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Speech and Language


Our Speech and Language team evaluates children and teens who have conditions that affect their ability to communicate. Along with providers from Rehabilitation Medicine, we assess your child's unique needs and develop short- and long-term treatment plans. We work closely with experts in many of Seattle Children's clinics, including Neurodevelopmental, the Craniofacial Center, the Autism CenterPsychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Otolaryngology, and Audiology, which includes the Cochlear Implant Team. We also work with your family to ensure that you and your child find the services you need at school and in the community. Our goal is to provide excellent service to you, your child and all the doctors and community therapists we work with.

Conditions We Evaluate

We evaluate children with a wide range of speech and language disorders, including:

Articulation and phonological disorders

These have to do with problems making sounds (articulation disorders) and problems putting sounds together to speak (phonological disorders).

Autism spectrum disorders and social communication

Autism can affect the way a child behaves, thinks, communicates and interacts with others. Children with autism are affected in different ways. Some have mild symptoms and grow up to live on their own. Others have more severe symptoms and need support throughout their lives. Read more.

Cognitive-communication disorders

Cognitive-communication disorders involve problems with your child's thinking processes that affect communication, such attention span, memory, reasoning and problem-solving.

Feeding and swallowing disorders

Some problems with speech and language go hand in hand with problems eating or swallowing.  We provide swallowing evaluations (described below) when there are concerns regarding the ability to eat or drink safely.

Fluency disorders

A fluency disorder is when the natural flow of speech is affected. Children with fluency disorders may stutter or stammer when they speak. It is common for children to stutter or stammer for a period of time as part of normal speech development. However, children who have trouble for six months or longer need support and should see a speech and language pathologist .

Motor speech disorders

Children with motor speech disorders have problems coordinating the muscle movements needed to produce speech.

Reading, writing and literacy problems

Speech and language disorders affect not only your child's ability to talk, but also the ability to understand, read and write.

Receptive and expressive language disorders

Children with these disorders have trouble understanding spoken and written language (receptive language disorders) or trouble using language to communicate their ideas and questions (expressive language disorders). Some children have trouble both understanding and using language.

Resonance and airflow disorders, including those linked with cleft palate or velopharyngeal problems

Velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI) means air escapes into your child’s nose during speech. This may make it hard for your child to produce certain sounds. Most children with VPI also have cleft palate. Some have other differences in the structure of their face or skull. Read more. (PDF)

Severe communication impairment

This name refers to any problem that profoundly impairs the ability to communicate with words (verbally). Children with severe communication impairments may benefit from augmentative and alternative communication (described below).

Voice disorders

Children with voice disorders may sound hoarse, breathy or more high pitched or low pitched than usual, or they may have lost their voices. 

Services We Offer

We offer services that include:

Outpatient speech and language treatment

Short-term outpatient therapy services are available on a limited basis.

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)

AAC is all forms of communication except speech. For example, AAC can include facial expressions, gestures, drawings or writing. AAC aids, such as picture boards or electronic devices, can help children with serious speech or language problems express themselves. Read more.

Videofluoroscopic Swallowing Study (VFSS)

VFSS is a test to look at how your child swallows foods and liquids. It makes an X-ray movie of your child's mouth and throat while they are eating and drinking. A speech-language pathologist will work with you and your child to identify any swallowing problems and find solutions. Read more. (PDF)