Any speech therapy practice is constantly changing–clients are being dismissed and new ones are beginning therapy for the first time. It occurred to me that I should blog about some of the expectations that parents have who are new to the preschool therapy process.
- The speech therapist has all the answers. We don’t know all the answers immediately. I am often asked, “How long will this take?” Will he learn to talk?” I tell parents that I don’t have a crystal ball and can’t answer those questions. Certainly, after I have seen a child for several weeks or months, I have a better idea of whether they are responding quickly to therapy or if they are progressing more slowly, whether it is a simple delay or might involve a disorder. This can be shared with parents although kids are always surprising me and they may take a jump in their progress at any time.
- Things should go smoothly from the start. Kids need to adjust to the therapy process. Even though preschool therapy should be provided through play so kids love it, it is still an adjustment for a 2 or 3 year-old to pay attention to an adult for 45 minutes to an hour. It is up to the therpist to change activities often enough to keep a child’s interest, but intially you might be just teaching that the child has to say something to get something (Isn’t that the jist of communication?) Up until now, a language delayed preschooler has developed their own tactics for getting what they want–ranging from screaming, grunting, pointing etc. Now they are being rewarded for verbalizing, even if it isn’t clear, to get what they want, which is the beginning of successful communication.
- I want to be involved but how? Parents need to be educated too. Parents should be an integral part of preschool speech therapy. Hopefully they can be sitting in on the sessions, learning how to encourage specific speech and language progress. I always share exactly what I am working on, how I am doing it, and how much to push without ever frustrating a child. Give a list of words, phrases or concepts for the parent to reinforce until you see the child the next time.
- If my child said it once, he should be able to do it again. Not so. Some kids can consistently repeat a new sound or word, but often they need prompting to say it again. If they can’t repeat the sound or word after the therapist is gone, simply keep modeling it in your own speech with no expectations put on them, “Here comes the car. The car is turning, Stop the car.” Your child might repeat “car” after all that modeling by you, or you might hear it later on. Some preschoolers are late in talking because they have difficulty motor planning the speech sounds (apraxia). In that case, it will take a lot of practice before they can easily say sounds and words.