But what is the difference between speech and language? And what constitutes a swallowing disorder? Here is a basic breakdown of what falls under each of these umbrellas, with specific reference to the pediatric population:
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) defines speech as "the verbal means of communicating" which consists of articulation, voice, and fluency. Articulation refers to how speech sounds are produced. Children with articulation issues might substitute, omit, or distort certain sounds when speaking. Voice refers to the "use of the vocal folds and breathing to produce sound." Children with voice issues may present with hoarseness, loss of voice, or other changes in vocal quality due to overuse or misuse of their voice. Finally, fluency refers to the "rhythm of speech" which can be interrupted by hesitations or stuttering (e.g., part word or whole word repetitions, blocks, prolongations, etc).
Language is different from speech. Language can be broken down into two main areas. Receptive language refers to how a person understands spoken language. Children with receptive language issues may have difficulty understanding the meaning of words or following directions. Expressive language refers to a person's ability to formulate and convey their thoughts to others. Children with expressive language issues may have difficulty with word retrieval, thought formulation/organization, or use of proper syntax/grammar when speaking. Expressive language also includes pragmatics, which refers to the rules that govern the use of language (e.g., language function: to request, to comment, to ask a question; language appropriateness; social rules of language: introducing the topic, staying on topic, taking conversational turns).
Last but not least, swallowing or feeding issues addressed by speech-language pathologists working with the pediatric population include delays in meeting feeding milestones (e.g., intake of solid foods, use of open cup, etc.), persistent gagging or coughing while eating, food refusal, and behavior problems surrounding feeding.
Considering this wide range of disorders that we treat, it is no wonder that confusion exists as to what we do as speech-language pathologists. Hopefully this has helped to create a better understanding! You can also check out the following resources: