Pediatric speech therapy is speech therapy treatment for the pediatric population—from birth to 18. Pediatric speech therapy addresses communication problems, from the common to complex in children. Some examples of conditions pediatric speech therapists treat are: brain or nervous system damage that causes difficulty in brain function needed for speech (apraxia), difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), stuttering, autism, language disorders, auditory processing disorders and problems with making sounds or sound patterns (phonological disorder).
Pediatric speech therapists are experts in anatomy and physiology of babies and children. Some of the disorders children face can be so complex that the therapist might collaborate with other specialists, physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, dieticians and even other specialized speech language pathologists (SLPs). Together, the team can make a cohesive plan of care to address more than just the child’s difficulties with communication.
There can be many causes for children with communication or swallowing problems (or both) like: developmental delays, mental retardation, trauma, deafness, oral-motor dysfunction, injury, cleft lip/palate, respiratory compromise, vocal fold pathology, paralysis of the vocal fold, and prematurity.
A pediatric speech therapist can help children develop the skills for successful communication and feeding. He or she will start with an evaluation to assess the extent of the communication or swallowing impairment with the help of special tests and techniques. From here, he or she can work with the family to develop a comprehensive plan to address and treat any issues the child may have.