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Speech Development in Children: An Interview with Speech & Language Therapist Andrea Cortes | Part 1

Speech Development in Children: An Interview with Speech & Language Therapist Andrea Cortes | Part 1

Amanda:Hi, today we’re talking to Andrea. Andrea is a Speech and Language Therapist who holds a masters degree in Neuroscience and Education from Columbia
University in New York City. Additionally, she has a masters degree of Human Communication Disorders from Universidad de las
Americas in Mexico City. Andrea has worked as a
teacher, a speech language and learning therapist. She also has researched the importance of early literacy and language development and school readiness. Currently, she resides in Berlin, Germany where she lives with her loving
husband and adorable son. After taking a two year pause
from her professional life to be with her family,
she has just been offered a job as a teacher. Welcome Andrea and thank
you for joining me today. First of all, would you like to tell me a little bit about your
own motherhood journey? Andrea: Sure yeah so I mean
I can start by telling you that I was very excited
when I was pregnant. I started to make big plans for my baby. My husband and I were
reading a lot of books. We had the room all ready. We took a great birthing
course so we definitely felt that we were prepared,
we were ready for this. And then yeah my baby was born and I kind of like felt oh
my gosh, I am absolutely, at least that’s what I felt. I am absolutely not at
all prepared for this. The first few months
were very trying months. I felt very tired all the time. I guess one of the easy parts for me was that I was absolutely
in love with my baby. So even though I was very tired, yeah he gave me a lot of strength. So yeah for me that was very easy. However there was a
point when I absolutely felt like I was beginning to collapse. I was definitely so sleep deprived. That was a very tough
moment for me at that time. And that’s when I realized that I had to do something about this. I found, I actually found
the Little Ones Program and it gave me really quick results. My baby currently sleeps
for 12 uninterrupted hours. Amanda: Amazing.
Andrea: And I actually think that made me a better mother for one. But I also think that as a result of that, he’s such an easy going child. He’s just really fun to be around. He’s mostly in a good mood. So yeah it just made being
a mom very enjoyable. And then yeah so like in a way, sorry? Amanda: Everyone always copes better when everyone sleeps well right? So that of course is gonna
make everyone a lot happier and able to enjoy the experience. Andrea: Yeah for sure, I
mean even though to this day I feel like nothing
can really prepare you. I mean there are definitely
some great things that you can in a way handle much better once you are a bit more rested. Amanda: Absolutely, absolutely. So you’re a speech and language therapist. So what does this entail? Andrea: So as a speech
and language therapist, I work with children who have
either speech difficulties or language difficulties
or it could also be both. So I wanna start by maybe dividing them because I think it’s gonna
be more clear this way. Speech difficulties are
for example when a child has problems expressing or
producing certain sounds in their mother tongue. So it could be like in
English for example, instead of saying “cat”
they will say “tat”. So changing the “cuh”
sound for a “tuh” sound. So for example they can
also omit certain sounds. Like for example instead of saying “car” they can just say “ca” like
omitting the last “er” sound. In this case then the clarity
of speech is definitely effected so that’s what you
would work on in therapy. Just trying to improve
the clarity of speech so that other people can understand them. Then moving onto language. Language difficulties can
be when a child has either problems understanding. For example understanding directions. So this is known as receptive language. Or also expressing. Expressing their needs, maybe an anecdote. This is known as expressive language. So then of course as a
therapist you would need to evaluate if you would
need to work on either receptive or expressive language. As well as maybe conduct
an evaluation where you are determining if a child has problems in the sub areas of language. Which could be for example the meaning, the structure and the use of language. So for example just
meaning can be like working with a child by helping him
increase his vocabulary. You know sometimes that
is really important. The structure could be helping them to understand grammatical structures of their mother tongue. And the use has to do
more with nonverbal cues. Really important things
like making eye contact when you talk to someone,
taking turns when there is more than one person talking. Other non-verbal things like
maybe understanding jokes, understanding sarcasm for example. So that is the use of language. Amanda: That’s amazing. Andrea: Yeah I mean many many things that could be definitely
stimulated in language. As I said at the beginning,
sometimes children can have just speech difficulties, sometimes just language difficulties. Sometimes therapy can entail a combination of both speech and language problems. You know if parents feel
like maybe there is something or you feel like your child is not meeting particular language milestones, it is definitely advisable that you talk to a doctor, to a language specialist. But always keeping in mind
that all children develop at a different speed. Never get too nervous,
never comparing your child to another child. Yeah and definitely a language specialist will help you determine if there a need of this speech language therapy. Amanda: Yeah I think if
any parent is ever worried, my motto is always sort of
just go to the professionals. And you can never be, you
might think you’re silly but you can always get
reassured by the professional that it might just be normal. Or maybe there is something
that you need to look into. So I don’t know, I’m just
always of the opinion that what’s the harm in going and getting it checked out if needed? Andrea: Right of course. And there’s a lot of information now, that you can also access. Of course trust your instincts. If you have read something
like oh maybe my child should be producing maybe
a couple words by now and it’s not happening. I also believe that, what’s the problem in asking a specialist? Amanda: Yeah exactly. So are there physical
barriers that parents should be aware of that might
