Therapist works with child during speech therapy

Pediatric speech-language pathologists work to help children communicate effectively by assisting with the improvement of their verbal and nonverbal language skills that may be affected by injury, illness or a complex medical diagnosis. Areas of focus may include feeding and swallowing and expressive and receptive language.

At Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, we provide individualized care to improve speech and language skills and to address a variety of conditions and disorders in children, including:

  • Feeding and swallowing problems
  • Pronunciation problems, such as articulation and phonology
  • Motor speech disorders, such as apraxia and dysarthria
  • Hearing loss
  • Receptive and expressive language delays and disorders
  • Cognition 
  • Voice and resonance issues
  • Stuttering

Our speech-language pathology services at Children’s combine assessment procedures and age-appropriate therapies to discover and treat the cause of your child’s conditions and disorders. Services are offered at Children’s outpatient locations and as part of our Inpatient Rehabilitation Program.

We use research-based, standardized testing to evaluate children’s speech and language conditions. We use two tests to evaluate feeding and swallowing, including:

  • Oral pharyngeal motility study (OPMS) or modified barium swallow study (MBSS): Exams that use radiology to view how children swallow food and liquids and to see if they have any trouble swallowing.
  • Fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES): A tiny, specialized camera is gently inserted through your child’s nose to examine swallowing function. Our speech-language pathologists perform the test with a pulmonologist or otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat, or ENT, doctor).

Additionally, our specialists collaborate with the Children’s Center for Cleft and Craniofacial Disorders to provide highly advanced diagnostic resources for patients with congenital (present at birth) or acquired skull or facial bone conditions, such as cleft lip and palate or facial trauma.

Our clinicians create customized treatment plans to address each child’s specific needs. Treatment may include:

  • Therapeutic feeding and swallowing treatment. 
  • Treatment for disorders affecting language development and academic performance.
  • PROMPT (prompts for restructuring oral-muscular phonetic targets) technique for apraxia, which uses manual touch cues to develop proper oral muscular movements.
  • Cognitive training for school or community reentry after a head injury or traumatic brain injury.
  • Evaluation and treatment for voice disorders.
  • Augmentative or alternative communication assessment and training.
  • Treatment for autism spectrum disorder and pervasive developmental disorders related to communication.
  • Treatment for fluency and stuttering. 

In addition to these treatments, your child’s therapist will provide you with a specially designed home program for your child. Home exercises and activities allow your child to continue to make progress between office visits.

Childhood apraxia of speech is a motor speech disorder that makes it difficult to say certain sounds, syllables and words. This motor planning difficulty is a result of the brain’s inability to coordinate appropriate muscle movements of the lips, tongue and jaw that are needed for speech production.

Intensive intervention is recommended for childhood apraxia of speech. At Children’s, we provide children age 2 and older the help they need to improve planning, sequencing and coordination of muscle movements for speech.

Our speech-language pathologists teach children the signs and gestures needed to help their brains prepare the parts of the body involved in speech. Our multisensory approach uses touch as well as visual and auditory cues to help train the brain. This allows children to get multisensory feedback on their speech in several different ways, making it easier for them to repeat syllables, words and sentences to improve speech clarity.

Our pediatric-trained specialists have experience diagnosing and treating voice disorders in children, adolescents and young adults. They also educate patients about vocal hygiene—habits that support a healthy and strong voice throughout life. 

Warning signs

Voice disorders in children can often go unnoticed or be confused with a child’s natural speech. There are several signs that a child may have a voice disorder if they occur often, including:

  • Hoarseness, roughness, breathiness or strain
  • Difficulty speaking loudly or speaking too loudly
  • Loss of voice
  • Pitch that is too high or low for a child’s age
  • Vocal fatigue
  • Soreness or pain in the throat when talking
  • Cough not caused by infection or asthma

What we treat

Voice disorders develop for a variety of reasons. Children’s can help treat and prevent disorders by teaching proper vocal health. We can also treat disorders that are a result of medical conditions like:

  • Vocal nodules
  • Vocal cord dysfunction (also known as paradoxical vocal fold)
  • Habit cough or throat clear
  • Granuloma
  • Papilloma
  • Subglottic stenosis
  • Vocal fold cysts
  • Vocal fold paralysis
  • Sulcus vocalis
  • Congenital or acquired laryngeal web
  • Tracheostomy
  • Allergy
  • Laryngopharyngeal reflux
  • Puberphonia
  • Muscle tension dysphonia
  • Irritable larynx syndrome

As part of our comprehensive evaluation to help diagnose voice disorders, we offer videostroboscopy. This procedure, done in collaboration with otolaryngologists (ENTs), allows our speech-language pathologists to see how your child’s vocal folds and larynx are functioning and affecting voice production. It can also show any lesions that may be present.

We require a doctor's referral for evaluation and treatment.