Speech, Language and Everything In-Between

Speech, language, and communication are all closely related, but all so different.  They are all made up of complex components, and can be difficult to understand.  Here is the “down and dirty” on speech, language, and everything in-between.

What is Speech?

When I refer to “speech”, I am referring to two things: articulation of speech sounds, and speech fluency.  Articulation is the ability to produce sounds and sound patterns required to speak clearly.  Speech fluency is when we produce speech that is free of stuttering behaviours.  When talking about speech, I am usually talking about the physical ability to move our lips, tongue, jaw and teeth to make the sounds for talking.  Apraxia of Speech is when an individual has difficulties executing and sequencing motor movements precisely and consistently. Each area can be treatment by multiple intervention approaches.  Treatment approaches at Blue Heron Speech are chosen based on evidence-based practices.  For more information on treatment approaches, contact us directly.

What is Language?

Language is how we get our message across to others and how well we understand a message that is conveyed to us.  We can communicate through words (written or spoken), as well as gestures (shaking our heads, etc.).

In order to truly be language and conversational partners, we need to be able to understand language and express our thoughts.  In the Speech and Language world, we refer to these three important areas as “Receptive Language,” “Expressive Language” and “Pragmatic Language”.   Receptive language is how we understand language.  This impacts how we follow directions, and understand the messages that are shared with us.  Expressive language is how well we produce language to get our point across to others.  Pragmatic language encompasses our social skills and how we communicate socially to share ideas, as well as how well we understand the social rules for interacting with others.

Within expressive and receptive language, we can break language down further.  Children need to be able to:

  • Understand the meanings of words
  • Understand combinations of words into phrases, sentences, and paragraphs, and how they relate to each other
  • Understand how to put words together to express ideas (grammar)

Speech and Language are often thought of as being a “pair”, but we can have language without speech. For example, a little one who is not yet able to speak may be able to follow directions and comprehend a conversation.

What is Communication?

Communication is how we get an idea across to others and create a shared understanding.  When thinking about communication, think about not having a voice and not being able to write – how could you get your idea across to someone else?  You could use your hands and body to show others what you are thinking.  You could draw a picture of what you are looking for.  Using pictures and gestures to communicate can allow us to share an idea without speech or a shared language.

For example, a little one who is not yet talking may be able to point at an item to indicate that they want it – this is communication through gestures.  Another little one may be using American Sign Language or Picture Exchange Communication to communicate, without ever speaking a word.

When working with little ones, communication is the first big goal that I target.  Before a child can learn to speak and use language, they need to be able to communicate with others.  Communication can take the form of gestures, signs, pictures, or electronic devices.  Using Alternative or Augmentative Communication (AAC) systems allows children to communicate their wants and needs.  After we establish a method for communicating, we can hone in on improving speech skills and language development.

But wait… there’s one more missing piece…

We talked about expressing ourselves through written language, but what about those children who are truly struggling with literacy.  Speech-Language Pathologists can help with that piece too.

What is Phonological Awareness?

Phonological Awareness is related to Phonemic Awareness, and for simplicity’s sake, I am probably going to use them interchangeably (trust me, I have a good reason).  Phonological awareness is the awareness and understanding of rhyming, breaking sentences apart into words, breaking words apart into syllables and sounds, isolating and identifying sounds in words, substituting sounds in words to make new words, deleting sounds from word to change a word, and applying all the rules and knowledge we have about literacy into writing.  I work on all of these areas, included spelling and writing.  For children who are struggling spellers and readers, these are skills that are crucial, and can often account for part of a child’s difficulties with literacy.

Language, Communication, and Literacy are learned all day, every day, and in every activity and environment that your child is engaged in.  

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