A learning difficulty is a lifelong disorder which can affect children in many different ways. A learning difficulty can impact on areas of speech, language, communication, eating and drinking and will present in different severities for each child. Speech and language therapy can help to support and overcome some of these speech and language difficulties.
What are learning difficulties?
A learning difficulty is classed as having a limitation in intellectual functioning and everyday skills. Learning difficulties will present in many different forms from mild to profound, the severity will depend on each individual child.
A learning difficulty may present on its own or be part of another disorder e.g. Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy.
A child who has a learning difficulty will develop at a slower rate than their typically developing peers. Children with learning difficulties will find it harder to communicate and learn.
Children with profound learning difficulties will need full-time support and care and will often need to communicate via alternative and augmentative communication e.g. sign language and talking aids.
What causes learning difficulties?
A learning difficulty is caused by a disruption to the way the brain develops. Most learning difficulties develop during pregnancy and are present at birth. Other causes include complications during birth or severe illness in early childhood.
What problems caused by learning difficulties can speech and language therapy help with?
Speech and language therapy will help to improve some of the difficulties experienced by children with learning difficulties. Areas of speech and language which may be affected by learning difficulties are:
- attention and listening problems
- speech sound problems
- communication problems
- expressive language problems
- comprehension problems
- Language delay and impairment
- Eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties
- Social communication problems
How are learning difficulties diagnosed?
Learning difficulties are diagnosed by a team of medical professionals. A speech and language therapist will carry out an initial assessment in order to identify any speech and language difficulties, and determine the severity of these difficulties and what impact they have on the childs functioning. An initial assessment will also consider any eating and drinking difficulties a child with learning difficulties may have. An initial assessment will include:
- A conversation with you about your childs speech, language and eating and drinking abilities and any current concerns you may have.
- A case history of your childs development.
- A general observation of your childs speech and language abilities.
- A detailed assessment of your childs speech and language abilities.
- An observation of your childs eating and drinking skills.
How does speech and language therapy help children with learning difficulties?
It has been shown that early intervention is extremely beneficial for children with learning difficulties and that early identification and treatment are crucial.
Speech and language therapy will focus on many aspects of speech and language and will vary depending on the severity of your childs learning difficulty.
The main goal of speech and language therapy for a child with a learning difficulty will be to maximise their functional communication. The main goal for eating and drinking difficulties will be to help your child to eat and drink as safely as possible.
The speech and language therapist will focus on the positive aspects of your childs communication and use this to expand their communication e.g. use of gesture, sign etc.
The speech and language therapist may specifically work on attention, muscles of speech, eating and drinking, language, vocabulary, expressive (verbal and written) and receptive (understanding) communication.
Children with more severe to profound learning difficulties may have very limited language and understanding. For more severe and profound learning difficulties the speech and language therapist will work on alternative and augmentative communication in order to support your childs communication. Alternative methods of communication may include sign language, visual aids and talking aids.
Speech and language therapy will also support you as a parent or carer in facilitating your childs communication.
The speech and language therapist will use a child centred approach in order to gain the best outcome for your child.
What would speech and language therapy treatment for children with learning difficulties involve?
Speech and language therapy will help to determine the extent of your childs speech, language, eating and drinking difficulties which will help to determine what the best method of treatment for your child will be. Speech and language therapy may include:
- one to one therapy
- clinic visits
- home visits
- consultative role
- alternative and augmentative communication
- advice and education
- early intervention
Specific treatment many include:
- total communication approach
- alternative and augmentative communication
- pre-school communication groups
How do I arrange a speech and language therapy assessment for a child with a learning difficulty?
To arrange an initial assessment with one of our speech and language therapists please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0330 0885 643.
A learning difficulty is a lifelong disability which may present in different severities and impact on a childs every day functioning in many different ways. A child with a learning difficulty will have a slower rate of development than other children; this will impact them in their social and educational environments. Speech and language therapy will help to maximise your childs communication to their highest potential. It may also focus on helping your child to eat and drink more safely. If you feel you and your child may benefit from speech and language therapy then please feel free to contact us. To arrange an appointment with one of our speech and language therapists please call us 0330 0885 643, or email us email@example.com
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