Communication Disorders in the form of speech or language impairments are all too common. According to the National Institute on Communication Disorders, between six to eight million people in the United States have a language impairment. Nearly one in 12 children ages 3–17 have a disorder related to voice, speech, language, feeding, or swallowing. These issues can cause many social, as well as emotional problems for our children.
Speech Disorders Delays, and Other Issues
- Articulation disorders
- Apraxia (motor planning – can’t make certain sounds)
- Dysarthria (slurred speech)
- Communication & language deficits
- Sensory processing issues
- Feeding and swallowing issues
- Echolalia (repetitive vocalizations)
Speech and Language Pathologists administer speech, language, oral-motor, and hearing evaluations. They also review medical history, and barium swallow results to diagnose and prepare treatment plans for various speech-related disorders. They use a variety of speech therapy modalities depending on diagnosis, and many therapists incorporate communication and social skill training in their practice.
Interestingly, many agencies and institutes for health will claim that these disorders are solely a neurological impairment with no apparent cause. Therefore, many doctors and therapists trained by these agencies only recognize speech therapy as the only viable treatment option. However, from personal and professional experience, I encourage all parents and practitioners to move away from conventional thinking. We must explore a more integrative approach to treating these conditions. When digging deeper, we recognize the importance of searching for and treating the many underlying causes of these conditions.
“Addressing root causes of speech and language disorders can decrease the amount of time a patient spends in therapy, greatly enhance the progress in traditional therapies and increase the success rate.” – Jennifer Giustra-Kozek, LPC, NCC
Beyond Speech Therapy
Tongue or Lip Tie - A tongue or lip-tie affects up to 11% of all newborns. According to the 2017 Cochrane review, and it is often overlooked. This condition restricts the range of motion in a baby’s tongue. It presents as a very short and thick band of tissue that tethers the bottom of the tongue’s tip to the roof of the mouth. A tongue-tie or lip-tie may interfere with breastfeeding, speech, eating, swallowing, and oral motor development of the jaw. Some of the risk factors for developing a tie in utero are often genetic. However, smoking and alcohol use, medication, chemicals, viral infections, methylation issues, and chronic stress may also cause it. A surgical procedure is sometimes required. However, some ties can be resolved with chiropractic manipulation, myofascial release, or exercises alone.
The Gut & The Microbiome - The state of our digestive system matters. There are trillions of microorganisms called microbes in our intestinal tract. These include bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. In healthy individuals, these “bugs” coexist peacefully and help to regulate our immune system and play a key role in promoting our emotional and physical health. And more emerging evidence linking the gut microbiome to neurologic disorders, including sociability, speech, and language. So, increasing microbiome diversity with specific probiotic strains; and eating a diet free of pesticides, additives, and antibiotics that can disrupt and destroy our gut microbiome, can go a long way in preserving our health.
Clean Eating Matters - Soda, refined sugar, processed grains, artificial colors and sweeteners, food additives, and pesticides wreak havoc on our immune system and our health. These foods cause systemic inflammation throughout the body and can affect the brain as well. In 2017, the journal of Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience explored how processed western-style diets induce brain inflammation that can affect mood, memory, learning, and processing. Also, highly processed foods lack nutrition and are void of healthy fats, and nutrients the brain needs.
Nutritional Deficiencies and Language - In June 2019, the Behavioral Health Journal referenced many studies that demonstrated the link between dietary deficiencies and speech and language disorders. Eating fish during pregnancy is associated with higher language and communication skills. Vitamin D improves symptoms of autism, including speech. Vitamin E improves speech apraxia in children. Diets lacking vitamin B1(thiamine) can result in persistent cognitive and motor deficits, including delayed language acquisition, language impairment, and dyslexia, poor coordination skills, and learning disabilities. A diet rich in minerals such as iron, potassium, iodine, magnesium, and zinc is also crucial for metabolic processes and brain health.
Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Neurological Disorders - Mitochondria are known as the powerhouses of energy factories of the body. They are vital to our survival as they generate energy in the form of fuel derived from the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins we eat. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a broad term describing the series of maladaptive cellular events due to disturbed mitochondrial function. This dysfunction is often caused by genetic mutations, such as the MTHFR. Or, it can be the result of drugs, infections, and other environmental toxic influences. It is believed to be the root of many diseases, as well as neurological damage. It can also lead to mitochondrial myopathy - muscle weakness in the face, which can lead to swallowing difficulty and slurred speech. Children with mitochondrial disease can have many developmental issues, motor delays, speech problems, and learning disabilities. Some ways to support mitochondria are through a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, adequate-protein, glutathione, magnesium, selenium, and other nutrients. Keeping sugar levels optimal, getting sufficient sleep, eating a clean diet free of processed foods, and detoxing to remove toxic factors can help restore function as well.
Homeopathy - Many homeopathic remedies can be extremely helpful for children with speech and language impairments. Calamus is beneficial for speech impediments & stuttering. Calcarea carb is used for speech delay and speech apraxia. And, Agaricus Muscarius is recommended for slower learners, late walkers and talkers. Helpful homeopathic cell salts for speech are Calc Phos and Natrum Mur.
Essential Oils - The left hemisphere of the brain mediates a variety of higher cortical functions essential for planning, language, speech, intellect, social interactions, reasoning, problem solving, behavior, attention, and movements. There can be a benefit of using certain essential oils to stimulate these areas of the brain through aromatherapy. The most popular oils for this purpose are Wild Orange, Litsea, Frankincense, Thyme, Clove, Cedarwood, Juniper, Bergamot, Lemon Grass, Niaoul, and Summer Savory. Oils can be applied lightly on the spine in a carrier oil like almond or avocado. It is essential that only high-quality organic oils are used, and remember it is never one size fits all. People with specific allergies to ragweed and other plants need to be more careful about having a similar reaction to oils.
Learn more about my family's healing journey (including everything that has worked for me and many of my clients) in my book Healing Without Hurting. And to receive more info on how you and your family can overcome ADHD, apraxia, anxiety and more without medication SIGN UP HERE.