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Speech and Language: What’s the Difference?

 The terms speech and language are often used interchangeably, with an overall assumption that these words refer to how we speak.  It’s true that both speech and language are critical components of communicating with each other, but there is much more to it than just how we speak.

According to The American Speech Language and Hearing Association, “speech” refers to the actual sounds and words we say. If you dive a little deeper, speech includes articulation, voice and fluency. Articulation refers to the actual production of how we make sounds. For example, what do my lips do when making the ‘m’ sound, or where should my tongue be when saying the ‘c’ in cat? In addition, voice is specific to the anatomical combination of our vocal folds and our breathing to produce what we call our voice. Not everyone’s voice sounds the same, some people speak loud while others are much more quiet. The pitch of our voices also vary, some are high-pitched, low-pitched, and others are somewhere in between. Speech also considers fluency, which is the rhythm of how we speak. While some people repeat words when speaking or take pauses in the middle of a sentence, others are able to express their entire thought without a break or stumble.

Now let’s take a moment to consider “language.” At its surface, language is the actual words we speak in order to communicate our thoughts, ideas, wants and needs with others.  It considers the meaning of words, the understanding of words, when we use words, and how we combine them together to communicate an idea. When an individual appears to have difficulty in these areas, it is determined if they are displaying deficits at a receptive or expressive level. A receptive language disorder may be present if an individual has a difficult time understanding what is being said, following directions and/or answering questions after reading a story. On the contrary, an expressive language disorder may be present if an individual has trouble communicating his/her own thoughts. These individuals may have difficulty creating a sentence that makes sense. Is what they are saying missing pronouns or are they using the wrong word tense (“I goed,” instead of “I went”), or are they forgetting to include words all together?

At this point you probably feel like you understand the basic differences between speech and language, but wait…there’s more. Language does not solely refer to the words we speak, but it can also be expressed in a written form, through facial expressions and body language used to communicate meaning. At its core, communication is simply the expression of a thought or an idea. Have you ever used a smile to say thank you to a stranger who held the door open for you while you were navigating 6 bags of groceries and a toddler out of the store? Or, have you ever looked up to see your child with their arms crossed and head down after you told them they had to finish their dinner before getting up to play? These simple actions allow us to express what we are thinking or how we are feeling, without ever saying a word.

Speech and language, although these words have very different meanings, both allow us to communicate with others.

Are you curious about your child’s speech our language skills? Click here for more info.
Written by Speech-Language Pathologist, Katie George

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Patient Reviews

LLA Therapy

Patient Reviews

Crystal Scheibe

Great place, glad we found them. Been going to Medina over 2 months now and he loves Lauryn and Kyler. Wish they had more ABA therapy places available... live in Wooster and long drive everyday.

Karrie Swan LaRock

My 11 year old son has dyslexia and has made noticeable gains in working At LLA THERAPY. Katie is strong in her approach toward him and also keeps him comfortable enough to perform well. We will continue visiting both the Fairlawn and Hudson offices and recommend them highly.

Ron Monroe

My 9 year old just completed about 9 months of weekly speech sessions (due to his stuttering) with Matt Hagge at LLA and we are thrilled with the experience and results. What I thought might be a negative (what kid really wants to go to speech class?) was made very positive by Matt, and my son never hesitated or complained when we talked about class. He really enjoyed it and really took what Matt taught him to heart. His speech has been greatly improved and we definitely recommend LLA. Thank you so much!

Heather Dougherty-Pantoja

My son’s Occupational Therapist, Jess, is an amazing OT! She gives practical tips on working with my son at home and school!

Terri Apgar

I cannot say enough good things about LLA Therapy. My daughter was a client of Teal Simmons’ for approximately 2 years and was just released from speech therapy! She was diagnosed with Apraxia in 2015 and worked with Teal twice a week. Through Teal’s application of PROMPT therapy, my daughter had age-appropriate speech after one year. All of the staff we interacted with at LLA were absolutely wonderful. They really care about what they do and making sure your child achieves their goals.

Kelli Geisler Davisson

LLA Therapy has been an excellent experience for my son as well as my family! My son always asks, "When can I go see Ms. Jeannine again, is it Monday??" He has also made huge gains in only 5 months! I would highly recommend LLA and have already shared my experience with friends looking for services!

Victoria Hansford-Price

We are so grateful for our Speech Therapist Ms.Teal. We have seen a great improvement with our sons confidence and communication abilities since we have started "Prompt" therapy. What we love the most about LLA and Ms. Teal is that Kohl feels comfortable and relaxed which has played a critical role in his progress. Thank you Ms. Teal for all you have done.

Laura Lee Hogsett

They have helped in numerous ways. Speech, OT and behavioral. I've had numerous compliments on my son's progress thanks in very large part to LLA. I would recommend LLA before I recommend our local children's hospitals, though they are good, they don't have the staff that LLA does.

Amy Furukawa

We had a great experience with Matt Hagge at LLA! Our Middle School age son was becoming very conscious of his voice, which is nasal due to a cleft palate. Matt helped him to better form his sounds and project his voice in a way that makes the unavoidable nasality less noticeable.Our son is more confident and outgoing & even took on a speaking role in the church play. Matt has the perfect personality to relate with our son, and we would recommend him to anyone needing speech therapy services!

Jessica Havalotti

LLA Therapy has been an excellent experience for our daughter. I would highly recommend LLA. Miss Grace was so amazing and I can't believe how quickly our daughter showed improvement. Thank you!
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