Speech Therapy Resources for Children and Adults

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Table of Contents

  1. What Is Speech Therapy?
  2. Categories of Speech and Language Impairments
  3. Causes of Speech or Language Impairment
  4. Speech Therapy for Toddlers
  5. Speech Therapy for Children
  6. Speech Therapy for Adults
  7. Useful Speech Therapy Resources

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) describes speech as the process in which people express thoughts, feelings, and ideas verbally. It involves a series of complex movements that shape the tone the voice makes, so it requires coordinated muscle action that a child learns.

However, the NIDCD reports that by first grade, about 5% of children have noticeable speech disorders: conditions that affect their ability to produce the sounds that create words. The cause of most of these disorders is unknown. Speech disorders are most prevalent in children, although adults experience them as well. At least 20% of adults have had communication disorders at some point in their lives.

Speech therapy resources can help individuals and families struggling with speech concerns.

Speech therapy addresses and treats conditions that affect a person’s ability to produce sounds that make words. It also helps correct language disorders: the term for conditions that make it difficult for people to get their meaning across through speech — even if their sounds and speech are clear.

What Is Speech Therapy?

Speech therapy employs various techniques to assess and correct disorders in speech, hearing, and swallowing. These problems can occur during childhood development or as a result of injury or illness in adulthood.

Speech and language issues can emerge as early as infancy, when a baby isn’t babbling by the age of 7 months, for example, or they can appear in adulthood, when a person’s speech becomes difficult to understand.

Gaining a deeper understanding of what speech therapy is requires reviewing its approaches to assessment and treatment.

Speech Therapy Assessment Techniques

Speech-language pathologists, also known as speech therapists, are healthcare professionals who evaluate people with speech or language concerns. They check for symptoms that indicate what type of speech disorder a person has, and they rule out other speech concerns and illnesses.

Additionally, a speech-language pathologist’s assessment can involve a review of the patient’s medical and family history and an examination of how a person moves the jaw, lips, and tongue. The assessment can also include the mouth and throat. The therapist may employ observation, interviews, learning ability assessments, and standardized tests. Following are some tests that speech-language pathologists use in evaluating speech difficulty:

  • Denver articulation screening examination — evaluates pronunciation
  • Early Language Milestone Scale-2 (ELM Scale-2) — measures progress in a child’s language development
  • Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) — evaluates vocabulary and speaking ability
  • Prosody-Voice Screening Profile (PVSP) — examines speech characteristics, such as pitch, phrasing, patterns, and volume

Speech Therapy Treatment Techniques

Treatment is another area of focus when investigating what speech therapy is. In general, depending on the patient’s age and condition, speech-language pathologists use instruction or games to encourage specific sounds and address medical, behavioral, or emotional issues related to speech or a language disorder.

In some cases, speech therapy involves recitation and practice. It may also involve electronic assistance, such as an ear device, or medication and therapy to treat anxiety or muscle weakness.

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Common tools used by speech therapists.

To treat speech disorders, speech-language pathologists use techniques that call for tools such as context utilization (learning to recognize speech sounds), contrast therapy (reciting word pairs), target selection (practicing specific words or sounds), ear devices (using electronic aids to improve fluency), medication (treating anxiety disorders to address speech impairments), and oral motor therapy (improving muscle strength and breath control).

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Categories of Speech and Language Impairments

From speech issues that result in the inability to pronounce a sound to language disorders that cause problems with understanding others, various speech and language impairments exist. When seeking speech therapy resources, keep in mind the general categories of speech and language disorders that you or your child may be experiencing.

Categories of Speech Impairments

The three main categories of speech disorders focus on pronunciation, fluency, and volume. The categories are:


A child or adult with a speech articulation impairment can’t say all the sounds in a word, making it hard for others to understand. A child with a speech articulation disorder may have difficulty learning to pronounce the letters r, l, and th — for example, mispronouncing a word like “little” as “wittle.”


A speech fluency disorder is characterized by problems with the natural forward order of speech. Stuttering is the most common type of fluency disorder, marked by speech with an abnormal number of hesitations, repetitions, or stretching of sounds. As children approach age 3, for example, they may think faster than they can speak, leading to a stutter.


Air from the lungs travels through the vocal cords, causing the vocal cords to vibrate in a process called phonation. Disruptions in this process can cause a voice disorder that leaves a person speaking too loudly, too softly, or with sudden changes in pitch. Voice disorders can also involve frequent hoarseness.

