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Speech-Language Definitions

Expressive language is a broad term that describes how a person communicates their wants and needs. It encompasses verbal and nonverbal communication skills and how an individual uses language. Expressive language skills include: facial expressions, gestures, intentionality, vocabulary, semantics (word/sentence meaning), morphology, and syntax (grammar rules).

Receptive language skills describe the comprehension of language. Comprehension involves attention, listening, and processing the message to gain information. Areas of receptive language skills include: attention, receptive vocabulary, following directions, and understanding questions.

Articulation or speech production, is how clearly a speech sound is produced. Children or adults may have errors in speech for one specific sound, or a group of sound classes. For example, a child may say "tat" for "cat". For children, when multiple speech sounds show a pattern, errors are classified as phonological disorders.

Social skills are key to developing and maintaining friendships. Social skills involve facilitating awareness and change in interactions based on general social rules and norms.

Feeding and swallowing therapy focuses on the ability to bring food to the mouth, chew, and swallow, safely and efficiently.

Oral motor skills are used in therapy sessions to build oral motor strength for speech sound development and feeding skills. Oral motor development is crucial for learning how to eat and produce sounds. Therapy in this area typically encompasses oral awareness, oral stretches, and oral exercises to improve strength and speed of movements needed for speech.

Childhood Apraxia of Speech is a motor speech disorder that impacts a child's speech clarity. Children with apraxia of speech have difficulty planning and producing refined movements of the jaw, lips, and tongue needed for clear speech. It is characterized by inconsistent sound production and dyscoordination of movement.

Dysarthria is another motor speech disorder that results from neuro-motor impairment to the muscles of speech production. Often, people with dysarthria show muscle weakness and fatigue during a therapy session. Dysarthria is characterized by sound distortions, imprecise sound production, and other deficits in muscle tone, range, and speed of movement.

Voice Disorders are considered to be an abnormality of one or more of the three characteristics of voice: pitch (intonation), intensity (loudness), and quality (resonance). Voice disorders may be caused by vocal abuse (repeated yelling/whispering), vocal cord dysfunction, infection, inflammation, neuromuscular disorder, or psychological conditions.

Disorders of fluency or Stuttering is a speech disorder that impacts speech fluidity. Fluency disorders are characterized by sound or word repetitions, pauses, or drawn out syllables, words, and phrases. In more severe cases, groping or nonverbal symptoms (e.g. ticks, silent blocks) are also present.

Augmentative and alternative communication includes all forms of communication and expression. AAC therapy may supplement verbal communication or be the primary form of communication. It may incorporate the use of pictures, gestures, voice-output devices, or computers to help individuals express their thoughts effectively.

Pragmatic Skills are the way a person uses language in social contexts. Incorporating verbal and nonverbal communication, pragmatic skills are the essence of communication. Each culture has it's own pragmatic use of language including idioms, jokes, slang, affect, and tone of voice.

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