Speech therapy treats a range of disorders, delays and difficulties across the lifespan. While it is often thought of in the community as a service for children, speech pathologists are trained in communication and swallowing disorders for all ages. Their role is diagnosis, treatment and management.

What may an adult need speech therapy for? 

Speech pathologists are trained in the domains of speech sounds, language, social skills, fluency, voice and swallowing. There are a range of diseases, disorders and conditions that effect these skills. Common causes for adults receiving speech therapy include:

  • Stroke
  • Persistent loss of voice
  • Dyslexia
  • Vocal nodules rehabilitation
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Progressive disease, such as Motor Neuron Disease, Parkinson’s Disease etc.
  • Normal changes associated with ageing
  • Dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease 
  • Stuttering
  • Language disorders
  • Laryngeal, facial and oral cancer
  • Aphasia
  • Dysarthria
  • Dysphagia
  • Apraxia
  • Chronic cough
  • Intellectual delay

Communication difficulties which affect adults may lead to feelings of inadequacy in social, professional, educational and personal lives. Additionally, adults may experience difficulties with their swallowing which can impact on adequate intake to support their energy needs, safe intake of food and drink, and enjoyment of eating and drinking. 

What kind of language difficulties can an adult experience?

Language includes being able to understand information and use communication. This includes all methods including speech, reading, writing, and augmentative and alternative Communication (AAC). 

Language deficits can significantly impact on independence and self-worth. A common type of language impairment following a change in brain functioning, such as stroke, is aphasia. 

There are different types of aphasia which may cause challenges thinking of the right word to use, making sentences, understanding what words mean, reading and spelling. Adults may also experience language deficits due to an ongoing developmental conditions and normal changes during ageing. 

Many speech therapy approaches require the client to do tasks outside of the appointment to achieve and maintain best results. Your therapist will work with you to make these as achievable in daily life as possible.

What should I expect as an adult client?

As a client at Harrison Speech Pathology you will receive respect and care. Our therapists are trained in countless disorders and conditions and provide a service personalised to your needs. 

Your therapist will support you in your needs and help advocate for you. This is particularly important when a client’s difficulties mean they can no longer successfully communicate for themselves. As an adult, your initial appointment will be focused on your therapist gaining information necessary for planning ongoing management. 

Your therapist’s plan will be based upon your own goals, lifestyle and area of difficulty. This can range from implementing AAC in the absence of verbal communication to being able to better communicate in the workplace. 

No matter what age group, your therapist will use evidence-based practice combined with knowledge of how to tailor therapy to your personal needs to create a specific therapy plan. If you are receiving multiple services your speech pathologist will work with all professionals to ensure you receive holistic and cooperative intervention.

What factors impact recovery?

Everyone is individual in their communication and recovery. Some people fully recovery from their difficulties while others may have management strategies put in place in the anticipation that their condition will worsen. This is dependent on several factors including:

  • Medical diagnosis and management
  • Age
  • Motivation
  • Therapy attendance
  • How early therapy is applied
  • Personal goals
  • Pre-morbid functioning
  • IQ
  • Medications

Your therapist will use best clinical judgement in addition to evidence-based practice to determine a likely prognosis. 

Contact Harrison Speech Pathology for further information about speech pathology services for adults.

The basic purpose of communication is to interact with others and therefore it is no surprise that we are constantly using social skills. Some children and adults have difficulty developing social skills in a typical way and this can cause varying challenges when interacting with others. The individual may be aware or unaware of their challenges. This can affect all areas of life including school, home, work, leisure activities and relationships. 

A social communication difficulty may mean the person seems awkward in their interactions, doesn’t seem interested in others, frequently breaks social rules, or doesn’t understand what relationships are and how they are formed. 

A few areas people with social communication difficulties may struggle with are:

  • Engaging with other people 
  • Using turn taking in play or conversation
  • Playing or participating with others
  • Using and/or understanding body language and facial expression
  • Beginning and ending a conversation 
  • Keeping a conversation going
  • Changing how they talk to match a certain situation and/or person
  • Understanding how to predict other people’s thoughts, feelings and motivations
  • Understanding figurative language
  • Following social rules

What causes social communication difficulties and who can diagnose it?

