Why is it important for some kids to have occupational therapy before speech-language therapy?

By Esther Han, OTR/L

Oftentimes, children who are referred for speech-language therapy also face challenges within their overall development. These challenges can, in turn, impact their communication skills, which is why some children should attend occupational therapy sessions before speech-language therapy.

Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is a big component of a child’s development. Through the ability to self-regulate, a child is able to attend and engage in social situations appropriately and effectively in order to build and use language.

Sensory Integration

Occupational therapy addresses sensory processing and self-regulation skills through sensory integration. Sensory integration incorporates sensory input and experiences in order to meet the needs of a children’s nervous system to eventually reach a “just-right” zone.

With the proper combination and balance of activities that alert, calm, and organize the nervous system, children begin to interpret and process sensory information effectively. This gives them the ability to reach their full potential in learning and development.

Postural Stability

Another area addressed through occupational therapy that supports the development of speech and language is building postural stability. Having adequate core and trunk strength provides a stable foundation for the head, neck, jaw, lips, and tongue, all of which are involved in speech production.

Trunk and neck strengthening can be addressed in occupational therapy through various activities such as games and swings in a prone position, crawling, and weight bearing.

At-Home Activities to Improve Postural Stability

Some easy activities that could be done at home include:

  • Wheelbarrow walks
  • Animal walks
  • Playing games or doing homework while lying on your tummy
  • Obstacle courses that consist of going over, under, and around

When it comes to a child’s development, it is important to see the whole picture. Though speech or language deficits may be more apparent initially, some children may benefit from receiving occupational therapy services before speech or language is addressed. Helping a child with self-regulation in order to attend, engage, and participate fully in social engagement will create improved opportunities for successful development of speech and language.

If you believe your child would benefit from speech and language or occupational therapy, contact us to set up a consultation. We are here to help and are happy to answer any questions that you have about our services!

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