Swallowing disorders — either congenital or caused by stroke/disease/aging

  • Miscellaneous — accent or dialect modification, vocal hygiene, voice development, professional voice coaching, literacy (reading/writing)

Myth 2: Don’t Worry, Your Kid Will Outgrow It

It seems that everyone has a distant cousin or has heard of someone who wasn’t talking before his fifth birthday- and now everything is just fine! While it is undoubtedly true that there are late talkers who catch up by the time they begin school, this isn’t necessarily the case with every child. And if you are concerned, don’t push things aside.

How could you possibly know if your child will outgrow the delay or if there is a legitimate cause for concern? The best advice is to play it safe. Have the child evaluated and, if necessary, begin online speech therapy as soon as possible.

A study titled “Profiles of Toddlers With Slow Expressive Language Development” indicates that about 40-50% of children who are late to begin talking (and aren’t lagging behind in other areas) do not catch up on their own. Those children who are late talkers and use few or no gestures to express themselves are at greater risk for long-term language problems.

What’s more, many of those late talkers are at higher risk of reading difficulties even after they catch up to the other children verbally. All this points to one thing. A parent who is concerned about a language delay should not be too laid back by adopting a “wait and see” approach; but instead, she should act upon her instinct.

While it’s been noted that girls generally begin talking at a younger age than boys, this doesn’t mean that a late talking boy is necessarily free of a language disorder. If the young boy is behind the developmental timeline of other boys his age, an evaluation should be considered.

Myth 3: Speech Therapy Isn’t Much More Than Playtime With The Therapist

Every dedicated online speech therapist has one goal: make the remote speech therapy work! So it certainly makes sense for the therapist to integrate playing and having fun into the therapy. What better way to solicit the child’s full involvement and engagement in the session?

When you understand this basic truth, you realize that what appears to be nothing more than playtime is actually highly effective therapy. And the playing and having fun need not be left at the speech teletherapy session. Parents can emulate the therapist by integrating play and enjoyment into homework and other speech development opportunities available in the home.

Myth 4: “Baby Talk” Retards Your Child’s Language Development

Contrary to what many believe, you shouldn’t worry about talking to your baby like a baby! “Baby Talk” has many benefits for an infant: a higher-pitched voice, shorter words, and repeated sounds, to name just a few. In fact, “baby talk” syncs very well with the infant’s developing brain, which facilitates learning language quite naturally.

What’s more, many babies better respond to exaggerated facial expressions and voices. And “Baby Talk” can help calm a fussy baby with its very soothing rhythm.

Lauren Lowry of The Hanen Centre characterizes “Baby Talk” as “the very recognizable speech patterns people use when speaking to babies. “Baby Talk” has a higher-than-normal and more varied pitch, a slower rate of speaking, more straightforward vocabulary, lots of repetition, an emphasis on essential words, and exaggerated positive facial expression.”

Lowry notes that, in her research, “it has been well-established that babies prefer ‘baby talk’ as it helps them pay closer attention to speech…” It “makes it easier for babies to figure out how language works and which words are most important to the meaning of what’s being said. This helps them learn what words mean and, in time, helps them learn to say words.” Caregivers are advised to gradually fade the baby talk as the baby becomes a toddler and starts speaking.

Myth 5: Children in Bilingual Homes are at Greater Risk of Having Speech Disorders

It has been observed that children raised in bilingual homes may go through a period when they speak less. However, this doesn’t necessarily indicate that there is a speech disorder. Most of the time, this decline is because the child is struggling with the confusion of learning the vocabulary and grammar of two different languages at the same time.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has found in their research that there is no correlation between bilingualism and speech-language disorders. They found that children learning two languages at the same time follow the same developmental patterns in both of their languages within the milestones of children learning each language.