Curious about speech therapy and how it can help your child? For most parents, speech therapy is a new experience. However, a lack of knowledge about speech therapy shouldn’t stop you from pursuing the help your child needs. Before reaching out to a speech therapist, read these answers from All Good Schools that address common questions about speech therapy.
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What is Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy provides kids with “extra help reaching the developmental speech and language milestones for their age,” Expressable explains. Speech therapy can help with a variety of speech and communication problems, including:
- Speech sound disorders, including articulation and phonological process disorders. These include problems making certain sounds or syllables.
- Fluency problems such as stuttering or cluttering.
- Difficulties understanding and expressing language, known as receptive and expressive language disorders.
- Social communication disorders, also known as pragmatics. These include speech and comprehension problems specific to social situations.
Speech therapy also helps with vocal tone, recovery from brain injuries, and swallowing disorders.
Who Performs Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy is provided by speech-language pathologists (SLPs). SLPs may work in schools or in hospitals and private medical practices. Speech-language pathologists must obtain a master’s degree in the field, gain clinical experience, and pass a licensing exam. Licensure requirements vary by state. Many SLPs are also certified by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA).
How Can Parents Hire a Speech-Language Pathologist?
When hiring a SLP, there are two critical pieces of information parents need to verify:
- The SLP has experience with your child’s disorder. Many SLPs specialize in a subset of speech and language disorders. Choosing a speech therapist experienced in treating your child’s disorder increases the chance of success.
- The SLP is licensed. SLPs must be licensed by the state in which they work. A license guarantees the therapist meets professional standards, including an accredited education. Keep in mind that many SLPs today receive their degrees from online programs. Don’t worry if you don’t recognize a university’s name, as long as the program is accredited and the license is current.
Speech therapy may be covered by your health insurance, so check your policy before setting up an appointment. If you don’t currently have health insurance, look into the low-cost plans offered through your state.
What About Speech-Language Pathologists in Schools?
Your child may be assigned speech therapy as part of their Individualized Education Plan. Children receiving in-school speech therapy may meet with an SLP individually or in a group setting. There is no fee for school-based speech therapy.
Not all children with speech issues qualify for school-based speech therapy. In some cases, students are removed from in-school speech therapy before a speech issue is fully resolved. That’s because a school’s mission is to resolve speech issues that impact learning; speech disorders below that threshold don’t qualify.
How Can Parents Prepare Their Child for Speech Therapy?
Meeting with an SLP can be a scary experience for kids. Many children start speech therapy before kindergarten and may not be used to working with adults outside of family. Luckily, speech therapists have experience working with children and know how to make nervous kids comfortable.
Walk and Talk with Your Child About What to Expect
Parents can help by telling kids what to expect. Take a walk with your child so that the conversation feels less intimidating. If there’s a store in your neighborhood that your child enjoys, you can even chat while walking there so there is a little reward at the end of your conversation.
If your child is receiving speech therapy in school, explain that they’ll be pulled out of class and why. For kids in private speech therapy, explain they’ll be talking to a new friend and share the SLP’s name and photo.
What Should Parents Expect from Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy begins with a brief assessment during which your child’s speech behaviors are observed. If speech therapy is needed, the next step is a full assessment. An assessment involves interviews with adults in the child’s life and observations of the child’s behavior. It may take several weeks to complete.
Following the assessment, the SLP provides recommendations for your child’s care. Speech therapy can be provided in a variety of settings and formats. If you don’t understand the SLP’s recommendations, ask! Speech therapy can be confusing, but as an essential ally in your child’s language development, it’s important that you understand the process.
Both you and your child will likely have activities and assignments to work on together. You may be concerned about finding time in your schedule to take this on, so be sure you are practicing good work-life balance, such as setting aside time to encourage your child’s interests and spending time with them at bedtime.
You can even set aside a designated space in your home that is quiet and stress-free for you and your child to work together. This will ensure that both of you are able to focus on making progress. Show your child how to declutter and organize their bedroom so that you can create a workspace in there. Let them pick out colored bins and shelves so they are excited about using them. And help them to add some of their clothes and toys to a donation box to remove unnecessary clutter.
Trust the Process
Remember: Speech therapy isn’t an overnight fix. It takes time to resolve problems with speech and communication. Stay involved in your child’s speech therapy and work on overcoming speech issues at home. With time and dedication, you can make speech therapy a success for your child.
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