National Speech-Language-Hearing Month  

National Speech-Language-Hearing Month

May is National Speech-Language-Hearing Month. This is a time to raise awareness about speech-language and hearing disorders, which are among the most common disabilities that school-aged children experience.

More than 1 million children nationwide receive treatment services for speech and language disorders each year through the school system. Left unaddressed, speech and language disorders can affect a child’s academic and social success. Speech-Language Pathologists in schools work with children who have difficulties in the following areas:

  • Speech sounds—A child may substitute one sound for another, leave sounds out, add sounds, or change a sound. It may be hard for others to understand them.
  • Spoken and written language—A student may have trouble understanding what others are communicating to them and may have problems explaining what they are thinking or feeling. They may also have difficulty with reading and writing.
  • Stuttering (fluency)—A child may get stuck on certain sounds or words. They also may have tension or negative feelings about talking. This tension can get in the way of how they talk to others.
  • Cognition—A child may have problems with long- or short-term memory, attention, problem-solving, or organization.
  • Social communication—A student may have difficulty understanding how others feel or following the rules of conversation, such as knowing how to take turns.
  • Voice—A child may lose their voice frequently or use a hoarse or breathy voice. They may also speak with strain or effort.
  • Augmentative and alternative communication—A child may need to find other ways to communicate besides talking, such as using a picture board or a speech-generating device.
  • Feeding and swallowing—Problems with feeding and swallowing can make it hard for a student to participate in the school day. Speech-language pathologists help students eat and drink safely during the school day so that they have the energy to learn.

Did you know that 15% of school-aged children (ages 6–19 years) have some degree of hearing loss? When left unaddressed, hearing loss can affect a child’s academics, social success, and behavior.

The good news is that hearing loss from noise exposure is completely preventable by taking some simple steps—including the following:

  • Lower the volume on electronic devices. Aim to listen to personal technology devices at half volume (or less), especially when using earbuds or headphones.
  • Keep your distance from noise sources. Stay at least 500 feet away from speakers, a stage, or a fireworks launch site.
  • Take regular listening breaks. When attending a noisy event, step out of the loud area periodically to give your ears a rest. When using electronics, take earbuds or headphones out every hour (even if just for a few minutes).
  • Wear hearing protection at noisy events. Earplugs work well for older children and adults. Younger children can wear well-fitting earmuffs. If your child plays an instrument, you might want to consider musician’s earplugs, which will still allow kids to hear the music.

May is the perfect time to familiarize yourself with the signs of hearing loss in children. These signs include turning the TV volume up louder than is comfortable for others, having difficulty in school that isn’t explained by other reasons, reporting that they hear ringing or other noises in their ears, and being socially isolated or unhappy. Please reach out to the school, or visit an audiologist, if you have any concerns about your child’s hearing so they can receive a full hearing evaluation.

Whether or not a child has a speech, language, and/or hearing disorder, it’s important for everyone to reflect on how we can be respectful and supportive of those who do.

We wish you all success as we approach the end of the school year.

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