Most commonly social communication difficulties are associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as it effects a person’s ability to interact with the world around them. 

There are many other reasons someone may experience social communication difficulties including intellectual delay, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), developmental delay, brain injury, anxiety or mental health conditions and some people may experience a social communication disorder without a known underlying cause.

A speech pathologist can use a series of formal and informal assessments to identify if a social communication difficulty is present and to what extent. A psychologist will typically diagnose conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. Other people involved in the care and treatment can include an Occupational Therapist, doctor and psychiatrist.

How can a speech pathologist help?

Speech pathologists are experts in all areas of communication, and this includes social skills. Your therapist is trained in social development norms, disordered social development, a range and therapy and methods to monitor progress. 

The first step for improving social skills is attending a detailed assessment session where your therapist will identify what specific areas of social functioning are affected. This is then used to tailor therapy to the individual’s needs, learning style and personal goals. The chosen activities to facilitate learning will depend on the age, skill level, and preference of the individual and their families. 

Examples of methods used to improve social skills are social stories, social scripts, role play, technology-based instruction, direct teaching, problem solving scenarios, spotlighting during interactions, practice in play and parent training. Therapies are aimed to be interesting, engaging and encourage the client to discover new skills that will help them with their daily needs.

How do I book in for social therapy?

You do not need a referral or diagnosis to start therapy for social skills. As therapy is personalised to the individual’s presentation it is not necessary to have a formal diagnosis before attending. Your therapist will discuss with you if they feel a diagnosis would assist the therapy process. 

You can phone our clinic on (02) 4953 6128 to speak directly with one of our therapists regarding your concerns. All our therapists are trained and experienced in implementing therapy targeting social skills.

Feeding therapy is a specialised form of therapy that helps children with feeding difficulties to learn how to eat or can help them to eat better.

Children may have difficulties with chewing, drinking, expanding the range of foods they eat, or swallowing foods.

Mealtime Routines

Creating routines around mealtimes can help your child to learn about food and eating through the consistent use of familiar situations and objects.

Routines such as having mealtimes at the same table, using the same eating utensils and sitting in the same spot at the table can help prepare your child for mealtimes, and help them to be ready for eating.  

Social Modelling at Mealtimes

Children learn new skills and behaviours by watching others and learning from them. This is the same with eating. Children learn to eat by watching others around them.

Sitting at the table and eating with your child helps to provide opportunities for them to learn about eating by watching what you do and how you do it. This means that it is important to be a good role model for your child and model positive interactions with food.

Using Positive Reinforcements

During mealtimes, praise and provide positive reinforcement when your child has any interaction with food. Verbal praise, along with smiling are some of the best and most natural positive reinforcements that can be used.

Often when children don’t eat, mealtimes can become a stressful struggle for everyone in the family, so remembering to provide praise and encouragement for even the smallest of interactions with food is very important.

Offering Manageable Foods

A frequent problem that arises with children who have difficulty eating is that they are sometimes being offered foods that they cannot manage to eat. Giving a child food that they perceive as unmanageable can lead to them feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and defeated.

When providing food during mealtimes, aim to provide only a limited number of different foods on their plate at any one time, and ensure that they are provided in small, easy to chew, bite sized pieces, or in long, thin strips that the child can easily hold in their hand.

Talk About Food

At mealtimes, talk with your child about the food in front of them. Describe the colour, shape, texture, and whether it is hard or soft. This will help to teach your child the physical properties of the food that is on their plate and will help your child to understand how to make the foods work in their mouth when eating them.

For example, by talking about a carrot stick being hard helps teach that strong pressure through biting and chewing will be needed to break that food apart, compared to custard which is wet and smooth and can be eaten by simply swallowing down.  

How does Harrison Speech Pathology help children with Feeding Therapy 

At Harrison Speech Pathology, we have Speech Pathologists who specialise in the assessment and management of feeding difficulties.

