To the parent who is on the fence about starting speech therapy for your child, I was you and wish I wouldn’t have waited as long as I did.
My sister is a speech therapist, and when our son was two, she suggested that he might benefit from speech therapy.
I had not noticed his speech was an issue but wanted to see what his doctor thought. At our son’s annual check-up I asked our pediatrician if she thought speech therapy was necessary. She thought it wasn’t since she could understand the typical percentage of what he was saying when he talked and he was very verbal. So we let it go.
For the next two years, we would have the same conversation with our pediatrician at his yearly check-up and the answer was always that our son’s speech appeared to be “normal” for his age. Since we could understand the majority of what he was saying and his speech matched his peers’, we accepted this. We had no problem understanding him—although he did pronounce a few words differently, it seemed normal for his age.
When our son was four, he met a new friend at his preschool, and I became friends with this boy’s mom. Through our many mom-to-mom conversations, it was revealed that her son received speech therapy. I shared our experience, and she said something that forever changed me . . .
What’s the harm in having extra support?
She said this to me right around the same time we began to notice our son getting frustrated when we didn’t understand certain words he was saying. As his vocabulary increased, there were more and more words he would say that we could no longer understand without asking him to repeat or explain what he was saying.
We decided it was time to schedule an evaluation for speech therapy. The evaluation was very thorough. He was prompted to say several words, and a physical exam of his mouth was performed. During the evaluation, it was clear to me that he would benefit from speech therapy.
A week later we received the assessment report stating he has an articulation disorder. The following week he started speech therapy at a clinic.
After a few months of weekly speech therapy sessions, our son has learned how to correctly pronounce certain sounds. He is much happier and less frustrated. Some of his behavioral challenges have even been resolved.
Our son absolutely loves his speech therapist and seeing her is a highlight of his week.
During his weekly 45-minute session, he gets to play two games that he picks from the clinic’s fully-stocked game room. His speech therapist picks 10 words they practice together during the session, and she makes it really fun for him. The session is divided into short segments of him practicing his sounds and having free play.
Some days she holds up the flashcards, and he gets to shoot them with a popper after he says them correctly five times, others times she places the flashcards around the room and he jumps on them after he says the words.
Our son thinks of speech therapy as playtime and loves to go.
As parents, we have benefitted from sitting in on the sessions to learn techniques to give our son cues to correctly pronounce words or make certain sounds.
Through the one-on-one sessions, his speech therapist has been able to really get to know our son and discover teaching strategies most effective for him. He has responded so positively to some of these teaching techniques that we have carried them over to how we parent.
Speech therapy has been a surprisingly rich experience for our entire family, and I wish we had started sooner.
As parents, we can miss some of the warning signs that our kids need extra support because knowing them so well allows us to overcompensate for their shortcomings. Your child will always benefit from extra support. If you are mulling over whether or not your child needs extra support, I encourage you to contact a professional who can perform an evaluation.
Speech therapists are highly trained in assessing speech disorders whereas pediatricians do not typically have this specialized skill set. If you are on the fence about starting speech therapy for your child, I highly recommend scheduling an evaluation and then deciding what is best for your family.