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Different Ways to Complement Speech Delay Therapy

A child’s inability to communicate stems from multiple factors. Speech delay therapy can be combined with other treatments to address the problem holistically.

Boy closing his mouth with both hands.

Speech delay in children is a major medical concern. The concern is valid, as it can potentially impair a child’s future personal, social, academic, and vocational life. As such, a child should undergo speech delay therapy as soon as circumstances allow.

Speech delays can also be associated with hearing and neurological disorders. But many cases may be due to a short frenulum – the fold beneath the tongue – or problems with the roof of a child’s mouth (also called the palate). Oral-motor disorders may also impair the brain’s ability to coordinate the jaw, lips, and tongue to make a speech.

Read on to learn how clinical and traditional remedies can be used in tandem to boost a child’s speaking ability.

Speech Delay Therapy Options

Smiling girl with hearing aid on her left ear.
Speech delay therapy can be complemented with the treatment of hearing loss to achieve a more comprehensive outcome.

In Western Medicine, the treatment depends on the cause of speech delay. If its cause is other clinical disorders, it’s also necessary to target them. Examples of these are: 

  • Improving a child’s hearing ability 
  • Correcting mouth and tongue abnormalities 
  • Treating or managing neurological disorders 
  • Behavioural, physical, or occupational therapy 

How Traditional Medicine Supports Speech Delay Therapy

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), speech delay is believed to be one of the Five Kinds of Tardy Growth.

Eu Yan Sang Physician Tiang Sack Sing explains, “The Five Kinds of Tardy Growth comprises delayed standing, walking, tooth eruption, slow speech and hair growth. These problems can happen independently or simultaneously, and are the by-products of congenital Deficiencies. Both the Five Kinds of Tardy Growth and Five Kinds of Flaccidity – another type of congenital Deficiency – can occur individually or at the same time. These are classified as child growth and development disorders, and are rarely caused by environmental factors. If the symptoms are mild and treated in time, there is a chance of recovery. In the context of modern medicine, conditions like cerebellar hypoplasia, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, rickets, and autism belong to both kinds of Deficiencies.” 

Specifically, these conditions are caused by Kidney and Liver Deficiencies and the insufficiency of Heart blood. Treatment will aim to tonify the Heart and remedy the abovementioned Deficiencies.

Herbal remedies

Under the guidance of a licensed TCM practitioner, a child may use patented herbal medications to regulate internal imbalances. For example, Liu Wei Di Huang (六味地黄) and Bu Qi Jian Zhong (补气健中) pills can nourish Kidney yin (passive energy) and enhance Spleen functions, respectively.

A Four-Herb soup (四神汤) can provide the same benefits while helping maintain a child’s health. It can also be eaten regularly to encourage proper growth and development and fortify their immune system

Laser acupuncture

A study also found that laser acupuncture was capable of improving a child’s speech ability and social development. The treatment refers to non-thermal, low-intensity laser radiation that can help stimulate points in the body. 

Although laser acupuncture is a technique with minimal side effects and is generally safe for children, it’s advisable for acupuncturist to take caution when administering the treatment.

The acupuncture points that can help better speech delay in children include yang ling quan (GB34, 阳陵泉), bai hui (GV20, 百会), shen men (HT7, 神门), he gu (LI4, 合谷), san yin jiao (SP6, 三阴交), and zu san li (ST36, 足三里). 

At-home practices

Observing developmental milestones will help doctors to diagnose and parents to choose the right methods to nurture their child’s speech. These methods include:  

  • Reading together with a child 
  • Singing simple songs or nursery rhymes 
  • Practising patience and using simple words during a conversation 
  • Pointing or gesturing towards objects while providing a description or narration 
  • Speaking to a child clearly while maintaining good eye contact 
  • Allowing them to answer questions instead of answering for them 
  • Allowing a child to play and interact with other children with a good command of speech and language 

Improving hearing loss

Hearing loss leads to speech delays as the child does not recognise different types of sounds. 

Hearing aids are commonly used to help children recognise speech and sounds. Ear care specialists may also propose cochlear implants for children with inherited hearing disorders. The mode of action of the device is to stimulate the cochlear nerve and improve moderate to severe hearing loss.

