May is Better Speech and Hearing Month for speech-language pathologists and audiologists. I am a speech-language pathologists, speech therapist, or speech teacher…we go by different names. I presently help children learn to talk clearly, communicate effectively, and listen for understanding.
I am not only a speech therapist, but I am also a mother. My view on our profession changed drastically when I had children of my own. I have two real life language learners to watch and learn alongside. Our two boys were very different in their development of first words. Our first born was quick to talk, and our second son was much slower to speak.
I convinced my husband that we should seek early intervention services in Kansas when our younger son was about a year old, my husband thought we should watch and wait…comparing him perhaps too much to our older son. Our pediatrician and my husband agreed with my push for an early intervention evaluation.
Birth to three year old children in the United States of America have state/federal programs to fund evaluations in the areas of speech, occupational, and physical therapy. I studied this stuff…I knew early intervention was not only valuable but remarkable. It was available in our area so why not tap into that?
Our son did, indeed, need speech therapy. An early intervention team worked with him (and our family) on his speech-language concerns. I wanted to be his mom not the speech therapist. It turned out our son wasn’t hearing us. He had persistent fluid in his ears, but he never had an infection. A hearing test by an audiologist helped us make this discovery. After repeated hearing tests, ear checks at the doctor, attempts with allergy medications, and a specialist visit to an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor…
We decided to have a minor surgery for our son. He had ear tubes places in December 2010 when he was 18 months old. Within six months he was talking much more and in line with his peers. The fluid did come back from time to time, but we were able to monitor his speech and hearing with annual audiology visits and re-checks with our ENT and pediatrician.
When we had the ball rolling with speech therapy, I also asked for help in other areas. Our son was not keen on teeth brushing, putting his little toes in sand or grass, or eating many foods. The occupational therapist helped us with teeth brushing, and he became okay with many textures on his feet and hands. The nutritionist helped with suggestions in helping him eat other textures (mind you we had to re-visit a nutritionist this past fall 2012). Now we also see an occupational therapist for feeding weekly. One session down…many more to go.
Where we don’t have to go…speech therapy. Our son’s concerns in this area were addressed early by us, his pediatrician, and a great speech therapist (not me). Every child (and adult) is different, but moral of the story is that early intervention worked for us. I have seen it work for many children that I have worked with over the last ten years of my speech therapy career. Kids who go from being non-verbal to verbal. Kids meet goals quickly. They are truly little miracle sponges who love words, books, and play!
Who do you know who may need help with words? There are many children and adults who need speech therapy services. I entered the field because of my grandfather…he suffered many strokes during the 1990s. I watched my mother, aunts, uncles, and grandmother struggle to communicate with him after his strokes. He went through a lot of rehab, and in choosing a career…I found the suggestion of speech therapy to be novel. I wanted to be a doctor or a teacher. I have had the privilege of working in both medical and educational settings. Speech therapists work closely with doctors, teachers, and caregivers. If you have questions or concerns about speech or hearing issues…please visit the American Speech and Hearing Association’s Website.
Who can you help?