The Best Advice for Parents with a Child Starting Speech Therapy
As parents, any time we perceive our child is struggling, it’s natural to struggle along with them. If you and your child are new to speech therapy, it’s no different, and the prospect of beginning a program can be daunting. Here is information to help guide your decisions and help you and your child feel comfortable.
Finding the Right Fit
One of the best ways to ensure your confidence is selecting a speech therapist who puts you and your child at ease. Start by examining candidates’ credentials, and don’t be shy about asking for information. Explore backgrounds and licensing information. Note there are numerous online programs which are worthwhile, but do your homework to verify whomever you’re considering has a degree through an accredited program.
Teach2Talk points out it’s generally in your child’s best interests to choose a speech pathologist with experience as well, rather than someone who has recently graduated. Also, when talking with candidates, think about not only whether you feel comfortable with how each one communicates with you, but also consider how your child communicates. You want your youngster to feel relaxed about therapy, not nervous or misunderstood.
What to Expect
Once you find the right fit, there is a fairly standard procedure you can expect a speech therapist to follow. The first thing will be an assessment of your child, examining where delays might be. Some of the details a speech pathologist might screen include the ability to make certain sounds, the ability to comprehend and use language, and the ability to use language socially. From there, your therapist will develop goals and a program to help meet those goals. Oftentimes there are things parents can do at home to enhance the child’s therapy program as well.
Parents often feel helpless when their children are struggling with a communication issue, but thankfully, there are many ways you can help your child. On top of that, several at-home exercises are fun for you and your youngster, so you can both look forward to the time together. You can play games like hopscotch, with your child repeating a word every time she hops on a number. Practicing lip, tongue, cheek, and mouth movements is also helpful, so you can turn blowing on dandelions, playing a harmonica, or sipping drinks through a straw into subtle and fun therapy exercises. And don’t forget classic tongue twisters! When you serve up some ice cream, don’t hesitate to turn it into speech therapy-fun with, “I scream you scream, let’s all scream for ice cream!”
Rethinking Routine Activities
There are probably some things you and your child already do together which, with a bit of tweaking, could be considered part of your supportive activities. For example, when your child is painting or coloring, talk about the colors and ask your child to repeat them back to you. Have your kiddo ask you for the colors she wants, and build on the conversation as skills improve. Similarly, putting together puzzles and playing games can be part of therapy. Ask your child to identify objects, and coach her with prompts. Keep things light, fun, and encouraging, rather than turning it into work. Think of it as a time for making memories for you both, not just building skills.
Easing your Child’s Anxiety
Kids are often self-conscious about anything that makes them “different,” and Speech Buddies points out it can help build your child’s confidence to meet other children with similar speech challenges. Being with other kids who have common concerns can provide a sense of belonging. Also, be conscious of how you communicate with your child. Avoid finishing sentences for her, maintain eye contact when you’re talking together, and be patient with your child’s side of the conversation.
Starting anything new feels challenging, especially when it comes to your child’s well-being. Research therapists to find the right fit, learn what to expect, augment your child’s program, and help your child feel at ease. Facing the process together and making preparations will make you both feel better and will help ensure success.
By Jenny Wise, mom to a child on the autism spectrum