Why Did My Child’s Speech Therapist Recommend Occupational Therapy?

It’s not uncommon for a speech therapist to also recommend that a child receive other therapies in conjunction with speech therapy, such as neuropsychology, physical therapy, counseling, social group therapy, and occupational therapy.  Although your speech therapist is working on your child’s communication, they are also concerned with the “big picture” of your child’s overall development and how other aspects of development may impact speech and language.  Occupational therapy is a commonly made referral.

What is speech-language therapy?

Speech-language therapy is a specialized field that addresses a very specific aspect of development: communication.  This includes how we understand and use words to communicate.  However, the human brain is a highly complex system, with many different sub-systems working together to help us function efficiently.  For example, our speech and language system also depends on our attention system, our memory system, our visual system, and our auditory system (to name a few!).  Weaknesses in one system are likely to impact other systems, much like a domino effect.  Therefore, a “team approach” to therapy is often warranted to help children achieve their greatest potential.

How can occupational therapy help my child’s speech and language?

Occupational therapy can improve your child’s…

  • Attention and regulation, which is a foundation for social engagement and use of language.  In order to learn, your child must be able to focus, attend and engage.
  • Postural stability, which is critical for speech production.  In order for your child to successfully make various speech sounds, they must have jaw stability.  Jaw stability is dependent on head and trunk control, which can be improved with postural stability.
  • Sensory integration that impacts your child’s oral-motor skills and feeding.
  • Executive function skills that impact language.  As your child communicates, they must be able to plan, organize, and sequence their thoughts and ideas into a logical narrative.
  • Hand-writing skills needed for written language.

Your child’s speech therapist may also have referred your child for occupational therapy due to concerns unrelated to speech and language.  Your therapist is concerned with the “big picture” of your child’s development, and strives to ensure that all areas are being addressed so your child can achieve their maximum potential.  If you’re unsure why a referral has been made, ask your therapist.  Your therapist will help you better understand why the referral was made, and how your child will benefit from receiving additional support.  For more information, contact us anytime.

3 replies
  1. Jackie Oliver
    Jackie Oliver says:

    Wow, I have never really thought about all of the different systems in a body. My son has a bit of a speech problem, and after reading this, I’m realizing we need to get this corrected sooner, rather than later. I don’t want him to fall behind in school, so I’m going t be sure to start looking into therapy for him.

  2. Mary T
    Mary T says:

    My 3 year old is autistic and is speech delayed. The speech therapist referred us to a peadiatric neurologist and he prescribed Risperdal for hyperactivity.He has been on it for almost a month and I dont see any change. Iam thinking of taking my child for occupational therapy as well. Any advice?

    • Lindsay Valentino
      Lindsay Valentino says:

      I would encourage you to follow up with your neurologist and discuss what you are seeing (or are not seeing) in regards to the Risperdal. It does sound like an occupational therapy evaluation is warranted in order to assess your child’s ability to regulate his body. If you have any concerns in the areas of self-regulation, attention, or sensory needs , occupational therapy will likely be beneficial for your child.


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