Please contact Harrison Speech Pathology if you have any questions or queries related to feeding difficulties and your child.


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For speech therapy to be most effective, practice outside of therapy sessions is very important. No matter what goals you and your child are working towards, practicing each day will allow your child to make progress towards achieving these goals.

Completing speech therapy at home allows your child to practice the skills they are learning each day and in everyday situations. Practice can also be incorporated into many of the games they already play, and with their favourite toys.

Ways to encourage your children to communicate through games

Communication is an essential part of life, and we each communicate with others on a daily basis. We communicate with others for many reasons, such as to get someone’s attention, to request something, to refuse or protest something, to greet or say goodbye, to comment or share information, to answer questions, to ask questions and to show something of interest.

Children with communication difficulties may have a degree of difficulty communicating any number of these communicative functions. Games are a wonderful way to support and encourage children to learn and practice these skills so that they can use them in everyday situations.

Here are some ideas that will encourage your child to communicate when playing games:

  • Set up a game incorrectly (e.g. build train tracks upside down or place the track pieces on top of each other) or leave out pieces deliberately (e.g. leave the trains in the box) to provide the opportunity for your child to communicate about what might be wrong, or what might be missing. This will help learn and practice the skills of commenting, requesting, making choices, and refusing all in the one game!
  • Large moving play equipment such as swings and see-saws are excellent ways to encourage children to communicate through game play. If using a swing, start by pushing your child on a swing a few times, then stop the swing and wait for your child to make a comment about why the swing has stopped, or to request more pushing.

How to use games during car trips

The car is a language rich environment and an excellent opportunity to spend some time with your child practicing speech sounds and language skills in games.

  • “I spy…” is a great game for practicing many communication skills. This simple game can help develop reasoning, describing and listening skills. While playing this game, you can use things such as colours, sizes, or positions, and ask for more descriptive words as your child’s skills improve.
  • The Alphabet Game is a fun game for everyone in the car! It is a game where you take turns going through the alphabet thinking of an animal, food or movie character (or any category that you like!) that starts with each letter of the alphabet. If your child is focusing on developing a particular speech sound (e.g. the ‘g’ sounds), you could change this game focusing solely on this sound and naming as many words that you can think of that start with, or have this sound. The Alphabet Game can help your child learn about speech sounds, early literacy skills, categories, sequencing, and new vocabulary.
  • Singing is a fun activity to do with your child to help them develop speech and language. Singing repetitive songs helps children learn about concepts, categories, sequencing, and new vocabulary. Songs such as “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” teaches children about a range of different farm animals and the noises that each animal makes. You can even change the song to “Old MacDonald Had a Zoo” to include different animals with different noises.

What games you can play at home

Speech therapy practice can be incorporated into everyday tasks and routines while still keeping practice fun.

Some games that you can play at home are:

  • Going on a treasure hunt around your house or backyard is a wonderful way to help your child with learning and develop speech and language skills. On your treasure hunt, you can go looking for things that start with a certain sound (e.g. finding things that start with ‘b’), or find things that fit into the same group (e.g. things that are red, things that are squishy, things that are square).
  • Using your child’s favourite toys (a teddy bear, barbie, train, dinosaur) and make them move around other objects together is a great way to teach action and doing words (i.e. up, down, go, stop, jumping, flying, sitting). For example, you can make your toys fly around the room e.g. “Teddy is flying”, and make them do different actions while flying “Teddy is going up”, “Teddy is going down”, “Teddy is spinning”, all while making the actions to what you are saying.
  • People games help to teach your child about many aspects of communication. People games are physical activities such as chasing, tickling, or being thrown into the air, that you play with your child. They help your child learn to pay attention to others and copy their actions, sounds and words, and to take turns.

Practice outside of therapy sessions is very important. Practicing every day at home will help your child to make progress towards achieving their speech and language goals.

Contact Harrison Speech Pathology for more tips and suggestions for incorporating speech therapy activities into your home and everyday routines.

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What are speech assessments and how we use them to help you

Speech Pathology assessments are a combination of formal and informal assessments. They are specifically tailored to the client and their areas of concern. They assist your clinician to determine areas of strength and weakness to deliver individualized goal setting and therapy.