Mouth and tongue abnormalities 

Structural deformities of the mouth and teeth may also cause difficulty in articulating words, causing speech delays in children. Tongue thrusting is the habit of pushing the organ against or between the front teeth while speaking or swallowing.

Many children outgrow this phase. But if they don’t, a speech-language pathologist can teach them to retrain the tongue and help them follow regular speech and swallowing patterns.

Malocclusion describes a misalignment of the teeth due to prolonged pacifier use or thumb-sucking. These habits can change teeth dentition as they grow, causing speech problems. An orthodontist can treat the structural, and a therapist the functional component of the problem.

A cleft lip or palate is a term for the roof of the mouth having an opening into the nose and requires surgical intervention. Like Western medicine, TCM also believes that good antenatal care is key to preventing a cleft lip or palate. A qualified TCM physician can help formulate treatments that address prenatal imbalances based on each woman’s unique body constitution. These include herbal medications like:

  • Wu Bi Shan Yao Wan (无比山药丸)
  • Ba Zhen Tang (八珍汤)
  • Cang Fu Dao Tan Tang (苍附导痰汤)
  • Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang (少腹逐瘀汤)
  • Si Miao Wan (四妙丸)
  • Xiao Yao San (逍遥散)

Ankyloglossia involves a short and tight band of tissue binding the tongue’s tip to the mouth’s floor. Like a cleft tip or palate, it also requires surgical treatment and speech therapy.

Open mouth posture has several characteristics, such as a jaw that shifts to either side, protruding tongue or tongue that’s pushing against the front teeth, and an inability to close the lips fully. An orofacial myofunctional therapist will develop a regimen that strengthens and retrains the facial and mouth muscles by: 

  • Correcting the oral resting posture 
  • Correcting chewing and swallowing patterns 
  • Teaching a child to avoid poor oral habits 
  • Teaching a child how to practice proper nose breathing 

Physical and occupational therapy 

Occupational therapy aids speech and communication development in children. There are a few ways to do so, such as: 

  • Educating them on the importance of attention and regulation 
  • Helping them fix their jaw and postural stability 
  • Helping them improve their handwriting skills 
  • Helping them integrate their senses into oral-motor and feeding skills 

Physical therapy can support speech delay therapy by helping a child build muscle strength and endurance, and develop body awareness and motor planning.

Treatment of speech-related neurological disorders

Speech-language therapy helps autistic children and children with cerebral palsy with articulation, language, vocabulary development, and word comprehension. 

Recognising and treating the clinical conditions that delay a child’s speech mastery is an important step towards proper development. Likewise, complementing speech delay therapy with traditional remedies that regulate internal imbalances can help. However, avoid self-treating a child with TCM without prior consultation with a licensed practitioner.

References

  1. KidsHealth. Delayed Speech or Language Development. [online] [Accessed 11 November 2022] 
  2. Cerebral Palsy Guide. Cerebral palsy and autism. [online] [Accessed 11 November 2022]
  3. Cerebral Palsy Guide. Cerebral palsy. [online] [Accessed 11 November 2022] 
  4. Columbia Asia. 2020. My Child Has Not Started Talking. [online] [Accessed 11 November 2022] 
  5. National Library of Medicine. 2020. Laser Acupuncture Effects on Speech and Social Interaction in Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder. [online] [Accessed 11 November 2022] 
  6. ABILITY INNOVATIONS. HEARING LOSS AND SPEECH DELAY. [online] [Accessed 11 November 2022] 
  7. All About Speech & Language. 2020. How Oral Structure Can Impact Speech Production. [online] [Accessed 11 November 2022] 
  8. Associates in Pediatric Therapy. Signs of Improper Oral Resting Posture. [online] [Accessed 11 November 2022] 
  9. Speech Therapy Plus LLC. 2018. A TRUE CONNECTION: SPEECH AND OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY. [online] [Accessed 11 November 2022] 
  10. Chicago Kids Therapy. How Physical Therapy Can Support Speech Therapy. [online] [Accessed 11 November 2022] 

 

 

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