The Role of the SLP for School-Aged Children

Speech-language problems are the most common disability of childhood yet they are the least well detected, particularly in primary care settings. Did you know that speech-language deficits affect about 1 in 12 children? When speech-language difficulties go untreated, children may develop behavioral challenges, mental health problems, reading difficulties, and academic failure. So as you can guess, early identification and treatment is critical for a child's overall success. 

Speech-Language Pathologists treat the entire scope of communication disorders, including those specific to the school aged child. As many as 5 percent of school-aged children are believed to have a language disorder. The following is a list of speech and language disorders typically observed in school-aged children: 

  • Articulation (Speech) Disorder: The inability to correctly produce speech (phonemes) because of the imprecise placement, timing, pressure, speech, or flow of movement of the lips, tongue, or throat. With an articulation disorder, there is difficulty producing and using age-appropriate speech sounds.
  • Auditory Processing Disorder: APD is a complex problem affecting approximately 5% of school-aged children. Auditory processing refers to the brain's ability to recognize and interpret speech and non-speech sounds. Auditory processing disorders occur when the brain is unable to process/interpret information. Children with APD may demonstrate difficulty with the following skills: attention, academic performance, behavior, spelling, following simple and complex directions, listening, reading, processing information, sentence structure (syntax), vocabulary acquisition and writing. 
  • Expressive Language Disorder: Children with an expressive language disorder may understand spoken communication, but demonstrate difficulty expressing their thoughts and ideas. They may demonstrate difficulty making a connection between words and ideas. Expressive language symptoms include reduced sentence length, poor story recall, improper sentence structure, poor word choice, difficulty retrieving words and poor use of grammatical rules. 
  • Receptive Language Delay: Children with receptive language delays demonstrate difficulty understanding language. Disordered skills can include following simple and complex directions, understanding grammatical rules, sustaining attention, and following details of a story. 
  • Stuttering (Fluency): Stuttering of dysfluent speech is characterized by the disruptions in normal speech flow. Speech is often halting and can include repetitions ("My, my, my, dog Sammy"), fillers ("Um") and prolongations of speech sounds (H-h-h-h-h-h-h-is socks are under the chair). In severe cases, secondary physical characteristics may be observed (eye blinking, head nodding). 

Are you concerned regarding the speech-language skills of your school-aged child? Does your child already receive speech-language services at school but you are looking to supplement his or her therapy programming with individualized outpatient treatment? Contact us and we will guide you through the initial steps of outpatient therapy services. Most of the time you will not need a referral from your primary care physician. (541) 716-1316 or

Sarah McDonnell, MA CCC-SLP





Emily Mashburn