What kind of things do you assess in a speech assessment?

The types of assessment used will be tailored to the client’s areas of difficulty, age, lifestyle, and abilities. Your clinician will conduct an informal chat regarding lifestyle family, education, developmental milestones and medical history.

During this, they will ask specific questions to further their understanding of the client’s concern. Following this, your clinician will administer formal and informal assessment tools to break down the area of difficulty and identify areas of strength.

The investigation may be completed through observation, checklists, interviews, and specific assessment tasks. These are completed in a way to best suited the client and include implementation of games for children.

Our clinicians are experienced in facilitating concentration and comfort to obtain the best information possible from each client.

Speech pathologists assess the following:

  • speech sounds
  • receptive and expressive language
  • social skills
  • play skills
  • feeding and swallowing
  • fluency of speech
  • voice quality.

Why do you conduct speech assessments?

Speech assessments are integral to determine the precise area of difficulty and plan for ongoing therapy. Furthermore, it assists in determining if an issue is present and the severity of difficulties.

These allow your clinician to breakdown the level of difficulty and tailor goals to this. Additionally, your clinician will consider lifestyle and daily activities to ensure ongoing management is functional.

What are the benefits of speech assessments?

Speech assessments allow you and your clinician to discuss your concerns in a comfortable and supportive environment. It is a great way to build a therapeutic relationship and address any questions you may have.

The benefit of meeting with your clinician for initial assessment is receiving therapy tailored to your lifestyle and individual needs. Following your appointment, your clinician can provide a comprehensive assessment report if required for education, work, medical, or funding purposes.

What should I bring to a speech assessment?

If you have had previous speech pathology intervention it is valuable to bring reports or summary letters. Information from other health professionals, such as allied health or medical intervention, is also beneficial. If relevant, please bring documents relating to education, for example a child’s school report.

For clients who are using payment methods other than private payment you will need to provide the relevant information. If you are accessing speech pathology services using National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) please provide your NDIS identification number prior to your appointment and bring your plan information to the appointment. Alternatively, if you are using a Chronic Disease Management Plan (CDMP) for your sessions please bring along your Doctor referral letter.

As a parent or caregiver, do I need to be present at a speech assessment?

It is important for parents and caregivers to attend the speech appointment. This assists your clinician to gain information regarding the individual client, as this is an integral part of initial investigation.

It also allows the clinician to provide an overview of their findings and begin planning for future intervention. Additionally, it provides support to the client and can assist in making the client feel comfortable within a new environment.

If you need to book an appointment for a speech assessment in Newcastle, contact our team today

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Stuttering – what parents need to know

Stuttering impacts upon approximately 1% of the population whether it be children, adolescents or adults. This affliction usually starts in early childhood before the commencement of school and may have either a gradual or sudden onset to the symptoms seen or experienced.

What causes stuttering?

No one knows exactly what causes stuttering to occur, however, it is thought it involves a functional difference of speech production in the brains of people who stutter.

It’s commonly believed stuttering is an inherited trait with a strong genetic basis often seen in affected children, adolescents or adults who stutter. Individuals who stutter may find their stuttering stressful, which can exacerbate the issue.

Can stuttering be cured?

Stuttering may change in its severity and present characteristics over time. It may increase, decrease or disappear for a length of time.

Speech therapy targeting stuttering is proven to reduce the stuttering severity and assist management of stuttering for children, adolescents and adults alike.

What do I do if my child has a stuttering problem?

Early intervention and immediate action is the best recommendation for a child who starts to stutter. Research shows that therapy targeting stuttering has the best results when children are younger.

What are the different types of stuttering?

Stuttering may present in a number of different forms. It may be evident as initial sound repetitions eg. “d-d-dog”, syllable repetitions eg. “ba-ba-baby” or whole word repetition eg. “My, my, my”.

These repetitions may occur a few times or numerous times depending on the severity of the stutter.

