Speech and language intervention is appropriate when a young child displays a significant functional communication disorder, disability or delay. Such communication disabilities can manifest themselves along a range from children with major problems with functional communication to children whose speech and language capabilities are below the expected levels for their age. A range of intervention strategies is available to help these children improve their speech and language.
Parent Training Programs
Speech and language intervention can take the form of training parents to work with their own children to improve their speech. Such programs are effective in improving the child's language and also at changing the mother's speech patterns. Parents must be trained and monitored by a speech therapist for this strategy to be useful.
Group Speech/Language Intervention
In a group intervention situation for children with speech and language disorders, it's often beneficial to include children who are developing normally in the group. One therapist works with the entire group in this case. A child with speech or language disorders will find that his language development advances when he interacts with children who do not have these disorders within the context of a developmentally appropriate play group. This type of intervention also allows for introduction of a greater range of vocabulary words.
Individual Speech and Language Therapy
Working one on one with a speech and language therapist can be especially important for a child with speech or language disorders at the beginning of his therapy. With this strategic approach toward intervention, the therapy can be tailored according to the severity and the type of the child's communication problems, the family's willingness and ability to be involved with the intervention, the child's age and any other development problems the child might have. Individual intervention also allows for specific strategies to be formulated around achievable goals.
Directive Speech-Language Intervention
In directive speech and language interventions, the therapist controls the stimuli presented to the child. This strategy involves the therapist modeling and prompting the desired speech and language behavior for the child and can often use drills. Often a directive strategy is most useful at the beginning of therapy, when the child may need intervention to produce basic speech structures. It is often also useful with children who have attained a higher level of cognitive function.
Naturalistic Speech-Language Intervention
In naturalistic speech and language interventions, the therapist responds to cues provided by the child to create opportunities for the child to use speech and language in a way that follows the pattern of natural language acquisition. This strategy may be most effective in eliciting spontaneous language production by the child. As a child moves past learning basic speech patterns and needs intervention in the areas of conversation, a naturalistic strategy can be helpful to learn skills such as turn-taking and interacting socially with others. In addition, naturalistic strategies are often more effective with children who have developmental delays in areas other than speech and language. Children often seem to prefer naturalistic to directive interventions.