Both of my children need speech therapy. Caspar started when he was three and Otis started when he was four. They meet with a Speech Pathologist every week at school. They have work that they need to do at home. It is usually short repetitive work, involving games or crafting, where possible. It is a significant part of our life. My children don't need short term, quick fix therapy but rather long term, hard work therapy.
Caspar has tongue thrust. This means he needs a lot of work with his swallowing in addition to his speech. There are many things that can cause tongue thrust in children (thumb sucking, being tongue tied) however we can't find a reason and accept that it is a part of him. Until recently he couldn't 'click' his tongue and although he could make all sounds he didn't in his everyday speech. He has a lot of hard work to go.
Otis was still sticking his tongue out (between his teeth) when saying the 's' sound and this was a big give-away, while this type of behaviour is expected in a younger child he shouldn't be doing it at his age. Otis' speech concerns are less obvious than Caspar's however Otis still needs a lot of therapy. Otis works with one sound at a time. He works through this sound in the initial, end, and middle (medial) position in a word. He works on individual words, then uses these words in sentences.
It can be draining and we can get down about the therapy, but it could be worse. We are fortunate that we have access to high quality therapy. My children can communicate verbally but it's just not very clear and it has impacted their learning.
My best advice?
- If a teacher (or other care giver) raises concerns about your child's speech, have it checked out. See a Speech Pathologist for a quick assessment. Teachers see and hear many children every day. They may hear things we don't pick up. Trust their advice.
- If you have any concerns, any concerns at all, see a Speech Pathologist for a quick assessment.
Getting an early assessment is important. It means you can combat any criticism (rather than internally worrying 'is everything alright?'), it means you know up front what the issue is and how to help your child and your child can get the best treatment as early as possible. There are many speech issues that get worse as the child ages, many speech concerns will not 'fix themselves', children won't always 'grow out of it' and it can negatively impact on your child's social experiences and learning opportunities. General Practitioners and Paediatricians are also good starting points.
If you are seeing a Speech Pathologist and are not happy or not comfortable I recommend looking around to see if there is a better fit for you. This has happened to us and getting referrals from teachers was really important. When two trusted and independent teachers recommended the same Speech Pathologist we knew we had to give her a try. Our current Speech Pathologist (who the kids love) was Montessori educated and I feel this really impacts on her ability to connect with and 'get' my kids and how they learn, and how to be really productive in what is usually repetitive work.
Please feel free to ask questions. I am not an expert in speech however I've had a lot of experience with my children attending therapy. If you are concerned about your child's speech or development there are a few charts around and this post When are Speech Sounds Developed? might be useful.
Otis pictured above is using Articulation Station.