What is Speech Therapy?

A frequent question I hear is "what is speech therapy anyway?” Well, the answer to this question is actually quite complicated! 

Speech therapy is a broad term. I’ll briefly overview different types of speech therapy here.

What is speech therapy?

Speech therapy is a broad and general term. Technically, it should be called speech, language, social language, and swallowing therapy. Speech therapists treat ALL COMMUICATION DISORDERS.

Below, I summarize different types of therapy and what to expect.

Articulation Therapy

Articulation therapy is the type of speech therapy that most people think of when considering speech therapy.

A child who has an articulation disorder, apraxia of speech, or a phonological disorder attends articulation therapy.

Articulation therapy works on the pronunciation of words. Typically, a child first learns how to say a sound. Next, he practices saying that learned sound in words. Next, he practices saying that sound in phrases. Last, he practices saying that sound in sentences and in conversation.

Once a child learns to say a sound, he or she then needs to create a good habit of saying that sound automatically (without thinking about it).

A home program with SHORT, DAILY practices is IMPERATIVE. Read more at Delayed Speech: What can I do at home?

I also have an awesome eBook that might be everything you need. Read more about it here!

Practices may include naming pictures, saying words in a sentence, or practicing a sound during a short activity (i.e., breakfast).

Click here, word lists, for home ideas for all sounds and to access lots of free materials.

Language Therapy

A child with a specific language impairment, delayed expressive or receptive language skills, language processing disorder and/or a language learning disorder attends language therapy.

This is a very diverse area and therapy will depend on the evaluation results and data taken over time.


Therapy may target how a child understands language or how well a child expresses themselves.

A young child may work on vocabulary development, grammar skills, and/or following directions.

An older child may work on oral or written grammar, answering questions, creating oral narratives, understanding stories, following complex directions, learning vocabulary, figurative language, word retrieval skills...to name a few.


A younger child will PLAY while in therapy. It has been proven that children learn BEST from meaningful play. Read more at speech therapy for toddlers.

For an older child, therapy will look more like school. Goals should relate to school outcomes and the curriculum.

Remember that language is complex and language skills evolve and build as a child learns. Your child’s goals and even areas of need may change over time. THIS IS NORMAL!

Social Language/Pragmatics

A child with delays in social skills attends social language therapy. These delays may be the result of autism, personality disorders, pragmatic delays, or no known cause.

This type of therapy targets social skills including eye contact, body language, vocabulary matching a situation, etc...

A child learns social skills in therapy with the use of scripts or role playing. Next, he or she practices those skills in “real life” situations.

Swallowing or Feeding Therapy

A child with dysphagia or feeding difficulties resulting from birth defects, neurological disorders or no known cause attends swallowing and/or feeding therapy.

This type of therapy works on chewing and swallowing food. Therapy depends on the reasons behind the difficulty swallowing and/or eating.

Does Speech Therapy Work?

Well, this depends highly on you! Motivation and commitment are 2 key components.

I see parents hoping that 30 minutes of therapy per week is enough to make a significant improvement. 

Unfortunately, this is not possible. Is there anything in life that we can do for 30 minutes a week and become experts in just a few months?

Parents must be committed and involved with their child’s home program. Speech therapists do the therapy but parents do the intervention.

However, the home program for your child should be fun and part of your daily life, NOT extra work for everyone. Read more about home idea activities. 

For help to find the right speech therapist for your child, read questions to ask a speech therapist.

How Long Will my Child Be in Therapy?

This is an impossible question to answer. Every child is different and has different needs. It is pointless to compare. But nothing is impossible...here are some ideas!

  1. We have general tips to help speed up the process. 
  2. Get involved! I can’t say this enough. From research and clinical experience alike, the children whose parents are involved in the evaluation and therapy process AND are dedicated to the home program make the quickest progress!
  3. Become a member of Speech Therapy Talk
  4. Know the right questions to ask to find the right therapist.
  5. Consider private practice. Read about the benefits of here. 

Does my child need speech therapy?

If you have questions if your child even needs an evaluation, check out 

So what is speech therapy? I hope I shed light on the subject!

For more information on what exactly a speech pathologist does, click below:

What Is A Speech Pathologist?

If you are considering becoming a speech therapy, check out what is speech therapy and where do you work?

One YEAR of FREE speech and language Materials

If you need some free materials to supplement your home practice, please fill out the form below. Every month, you will receive a NEW, FREE material right to your inbox. 

One YEAR of FREE speech and language materials!

For 12 months, a new material will be delivered right to your inbox.

Free Speech and Language Materials
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