Speech Therapy: Where Do I Start? (and Other FAQs)
Posted on 01/28/20 in Therapies and Interventions by Peak Potential Therapy
When it comes to starting speech-language therapy, parents are often unsure where to begin. It can be overwhelming to receive a diagnosis from a pediatrician, with recommendations to begin speech therapy as soon as possible. It can be equally overwhelming to hear your child's teacher bring up speech, language, or social skills during conferences. Here, we have answered a few of the most common questions that parents have when they are interested in starting speech therapy with their child at Peak Potential Therapy.
Does my child need speech therapy?
As stated above, sometimes a doctor or teacher will recommend seeking out speech therapy for your child. Other times, parents have their own concerns, but are unsure if their child will just “grow out of it.” There are several indicators that your child may need speech therapy. As you read the statements below, see if any of them apply to your child.
- My child cannot make speech sounds, or cannot make them clearly. Your child may be completely non-verbal, just beginning to speak, or fully verbal, but not in a way that you and your family can understand all the time.
- My child has problems understanding language. Your child may not only be struggling to produce language, but also struggling with language comprehension. One indicator of a language comprehension issue is if your child has difficulty following directions.
- My child has a speech rhythm problem. Stuttering and stammering are both fluency disorders that are interrupting the flow of speech.
- My child has difficultly eating and swallowing. If your child struggles to eat and/or swallow, he or she may have a disorder such as dysphagia, which can be treated during speech therapy. Or, your child may gag or refuse to eat certain food groups, textures, or consistencies, in which he/she can benefit from a systematic sensory and feeding program which can be helped by an occupational therapist or speech therapist.
If one or more of the above statements are true, consider calling Milestones to learn about therapy options in your area. Peak Potential Therapy accepts multiple funding sources to ensure that we can help as many clients as possible.
What are the benefits of speech therapy?
There are too many benefits of speech therapy to list in one article! The following three are the most universal benefits, but little milestones are reached throughout the entire speech therapy process.
- Speech therapy gives children a voice. If a child is nonverbal, and has difficulty producing any sounds at all, they lack a voice and a way to communicate effectively. Through speech therapy and forms of aided communication, like communication devices, children learn a way to communicate with their parents and friends.
- Speech therapy teaches children social language skills. Speech therapy is not only about the physical ability to speak, but also about the unspoken parts of our language. When we communicate, we use so much more than simply words - we communicate through eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, and so on. When children learn other aspects of communication, they can more easily communicate with and understand those around them.
- Speech therapy promotes self-confidence. When a child struggles with a speech disorder or delay, they likely also struggle with a lack of confidence and self-esteem, especially in situations with their peers. Working with a speech-language pathologist, a child will gain an ability to communicate, giving them more confidence to engage and interact with peers and adults.
What does a speech therapy session look like?
At Peak Potential Therapy, we offer a holistic approach to therapy. Using a well-rounded and transdisciplinary approach helps children reach their peak potential. Therefore, every child’s session looks different, as our programs are tailored to each client’s individual needs. We also use the term “child” loosely, as we treat clients from birth and up, and don’t kick them out on their 22nd birthday. Their needs change as they grow and learn, so it is important to find a therapy provider that will continue to provide services. Below are a few of the ways that sessions can differ between clients.
- Location. One child may receive services at their home, to work on skills in the location that they will most commonly be used. Another child may be seen at their school or daycare, to best meet their needs in a convenient and educational setting. A third child may be seen at our therapy center in Northfield. Furthermore, a young adult working on transition skills may meet his or her therapist in the community, to work on job training or life skills.
- Session Layout. Parents are welcomed and encouraged to participate or observe during therapy sessions, particularly if they have younger children. After all, we only see them once or twice a week - you see them every day! Our sessions can be one-on-one, or can be group sessions. If your child is working on social skills, we offer several Social Skills Groups for various ages and abilities throughout the week.
- Targeting Goals. Some of our smallest clients cannot sit in a chair for an entire session - and we should not expect them to! Our elementary and middle schoolers have just come from sitting at their desk at school, and are restless. Many of our sessions are done crawling around on the floor, lounging on beanbag chairs, or running around the therapy center during a scavenger hunt! Speech and language skills can be targeted anywhere, and during any activity! Therapists may incorporate crafts, games, toys, and science experiments into therapy to promote greater opportunities for language usage and development. However, some clients require structured settings in order to achieve their goals. In this instance, the therapist will settle the client into one of our themed therapy rooms for the session, and will bring the specific therapy activities into that room.
What can I do to help at home?
- Slow down and simplify your language. Speaking slowly and clearly aids in processing and comprehension. You do not have to speak in slow motion, but make an extra effort to use concise and meaningful language. If your child is working on articulation of certain speech sounds, enunciate those sounds when you say them. If he or she is working on language comprehension, give simple, one-step directions, or pause between multiple-step directions, to ensure your child has time to process what you are saying.
- Repeat things. It can be helpful to hear you repeat the words and sounds with which they are struggling. This is called “Auditory Bombardment.” If “dog” is a tough word for your child to say or understand, use it as often as you can when communicating! Say, “I see a dog. The dog is walking and the dog is sniffing. That dog is big. The dog is brown and white.” That is five uses of the word “dog” in a few seconds, which reinforces the sounds, words, and language concepts over and over again.
- Read actively. Storytime can be vital for both speech and language development. Hearing the words helps your child get an idea of how things are supposed to sound, but the stories themselves can help with language comprehension, literacy, and cognition. Have your child help you tell the story. Change a familiar story and see if he is catching the difference. Buy “cause-and-effect” books with flaps and pop-up pictures so your child has more to interact with. Books unlock speech, language, and cognition just about as well as any tool at our disposal, so use storytime as an opportunity to grow.
- Step back and observe. Let your child run the show! Rather than trying to do all the talking, watch what your child is doing. In your silence, they may begin to make sounds to get your attention, or they may reach for their picture symbols or device to tell you something. If your child shows an interest in an item or action, use that as a means of promoting speech and language. After all, we all like to talk about things we enjoy! After observing, then use the other strategies listed above.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Peak Potential Therapy is committed to helping children learn to develop effective speech, language, comprehension, eating, and social skills! If you are interested in learning more about speech therapy, or have questions about how to begin the process, contact us! Peak Potential Therapy also offers Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy, Academic Tutoring/Intervention Services, Occupational Therapy, and Summer Camps. Click here to learn how Peak Potential Therapy can help your child and family.