5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Child’s Speech Therapy
When my oldest son was 11 months old, he said his first words: Dada, ball, cat, dog, car. Before he turned 18 months, he was counting from 1 to 10 and knew the entire alphabet. When he was 2, he was not speaking in sentences, his vocabulary was still limited, and he did not call me Mama. As my concern mounted and I talked to a few friends, some assured me that it was “normal” for boys to be slower in the speech and language areas, and because he is multilingual (English and Arabic), a small delay was bound to happen.
My gut told me something else. We did give it more time and tried to read to him, to talk constantly with him, to point things out and name them, to encourage him to articulate what words he said properly, and to pray fervently.
When he turned 3 and there was barely any progress, we knew that we had to get help. We were lucky; we found a wonderful speech and language pathologist who has been working with our son for the past 18 months, and we have definitely seen some improvement.
For the first six months, progress was slow. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that we expected overnight miracles, so overjoyed were we to get him the help he needed. At the same time, I realized that in getting help, my husband and I had stopped getting involved in his progress. We relied too much on his speech therapy. Realizing that error and learning a few things along the way has brought about greater progress in our son.
These are the 5 things I've learned in order to get the most out of your child's speech-language pathologist.
Find the right speech-language pathologist
Not every speech-language pathologist is the right fit for your child. For us, we knew that we had found the right one for many reasons, chief among them was that my normally cautious child took to her immediately. She set him at ease from the start, and adapted her skills, knowledge, and style to him and his little quirks. She also asked us the right questions during his assessment, and explained in great detail how speech and language therapy works, and how she planned to approach my son's therapy.
My son's speech pathologist is a keen note taker. At every session, she writes down what they worked on in that session, his progress in certain areas, and what they will focus on the following week. We are shown these notes weekly, which is very helpful to know the kind of progress he's making.
Practice, practice, practice
We also ask our speech pathologist for “homework”—ideas and suggestions on how we can practice with our son at home, based on what they work on that week. It's not just a great way for our child to improve, but it's a sensible way for parents to get involved in the process.
Ask for reports
We ask for detailed progress reports from our speech pathologist. Now, not every therapist works the same way. Some are more structured and tend to have their own “reporting” style. Some are more relaxed and may give you verbal updates when you ask. For us, having a written report over the course of time helps us see how far he's come and how much further he has to go. It also gives the speech pathologist realistic goals to set for our son. This also gives you the opportunity to assess if speech therapy is helping and that you have the right speech pathologist working with your child.
This one is a no-brainer! Once you and your child have committed to seeing a speech-language pathologist, be consistent in every sense of the word. Attend every session unless you really cannot make it due to illness or emergencies. Practice with your child at every opportunity. Get regular reports for his or her progress.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. The day will come when your child will pepper you with incessant questions, have long conversations about what they did at school, and offer your their opinions!
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