For my son, speech therapy has been a component of our life for quite some time now, as he had hearing issues mainly associated with a glue ear up until really recently. Consequently it meant that his speech was delayed because of his hearing and the lack of reinforcement and practice that was a by product of his Selective Mutism. My youngest son had a few issues more so being up to scratch with where he should be in his development of speech with also the added bonus of waxy ears.
For us the added complication of the speech delay meant that he would have increased anxiety around the fact that he wasn't at the same level and would not know how to speak even if he wanted to. So to cover this properly there are many different levels of assistance/therapy that we can give our children in regards to speech that can be helpful so I am going to divide this up into a few different posts to cover the different areas.
Home is where it all starts. The reality of anything we do for our children is that we are the drivers of the things we do with our children. Whether or not we believe that our children need speech therapy, do they have an issue or are we too busy to even attempt to address what is happening. Everything starts and ends with us. So the first step is acknowledging is there an issue and secondly how bad is the issue. We will cover diagnosis, assesment and so on in the next post.
So once we have realised that there could be an issue these are the things we can do that are simple, that can really help our children.
- Whenever we speak to our children (especially instructions) get down to their level, or bring them up and speak to them face to face, not behind them. Use clear uncomplicated instructions and if they are able ask them what you are telling them if you believe they didn't understand you.
- Reduce background noise whenever possible, when speaking even if it means pressing pause on the tv or turning down music it does make a different.
- Talk to your children, be attentive when they approach you to talk, this really builds their self esteem and confidence in speaking. Speak back to them, rephrase what they said to show you understand. Such as labelling the items they are talking about in terms of colours identifying factors such as fast slow, soft, hard, cold, hot. Talk about what interests them, what they are looking or pointing and and copy by pointing and use your most enthusiastic voice.
- Use familar phrases regularly in their routines, they will start copying and repeating what you say in no time at all (this is a big part of the Hanen Program which I will discuss later).
- Read books as often as possible, not only just read the books talk about the pictures what the characters are doing.
- Take notice of cold, ear aches, hearing loss during colds and treat them immediately. Lots of issues are resolved by prompt treatment of any underlying issues such as ear infections it is common for children not to be able to hear you when they are have a cold.
- Regurarly monitor your child's hearing ability, I do the check of talking behind them sometimes, I go into another room and talk to them from there, I tell my sons that I am going to ask them about a lolly but I am testing them. I found, for children that if you ask them if they want a lolly (or another treat) without hesitation if their hearing is ok the majority of the time you will get their attention immediately, this can give a better indication of how they are hearing. Unfortunatley we can be easy to ignore at times!
- Play with your child, talk to them during this play time even five minutes makes a difference
This is where it all starts with us at the home. Next up we will look at diagnosis, assessment and the medical part of speech therapy.