To most people, the terminology, and jargon that exists within medical niches can be confusing, and that applies as equally to speech therapy as it does any other. This can be especially frustrating for the parents of children with speech and language difficulties as sometimes they struggle to fully comprehend what speech pathologists and any other professional speech therapist is explaining to them about their child’s problems.

We are not for a second suggesting that those who work within speech therapy are deliberately trying to confuse parents. They are likely to be using words and phrases which they almost take for granted given that they use them every day. In addition, we are sure most speech pathologists try to explain to parents what the terminology they are using means.

Nevertheless, that may not always be the case, and additionally, when parents read subject matter relating to their child’s language issues they might come across several words which they do not fully understand. So, we thought it would be useful if we went through some of the more common terminology used within speech therapy and gave you a short explanation of what it all means.

Articulation: This term is used to describe how we pronounce words. Children with articulation problems will struggle with certain sounds and either avoid them or substitute them with alternative sounds.

Assessment: Normally the first appointment with a speech pathologist will involve them carrying out a speech and language assessment on the child to ascertain what level of development they have reached. This will be done using observations, simple language tests, and asking questions of the child.

Delay: Used to refer to the condition of children whose speech and language development is progressing at a slower rate than is normal for their age. This can either be a delay in their speech or a delay in their overall understanding of and use of language.

Dysfluency: This is the term used when the flow of a child’s speech is irregular. This can manifest itself as stuttering, prolonging certain sounds, repeating sounds, words, or phrases, and pauses in the flow of their speech.

Echolalia: Just as an echo in a large empty concert hall means you hear a sound again, in speech therapy echolalia occurs when a child repeats specific words and phrases for no apparent reason and out of context.

Modelling: Often used when parents are playing a significant role in helping their child’s speech therapy. Here, the parents demonstrate to their child the correct means of speaking and using words and then encourage the child to copy them.

Milestones: Milestones are used to assess the progress of a child’s speech and language development. They are used as a guide for how children should be communicating at specific ages such as 12 months, 18 months, 2 years, 3 years, and so on.

Parallel Talk: This is what parents should be doing to help their children’s understanding of language. Specifically, as the child is playing or taking part in an activity, the parent gives a sort of running commentary. For example “You kicked the yellow ball”, “You can see the large dog running”.

Phonological Awareness: This is required to be able to read, write and speak. Essentially it is the skill of being able to identify sound patterns and examples of that are a child knowing that “bat” and “cat” rhyme,  and the how “TH” sound is pronounced so that they say “that” and not “tat”.

Semantics: This is the language skill that we develop in knowing what someone means when they speak. For example, we know that when someone says “I am so angry I could explode” we know that they mean they are extremely angry rather than turned into a human bomb that is about to go off.

Syntax: This is what allows us to communicate with each other. It is literally how the words and phrases we write or say fit together to form sentences that make sense and can be understood by others.