be effecting their speech? For example, a lip or tongue ties. And how does this effect
their speech development? Andrea: I wanna start off
this answer by explaining a little bit about the importance of our oral and face structures as well as the muscles around the mouth. These are actually very
important structures for speech development. All right so if a child has a for example a lip or a tongue tie,
they could definitely effect speech articulation. A tongue tie is when the child is born with a very tied or very short frenulum. This is the membrane that holds the tongue to the floor of the
mouth so like right here. Like if you put your
finger you would feel it. And then the problem is by
having this membrane too tight, it’s gonna obviously effect the mobility of all these oral
structures of the muscles that are definitely very important for producing certain phonics as I was saying at the beginning. A lip tie, and it’s very similar. Now the affected part is in the upper lip so it’s on this membrane. Kind of connecting your gum to your teeth. And again it’s gonna
impede the correct mobility of all these oral
structures or your muscles. So again, impeding correct
language articulation. So I guess the good news
about this is if a child has a problem like this,
most likely the mother will notice this during
his first few months, I guess a newborn basically. Usually mothers report that their child is having problems of
breastfeeding for example. So then of course a
specialist would have to check what are the
probable causes of this? So once the doctor detects this, it could either be that
a very very small cut is done to this membrane that I described. And then this will allow the child to have the correct mobility. And most likely they will just continue developing their speech as normal. Other times this really small surgery is not needed absolutely at all. It could just be that the
doctor refers the child even as a newborn to a speech therapist where the speech therapist
could do certain exercises that helps sort of just
release the tightness of the membrane. So basically to answer the question, yes all of these physical
structures are very important for a correct speech development. Amanda: Great and what would
happen if for example they didn’t get detected from
feeding or from when the baby was a newborn? What would happen then
if the child did go on to grow older and couldn’t speak as well. Could the surgery be done
then or is it too late or what would happen? Andrea: No I mean it’s never too late. Definitely the earliest
intervention, the better right? But I mean it could still for sure happen. And then most likely if
a child is now speaking, the parents would most likely notice that they’re, as I had
said, certain sounds that they’re not producing really well. So then speech therapy would
definitely work very well. Where again the speech
therapist would have to work with the child
teaching them a few strategies on how to produce certain sounds. Yeah but it’s definitely never too late. Amanda: Good, good. So going along from that,
can dummies or pacifiers or thumb sucking also effect speech and language development? Andrea: I would definitely
agree with this. As we had mentioned, all
these oral structures, the muscles near our mouth
are very very important for proper speech development. So really my advice would be that during the first few months, a child
can definitely use a pacifier. And sometimes yeah they suck their thumb. And that’s okay, it’s self soothing. But I would definitely advise
parents not to let this go past the age of one. This is during the child’s first birthday is usually when a lot
of oral structures begin to prepare for speech production. So of course then dummies
could definitely influence the correct development
of these oral structures. So again I would advise
parents maybe to start weaning off the child
maybe around six months so that once they are one, they’re definitely off the pacifier. Of course I mean it’s difficult. But I guess what I could suggest is that try to maybe distract
the child like compensate by doing other activities. So maybe when the child
wants the pacifier, suggest let’s read a book or let’s play with your favorite toy. Now from personal experience for example, my child actually never used a pacifier. But when I was weaning off
the midday milk bottle, that was difficult. But gradually, we always used to suggest let’s play with your favorite toy, let’s read one of your favorite books. It’s just like any habit. You know breaking habits are tough. But we were very very consistent,
I think that’s the key. We decided we’re gonna
take away the bottle, the midday bottle. Just be very consistent
and just like any habit, gradually if you’re consistent, it’s definitely gonna break so yeah. Amanda: Definitely, I can
see how speech and language development does definitely
get affected when children or babies have a physical
dummy in their mouth. They’re just walking
around during the day. For example, my first
child did have a dummy but she was only ever allowed
it for sleep, that was it. She wasn’t allowed it during the day. And then the dummy fairy came. And actually as soon as
we took away her dummy, her teeth and her pallette changed shape almost immediately just
from not having it. We have two good friends
who are both dentists and they were saying to
make sure that it was gone. And hopefully that her mouth shape would change just as soon
as it was gone and it did. And my other daughter
actually had sucked her thumb. And that’s obviously a lot harder. But she, luckily for
us, she sucked her thumb but only would suck it when
she was holding her comforter. So the comforter fairy came and then the same thing happened. Her palette has come down, her teeth. She would suck on the side so her teeth were going out sort of to one side. And that’s all straightened up. And it’s amazing the difference
just a physical thing inside their mouth can change the shape of their mouth so much. And I can see how that could easily effect speech development and speech. Andrea: Right, these
structures and muscles. They are like any other
muscle for example. If you wanna work out your abs, you go to the gym, you work
out and then you have a result right after maybe a few
months you have a change, a physical change. So it’s very similar. These are muscles that are
being effected by something. So the child is sucking on
either the dummy or their thumb. So then this will also change
their physical structures.

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