Other stuttering characteristics include prolongations and blocks. Sounds being stretched when spoken are known as prolongations eg. “I waaaaant my toy”.

Blocks are when someone is trying to speak but no sound is heard and is often accompanied by blinking or other body movements.

What is the treatment for stuttering?

There are a number of different treatment approaches used to reduce stuttering. The approach used by a speech pathologist will depend on the age of the individual, the severity of the stutter and length of time the stutter has been present.

The Lidcombe Program of Early Stuttering Intervention is the most common stuttering treatment technique used with younger children.

Speech Pathologists are qualified to provide assessment and treatment of stuttering. Intervention should be provided as soon as possible to stuttering commencement to reduce the impact on daily life for children, adolescents and adults alike.

Contact us today for an appointment. Our speech pathologists can help assess the stuttering and can create a treatment plan to help reduce stuttering.

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Every child is different.

All children develop at their own pace – from rolling over and learning to crawl, to eating solid foods. It’s a process which is different for every child.

When it comes to communication development, there are general communication milestones which determine if a child is progressing appropriately with their speech and understanding abilities. These communication milestones tell us whether their current skills are typical for their age.

If your child is having difficulty saying a range of speech sounds, unable to join words together to make sentences or struggles to follow instructions, then a speech pathology assessment will be valuable to determine if speech therapy may be beneficial for your child.

What speech milestones should I keep an eye out for?

There are a few critical speech development milestones which you can look out for – you can download the information sheets here.

At 12 months a child should be babbling, gesturing and starting to say a few words. They should be able to copy sounds and noises you make. In terms of understanding, they should be able to respond to their name, recognise greetings and acknowledge familiar people.

At 18 months the number of single words a child can say should have increased with these spoken words becoming easier to understand by family members and friends. They will understand simple instructions and point to both familiar objects and pictures in books.

At 2 years a child will have more than 50 words that they can say clearly and be using these words in two-word phrases eg. “Bye Mummy”. They can follow two-part instructions and respond appropriately to “what” and “where” questions.

At 3 years a child should be speaking using 4-5 word sentences. They should be asking questions and be able to talk about something that has happened in the past. They should be able to follow complex instructions, recognise colours and understand concepts such as ‘same’ and ‘different’.

At 4 years a child should be able to make longer sentences describing events, asking lots of questions and able to count. They should be able to answer questions and understand “why” questions.

At 5 years a child should use full sentence constructions, take turns in conversations appropriately and use most of their speech sounds correct. They can follow three-part instructions, understand time-related words eg. before and after, be thinking about the meaning of words and be able to recognise most letters and numbers.

Do I need to go to the doctor before taking my child to a speech therapist?

You don’t need a referral from a Doctor to make an initial speech pathology appointment.

The “wait and see” approach is not recommended regarding a child’s speech and language development. If a parent has concerns regarding their child’s communication abilities it is best to make an appointment to see a speech pathologist so that evaluation can take place to determine whether an issue or delay exists.
The sooner your child is seen by a speech therapist, the sooner we can work on helping your child with their speech.

What will the speech therapist do in our first appointment?

The speech pathologist will assess your child’s speech and language skills. Important developmental information will be taken and questions asked regarding your child’s communication abilities within the home and preschool/school environments as well as in the community.

Via play or by looking at pictures, the speech pathologist will determine whether the child’s speech skills are appropriate for their current age regarding both the speech sounds used and length of utterances spoken. The speech pathologist will also evaluate whether the child is able to understand different concepts and follow instructions appropriate to their chronological age.

The speech pathologist will then be able to give feedback as to whether speech pathology intervention is necessary or could be beneficial for the child.

How long does speech therapy take before it’s effective?

The amount of speech therapy required for each child will depend on a number of individual factors. The severity of the speech and/or language delay or disorder will determine how long speech therapy will be required to maximise a child’s communication abilities.

Harrison Speech Pathology tailors your child’s speech pathology intervention program to the individual needs of your child to ensure that efficient and effective intervention is provided to every client.

If you would like one of our experienced speech therapists to meet your child and assess their language development, get in touch with our office today. We would love to help you.

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