Overcoming Speech and Language Difficulties in Children

More than 10% of all children and young people (1.4 million in the UK) have long-term speech, language and communication needs. We also know that many children who underperform at school have hearing distortions, which can lead to speech/language problems, difficulty reading, spelling and processing any auditory information. A pattern of hypersensitive hearing can also lead to distractibility.

It is however entirely possible to overcome a majority of these difficulties with our Key Auditory Therapy. We have worked with numerous children and adults to unlock their full potential with auditory processing related difficulties.

Fundamental to our approach is the way in which we test for hearing difficulties: most hearing tests only look at whether a child/adult is hearing within the normal range (i.e. to identify whether there is hearing loss or not). Crucially, at The Key Clinic we assess how a child listens. This allows us to directly target individual hearing distortions.

Illustrating child in school with hearing difficulties
At The Key Clinic we assess how a child listens. This allows us to directly target individual hearing distortions.

Auditory Processing and Speech and Language Difficulties

An auditory processing difficulty will directly impact speech and language and will affect other areas of learning, especially reading and spelling. A child with auditory processing difficulties may find it very hard to understand specific spoken instructions, which will affect their performance at school.

Learning language and related academic skills entails left hemisphere specialisation skills that include reception and expression of language symbols, rhythm, ideation and sequencing. It also relies on the right hemisphere contribution of the larger spatial context and construction, melody and emotional intonation.

How Key Auditory Therapy helps with speech and language difficulties

Key Auditory Therapy gives us the ability to directly target specific, individual hearing distortions causing difficulties according to the results of an objective hearing test.

Working with Key Auditory Therapies involves using customised, modulated music files. These are created according to each patient's specific hearing profile. They work to correct the hearing distortions which lie behind their particular learning or speech/language difficulties.

This results in:

  • Reduced hypersensitive hearing

  • Better ability to phase out background noises

  • Improved Speech/Language abilities (articulation, normalised volume of speech, reduced stutter)

  • Improved reading ability and comprehension skills

  • Better spelling

  • Improved balance and motor coordination (due to the increased functioning of the vestibular system in the inner ear)

Auditory Problems and Dyslexia

Auditory processing difficulties also play an important role in dyslexia and may be an underlying cause for many people. Poor phonological awareness is a common weakness in those with dyslexia, leading to difficulty in identifying, matching, blending, segmenting, substituting, and deleting sounds.

With dyslexia often comes dyslaterality too. This means certain frequencies are perceived by one ear and not the other or more weakly than the other. This lack of laterality results in the inversion in the perception of certain letters or groups of letters. For example the teacher may say “cool” but the child may hear “look.” The child is hearing the hard consonants with more or less delay than the vowels and dipthongs, so the letters cannot be placed in proper order. The child therefore has to unscramble the message for it to be understood. As a result, the child will hear some words “wrong” and others are sorted correctly but slowly. This means the “dyslexic” will be penalised by the time and fatigue caused by all the extra effort.

Illustrating hearing difficulties and underachieving at school
Poor phonological awareness is a common weakness in those with dyslexia

We can look to the work of Dr. Guy Berard (author of ‘Hearing Equals Behaviour’) to better understand this. Berard states: “When we read the eyes move across the letters (...) the auditory cortex is activated so each letter can be translated into the correct sound”. Dr. Berard also quotes Berger (2009): “It is as though the auditory cortex is hearing the words being read”. The sounds are blended into a word and meaning must be attached to the word. The entire process must be automatic and rapid in order for reading to be efficient.

Stuttering and hearing difficulties

To address stuttering, it is important that both ears are working in harmony together. Using a full spectrum audiogram will provide a hearing profile in order to compare the child/adult right and left ears. For normal speech the left and right ears should be at the same sensitivity level.

Similarly, a stutter can result from left ear dominance and a time lag between what is being heard and what is spoken. It creates an echo which is unconsciously repeated.

Key Auditory Therapy can encourage right ear dominance which allows for a shorter, more direct pathway to Wernicke’s and Broca’s areas (language centres), situated in the left hemisphere.

If an individual has unclear dominance and sometimes switches from right ear to left, the time lag caused by the message from the left ear first passing to the right hemisphere and then crossing the corpus callous to the speech/language areas can result in letter/word reversals when the input is processed.

The idea is to encourage dominance of the right ear by stimulating it more relative to the left one. Right ear dominance leads to a faster, more efficient pathway to the speech and language processing centres of the left hemisphere and a clear dominance can avoid the possible letter/word switching which can occur due to the time lag effect of hearing some frequencies through the left ear (due to the need to transition the corpus callosum) while others are heard first through the right.

The Rooting Reflex and Speech difficulties

Retained rooting reflex can lead to sensitivity around the mouth, speech impairments, difficulty swallowing, sensitivity to food textures, and poor dexterity. Those with a retained rooting reflex can have a constant urge to have something in their mouth, often chewing things, yet are often sensitive to textures. They may also drool or struggle to form their words properly.

Suck Reflex and Speech difficulties

If a suck reflex is retained, the tongue pushes the front teeth out, causing an overbite. Symptoms include speech delays and impairments, trouble chewing and swallowing, movement of the tongue when drawing, or doing hand activities such as using scissors, or other manual activities, and a lisp.


Instead of focusing on what children hear, the Key Clinic audiogram looks at how we hear. We identify the malfunctioning of the auditory system and how it profoundly affects our speech and language.

We focus on working on the qualitative aspects of hearing rather than quantitative and how it results in the person hearing what they should. Neuroplasticity lets the brain create new neural pathways so reorganisation can occur and correct those speech and language problems. Auditory therapy provides this stimulation for reorganisation, which results in overcoming speech and language difficulties in children.

See more here: https://www.thekeyclinic.co.uk/physical-therapies

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