I read and hear often that parents are advised by fellow parents, teachers and even doctors to wait before addressing their speech-language questions or concerns with a speech-language therapist.
I silently ask, “How will waiting help?”
I wonder if people can sense parents’ fear.
Here’s something to think about… If your child does need help or services from a speech-language therapist, choosing to wait means that your child’s speech-language skills could take much longer to work on, and his/her speech-language or communication skills may not improve as much as your child is capable of. Both of these situations could impact your child’s reading or school success.
Here’s a quote that supports research for early speech-language services, “Early speech and language development has a decisive influence on later academic accomplishments, health, well-being and quality of life” (Guralnick, 2011; National Research Council & Institute of Medicine, 2000).
Every fall, I collaborate with some local preschool teachers for their suggestions for which preschool children could benefit from speech-language services. I also share a handout for their parents with key tips.
These key tips help parents think about and observe their child’s specific speech-language skills, and then to decide whether coming with their child for an informal screening session would benefit their child, and begin to address their speech-language questions and/or concerns.
Because parents play a valuable role with their child’s speech-language development, their opinions and related questions are also considered. I never turn down a parent’s request for screening their preschool-age child. If a parent shares their time and effort for the privilege of meeting them and their child, and bravely talks about their speech-language questions and concerns, it’s always a worthwhile experience.
Beginning with a trusting, collaborative and respectful relationship is key. The informal screening experience consists of a conversation and phone call with parents, as well as observing, communicating, interacting, and playing together with their child. Connecting with families is how they begin to get to know my values and capabilities as a speech-language therapist, and to trust me enough to help their family with their child’s speech-language needs. Parents will then ask more questions and share more helpful information. They are also more likely to accept my recommendations that may include:
- external referrals to other professionals
- suggestions for medical referrals to ask their their family doctor about
- an assessment of their child’s speech-language skills followed potentially by speech-language therapy
- suggestions to do at home
Gradually, we form a team together with the teacher and other helpful professionals. We then collaborate together on ways that we can all help their child. With the team’s knowledge and support, the fear that parents have about their child’s speech-language needs begins to subside.
A speech therapist can teach you how to engage with your child so they will enjoy practicing speech while playing games and having fun with you.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts about referring your child for a screening.