Categories of Language Impairments

The two main categories of language disorders focus on the expression of a person’s own thoughts and understanding others when they speak. The language impairment categories are:


When a person has trouble finding the right words for a thought, it could be because of an expressive language disorder. People with this impairment may struggle to ask questions and form sentences. For example, a person may speak in short phrases, leaving out small words like “the.”


Receptive language impairments involve difficulty understanding others, making it a challenge to follow directions or answer questions. Children with receptive disorders, for example, may have trouble pointing to an object when asked to do so.

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Common types of speech and language disorders.

Common speech disorders include articulation (difficulty pronouncing words), fluency (problems making words and sentences flow), and voice (abnormal volume or sound) issues. Common language disorders can be receptive (problems understanding speech) or expressive (difficulty finding the right words).

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Common Speech and Language Impairments

Each main category of speech and language impairments includes more specific disorders. Some common speech and language disorders are:


Pauses, prolongations, and repetition in speech are the main symptoms of stuttering. However, they may not be constant. Additionally, people who stutter can exhibit tension in the face, fists, neck, and shoulders, as well as excessive eye blinking. Stuttering can lead people to avoid situations or words that trigger the problem. Following are the two main types of stuttering:

  • Developmental stuttering — appears in young children who are still learning speech and language skills
  • Neurogenic stuttering — happens when damage to the brain prevents coordination between parts of the brain that control speech

Verbal Apraxia

Apraxia of speech, or verbal apraxia, refers to impairment of motor skills involved in speaking. The brain instructs different parts of the body that are responsible for speech regarding when and how to move to create sounds — telling the vocal cords when to open and close and the lips how to form, for example. Damage to the brain can disrupt those signals to those body parts.


A person experiencing dysarthria has brain damage that weakens the chest, face, lips, tongue, larynx, or vocal cords. This weakness makes speaking difficult, leading to symptoms such as:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty moving the mouth and tongue
  • Mumbling
  • Slurring speech
  • Speaking too slowly or quickly
  • Speaking too softly or quietly


Another brain injury-related impairment is aphasia. Unlike apraxia, which limits motor skills, aphasia causes difficulty in producing language. It can also affect a person’s ability to read or write.

Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders

Abnormal growth and development of facial muscles and bones can lead to problems with movement in the face and mouth. These orofacial myofunctional disorders can cause irregular movements that create problems with:

  • Talking
  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Breathing through the nose
  • Swallowing

Resonance Disorders

The term “resonance” refers to the overall quality of the voice. A resonance disorder is characterized by the quality of the voice changing as it travels through the throat, mouth, and nose. Following are types of resonance disorders:

  • Cul-de-sac resonance — caused by a blockage of sound in the mouth, nose, or throat, leading to a muffled or quiet voice
  • Hypernasality — occurs when the movable soft part in the back of the mouth doesn’t close off the nose from the back of the throat during speech, allowing too much air to escape through the nose
  • Hyponasality (denasality) — results from not enough sound traveling through the nose, making the person sound congested

Selective Mutism

Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder that leaves a person unable to speak or communicate effectively in certain social settings. It most frequently occurs in children and teens and often is related to social phobias.

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Causes of Speech or Language Impairment

Developmental problems, injury, or illness — some of which are genetic or related to preterm birth — can cause speech or language impairment in children, although for most infants and children, the cause of the disorder is unknown. Adults can typically trace their speech or language impairment to injury or illness. Following are some issues that can lead to speech and language disorders:

Developmental Delays

Children who are still learning to speak may struggle to keep pace with their thoughts, leading to stuttering. A lack of exposure to language may also cause delays in speech. Conditions related to severe developmental delays, such as Down syndrome, can be tied to expressive language impairments.

Physical Abnormalities

Physical characteristics, such as a cleft palate or teeth problems, can contribute to resonance disorders. Hearing loss and deafness, as other examples, are the causes of some expressive language impairments.


Illnesses like swollen tonsils, ear infections, vocal cord growths, and allergies can lead to resonance disorders, for example. Even the removal of too much tissue during a corrective procedure like an adenoidectomy can cause speech impairments.

