Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health flu-related visitor restrictions have been lifted. However, because babies, especially those who are ill or premature, are at higher risk of serious complications if they get the flu, visitation restrictions are still in place for all Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) until further notice.
Speech pathologists at Riley at IU Health help children build and expand life’s most essential skills: the ability to eat and communicate. Whether your child’s speech, language or eating problem is common or rare, our experts are trained to diagnose and treat his or her condition.
Speech therapists work with children who have everything from mild speech delays to more serious disorders stemming from other health conditions. We are devoted to helping children improve speech, language and eating skills through expert evaluation and treatment.
Our goal is to give every child an opportunity to communicate and thrive, even in the most challenging health circumstances. Depending on your child’s condition, we may see you for a brief period of time, or we may have an ongoing relationship with your family as your child develops.
Children who have a communication issue can benefit from speech-language evaluation and treatment at Riley at IU Health. A child with an articulation disorder, for example, may struggle to make certain sounds. Those with language disorders may struggle to understand others or communicate thoughts and ideas.
When your child is referred to us for a speech/language evaluation, we begin with a family interview to determine specific concerns and goals. A play-based assessment often follows. We also perform standardized tests, observing children when they are engaged in various activities, such as looking at books. This allows us to compare each child’s skills with those of other children their age. We share our findings and recommendations with parents or caregivers, primary care physicians and community therapists as needed.
Children come to us with a wide spectrum of possible causes for delays in speech and language acquisition, including:
We usually treat children once a week, ideally with parents present. This allows parents to learn techniques they can apply at home.
Yelling, excessive talking or coughing can damage a child’s voice. Voice evaluations often occur after your child has seen an ear, nose and throat doctor to rule out any medical reasons for voice issues, such as hoarseness. We retrain children to breathe and talk in a way that is easier on the voice.
Another disorder we frequently treat is vocal cord dysfunction. This problem occurs when the vocal folds move in the wrong direction while breathing, making it difficult for children to take in air. Our speech pathologists help children identify new breathing patterns to keep the airway open.
Some children have difficulty balancing the flow of air between the nose and mouth during speech. This is known as a resonance disorder. Too much airflow from the nose can make their speech difficult to understand.
The most common causes for such a problem are a cleft palate or another craniofacial anomaly. When you choose Riley at IU Health, your child has access to specialists who work as a team to evaluate and treat these conditions. In fact, our Cleft & Craniofacial Anomalies Program is one of the most experienced of its kind in the United States.
Speech therapy can teach children how to correctly make sounds, but it cannot fix structural issues. Sometimes we need to perform assessments to see the muscles of the throat and palate. Results from these assessments help speech therapists learn what to address in therapy. If we think further medical intervention is warranted, we help parents and caregivers coordinate treatment with a specialist, which may involve surgery.
Helping children become better eaters can play a big role in their overall health. This is the goal of outpatient feeding evaluation and treatment at Riley at IU Health. Educating parents is a significant part of therapy, which is usually scheduled once or twice a week or monthly. Parents and caregivers attend all therapy sessions and learn techniques to help their children acquire eating skills. We also provide meal structuring to help families plan the right foods on an appropriate schedule.
Whether your child is an infant or a teenager, our outpatient feeding evaluation and treatment program can address many feeding disorders, including:
Children are often referred to our program after long periods on a feeding tube. When a feeding tube is removed, they may need to learn how to eat again. Your child’s therapy is personalized to his or her individual needs, using proven techniques designed to restore eating skills or acquire them for the first time.
Children who have difficulty with swallowing may need an x-ray to help us diagnose their problem. A videofluoroscopic swallow study uses an x-ray to observe the act of swallowing. With this information, our speech pathologists can determine:
We help children find other ways to communicate when they cannot use speech. At Riley at IU Health, our evaluation program can identify your child’s specific needs and select life-changing augmentative and alternative communication tools to help them fully interact with the world. This field is known as augmentative and alternative communication.
Our services help children who have a range of health conditions, including:
At Riley at IU Health, children from birth to 18 years learn to communicate using augmentative tools, such as:
Pointing is the most common way to use communication board, but for children who cannot point, eye-gaze technology can recognize and select an intended choice of symbols. Button systems work similarly, allowing children to scan and select a desired symbol without pointing.
Augmentative and alternative communication tools can become a permanent adaptation or an interim step while children develop their language and speech skills. Research shows that augmentative communication does not inhibit language and speech acquisition. In fact, it may help children improve their long-term communication skills.
Children are admitted to Riley at IU Health for conditions and disorders that are rarely seen in other hospitals. Consequently, our patients may have difficulty with speech or swallowing for many health reasons, including:
If your child’s speech, eating or swallowing is affected during a hospital stay, our speech pathologists will perform an evaluation and recommend treatments, if necessary.
When children have eating problems, our goals are twofold: 1) to determine if and when it is best for each child to begin eating, and 2) to advance each child’s feeding plan appropriately.
For those who have difficulty with communication after admission to the hospital, we focus on recovering original skills. At discharge, treatment plans are shared with parents, primary care physicians and local therapists to help each child gain normal swallowing and speech after they leave the hospital.
Riley at IU Health speech-language therapists use evidence-based techniques informed by research, including collaborative studies with the Indiana University School of Medicine.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
This professional and scientific association for audiologists and speech pathologists offers resources to help the public understand speech and hearing disorders.