Diseases and Injuries

Diseases and injuries, particularly those whose effects include diminished brain and motor skill function, can also be causes of speech or language impairment. Examples of diseases and injuries that can be linked to these disorders are:

  • Bell’s palsy
  • Brain tumor
  • Head trauma
  • Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and dementia
  • Stroke
  • Facial trauma
  • Excessive stress on the vocal cords

Trauma from procedures to address disease or injury — such as surgery to the head, neck, tongue, or voice box — can lead to dysarthria.


Autism spectrum disorder is characterized by difficulty with communication. People with this condition may have language impairments, find it difficult to have conversations, or speak in a robotic voice.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Because attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) makes it difficult for a person to focus and control behavior, those with ADHD may have problems communicating with others.


People who are anxious may experience speech and language impairments as well. Social anxiety can cause a shaky or quiet voice, stuttering, or difficulty speaking.

Speech and Language Impairment Resources

If you suspect you or your child have a speech or language impairment, exploring speech therapy resources for information can help you identify the potential issue and where to turn for help. Following are some key speech and language impairment resources:

  • Child Speech and Language — The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) describes speech and language disorders and the conditions that can trigger them.
  • Delayed Speech or Language Development — KidsHealth helps parents identify developmental issues in children’s speech or language.
  • Language and Speech Disorders in Children — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides tips for encouraging speech and language development in children and links to materials that can help parents gauge their children’s speech and hearing development.
  • Speech, Language, and Swallowing Disorders Groups — ASHA features a list linking to groups that provide information about speech and language impairment and conditions that can cause it.

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Speech Therapy for Toddlers

Noticing and identifying speech and language issues for children who’ve just started to speak can be a challenge, but early detection is critical in effectively correcting problems. Speech therapy for toddlers typically follows plans tailored to the individual patient to evaluate and treat disorders.

Signs Your Toddler May Need Speech Therapy

Caregivers whose toddlers don’t make or respond to sounds should seek professional help as soon as possible. KidsHealth notes that parents and other caregivers should understand about half of a toddler’s speech by the time the toddler is 2 and 75% of speech when the toddler is 3.

Parents who suspect a problem with speech or language should look for warning signs such as the following:

  • By 7 months, isn’t babbling
  • By 12 months, isn’t using gestures
  • By 17 months, speaks only a few words
  • By 18 months, has trouble imitating sounds
  • By 18 months, using gestures instead of sounds to communicate
  • At age 1 or 2, has trouble with p, b, m, h, and w sounds
  • By 2 years, doesn’t spontaneously use words or phrases
  • By 2 years, can’t put two words together
  • By 2 years, can’t communicate beyond expressing immediate needs
  • By 2 years, can’t follow simple directions
  • By 2 years, has a raspy or nasal tone of voice
  • At age 2 to 3, has trouble with k, g, f, t, d, and n sounds

Speech Therapy Techniques for Toddlers

Speech-language pathologists can conduct speech therapy for toddlers in one-on-one sessions, in small groups, or in a classroom. It can include any of a variety of auditory, visual, and tactile techniques, such as:

  • Having playful conversations with the child to encourage language development
  • Prompting the toddler to make a choice or imitate or repeat words and interjections
  • Using books, pictures, toys, and puppets to teach vocabulary
  • Leading exercises to teach proper placement of the tongue in pronouncing words
  • Practicing the process of swallowing and strengthening the muscles involved
  • Asking the toddler to look in the mirror while speaking or recording them to help them understand auditory cues and feedback
  • Introducing sign language and possibly referring the toddler for a hearing screening if the toddler’s a late talker

For speech therapy to be effective, parents and other family members should support the efforts of professionals by practicing speech therapy techniques at home.

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Speech Therapy for Children

Children may exhibit problems with fluency and language, voice characteristics and tone, or cognition. Speech-language pathologists use various activities to address these concerns, careful to progress slowly and not dwell on mistakes.

Speech Therapy Techniques for Children

Speech therapy for children can take place in one-on-one or group settings. Among the approaches speech therapists use when treating children are:

  • Leading exercises, such as blowing whistles, to strengthen the tongue and lips
  • Directing games that encourage word retrieval, conversation, and comprehension
  • Demonstrating the correct use of sounds to improve articulation
  • Practicing specific sounds or words, especially those the child struggles with, to form speech patterns
  • Repeating sounds in different contexts and word pairs to help with sound recognition
  • Using an ear device that emits a signal or another voice speaking to correct stuttering
  • Counseling and, as needed, providing medication to children with emotional or behavioral issues to address triggers that can worsen speech and language disorders
  • Conducting group therapy that encourages discussion of favorite topics to improve conversational skills

Parents and other family members also play a vital role in speech therapy for children. Frequently talking and reading to your child — careful to avoid baby talk — and promptly seeking speech therapy resources and professional help can improve a child’s chances of overcoming speech and language impairments.

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Six practices to support speech and language development.

These six practices can help you develop your child’s speech and language skills, starting from birth: Talk to your child, even in infancy; point to and identify objects for your child; ask questions that your child can answer; don’t draw attention to your child’s mistakes; read to your child at least 15 minutes daily; and get professional help when you notice a problem.

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Speech Therapy in Schools

Children may receive speech therapy in the home or in pediatric units in hospitals, clinics, and medical centers. For many school-age children with speech or language impairments, therapy occurs in the school.

Speech therapy in the school differs according to factors such as the child’s disorder and age, the demands of the classroom and family, cultural considerations, and the student’s progress during the academic year. For children with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to address a disability, speech therapy may be outlined in that treatment plan.

Approaches to Speech Therapy in Schools

ASHA provides recommendations for school-based speech therapy. It lists the following options for location, staffing, and frequency:

  • Location: Speech therapy can occur in a dedicated speech-language resource room, the classroom, or another area of the school compliant with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Therapy may occur by video teleconference as well.
  • Staffing: Sometimes speech therapy professionals lead activities on their own, while at other times, they team up with a classroom teacher or another instructional professional. Speech-language pathologists can also provide their services indirectly, providing guidance to a classroom teacher or parent.
  • Frequency: In-school speech therapy sessions often occur weekly. In other instances, they can be frequent at first, followed by evaluation.

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Speech Therapy for Adults

The most common speech and language impairments in adults are those related to illness or injury or those left untreated in childhood. Depending on the cause and type of disorder, the problem may occur suddenly or develop over time.

Any speech or language disorder will likely require professional help to resolve. In the case of a sudden onset of impaired speech, get medical help right away. This issue can be related to a life-threatening condition, such as stroke.

Speech Therapy Techniques for Adults

Speech therapy for adults typically focuses on practices such as strengthening vocal cords and improving voice control and articulation. Speech-language pathologists work with patients and family members to address their concerns and establish goals for progress. Some treatment practices for adults are:

  • Exercising to strengthen vocal cords or the muscles in and around the mouth
  • Repeating certain sounds and parts of speech
  • Slowing the pace of speech
  • Practicing chewing and swallowing, sometimes with the assistance of electrical stimulation
  • Talking in small groups to practice speech and language
  • Using Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT), which strengthens the muscles of the larynx and assists with speech for Parkinson’s disease patients
  • Recommending the use of assistive communication devices, such as those that translate typed text into verbal messages
  • Undergoing surgery or other medical interventions

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Useful Speech Therapy Resources

Various websites provide information and tools related to speech therapy and the ways that parents, employees, and employers can accommodate those with speech disorders. Useful speech therapy resources include the following:

  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association — ASHA provides virtual and hybrid classroom guidance for parents of children who receive treatment for speech disorders.
  • Job Accommodation Network — JAN provides information such as how to determine whether the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) covers a speech or language disorder as well as how to accommodate employees with this impairment.
  • National Aphasia Association — The NAA details support groups for those struggling with speech, reading, and writing impairment.
  • Speech Buddies — Speech Buddies provides a marketplace for parents to find and schedule appointments with local speech therapists.
  • Speech Therapy Store — The Speech Therapy Store offers free SLP materials, mental health resources, language development tools, and articles with information and resources for addressing speech and language disorders.
  • Verywell Family — Verywell Family lists and describes top speech therapy apps, categorized according to age and condition.

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Resources Can Help You Navigate the Challenges of Speech Disorders

Speech and language impairments can stem from childhood developmental issues or from injury or illness. They can create various problems that can affect not only how you express yourself to others but also how well you understand what they’re saying to you.

The many causes and symptoms of speech and language disorders can make addressing them seem daunting. Speech therapy resources that connect individuals and families to information and speech-language pathologists can simplify the process — and put you or your child on the path to recovery.

Infographic Sources

Medical News Today, “What Are Speech Disorders?”

WebMD, “Common Speech and Language Disorders”