At this time of year, many schools assess the progress their students have made, and in turn re-assess their materials needs. Some students are making excellent progress in therapy and some may have already been discharged from articulation therapy, using Speech Buddies and other evidence-based materials. But, as we know from a seminal study I often cite (Jacoby, 2002), 28% of kids make little to no progress in even an extended regimen of therapy.
I have had the pleasure of working with Justina Heintz, M.S. CCC-SLP, an SLP with Northside Independent School District (NISD) in San Antonio, Texas. This school district is not only one of the largest in Texas but is one of the top thirty largest school districts in the United States. They approached Speech Buddies with the primary aim of reducing caseloads. And in order to justify a large-scale adoption of Speech Buddies Tools, the district, under the supervision of Ms. Heintz, undertook a pilot study to determine the effect of Speech Buddies Tools on the districts’ caseloads. Ms. Heintz presented her findings at the 2015 annual convention of the Texas Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at length with her about this study. She shared some updates: about how the first year of Northside’s district-wide Speech Buddies Tools adoption program progressed, about the impact that Speech Buddies Tools are already having on reducing clinician caseloads, and about how Northside SLPs are improving the lives of the children of NISD.
It’s that time of year again: “Jingle Bell Rock” is more ubiquitous than dust, and my kids’ screams as they watch TV ads get more shrill with the expectation that this time might be different — they just might get the bauble they are nagging about. Despite that, I do really enjoy this time of year. It’s kind of like a mini-summer vacation: lots of time for travel, family, and special activities. And the kids get much-needed time to just veg out. But just because this is a jam-packed winter vacation, don’t slip off track with your speech and language goals. These wintertime speech therapy holiday activities will keep your speech student on track, and generate some fun in the meantime.
There are many wonderful, publicly funded options for your family’s speech therapy services. These could come in the form of speech and language therapy provided by your local Early Intervention (EI) program, the Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) administered by your local school district, or from services provided directly to your child in his or her public school or via something called a Related Service Authorization (RSA). You may also have access to services funded in whole or in part by your health insurance plan. No matter who is providing your school speech therapy, you may want to consider supplementing those services, where possible. Here are 4 reasons that these extra services may have a profound impact on your child’s development, and could be a smart investment in your child’s future.
School speech therapy services, or those provided by other public pay sources are invaluable to your child, your family, to society in general. But because of budgetary pressures, school districts and other public payers do not allow for parents to choose which speech-language pathologist their child can see. This is of course unfortunate as so much of any therapy relationship is based on a “good fit” between your child and the speech therapist. Private speech therapy services have the added benefit of allowing you maximum choice. Speech Buddies Connect gives you choice based on many different therapists in your local area so you can decide what is most important to you. Is it the speech therapist’s level of experience or qualifications with a particular speech or language challenge? Is it convenience in terms of schedule or location? No matter your priorities, you have your choice in finding the best speech-language pathologist (SLP) for your family.
In the case of school speech therapy in kindergarten and elementary school, services are most often provided in groups of 3
students, and sometimes up to 5 or more students. Again, this is primarily due to strains on the resources of the public school system; there are simply too many students in need of speech and language therapy for the number of speech therapists on staff.
This of course means that for every 30-minute session your child receives, he or she is only really getting 10 minutes of direct intervention that is specifically tailored to your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals but is still missing that full 30 minutes of class time. I have had clients who have preferred to decline school speech therapy to work privately instead because of this very issue. Now I wouldn’t necessarily recommend you decline school-based services, particularly if your child is working on overcoming a language-based learning challenge. But private speech therapy does provide undivided attention which may provide a stronger learning environment for your child.
Public payers of speech therapy services also tend to offer reduced convenience in terms of where services take place. In the case of EI, services are almost always performed in the child’s home or day care facility. Very rarely do they approve services in the provider’s office. In the case of school-funded preschool speech and language therapy, there is more flexibility but in many cases, the school administrator will dictate whether services are conducted in the provider’s place of business. Depending on how contracts with the provider agencies and the local school district are structured, they may ask you to travel sometimes long distances to your speech therapy lessons. Private therapy allows you to choose your speech therapist for maximum personal convenience. And with our lives often so hectic these days, this benefit is not to be underestimated!
Another Hand on Deck
Speech and language development is incredibly important to a child’s whole course of life – there simply is no other way to put it. The sheer weight of this importance can be enough for parents to seek additional support for their children. Also, for many children, having another professional communication partner can be invaluable. You will also have another member of your team: someone who you can bounce ideas off of and someone whose experience could be a powerful complement to the team you already have in place. So if you feel that your child could you a boost and you already have public speech therapy services in place, it may be time to consider finding a local speech therapist through Speech Buddies Connect.
April is Autism Awareness Month and we wanted to highlight an important developmental issues related to ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). For those living with ASD language and social development is often rightfully the focus of a therapy plan for any child. Depending on that plan, goals specifically devoted to improving speech intelligibility can be secondary. The difference between speech and language, however, is critical here. This post is dedicated to outlining what a parent might observe in their child’s speech articulation – in other words, how clear and understandable that speech is — and provide some guidance on how to improve speech articulation and therefore intelligibility.
First, it’s critical to understand that there is no one pattern of speech that would define ASD. Like the condition itself, speech intelligibility in autism can range from non-verbal to perfect intelligibility. The advice here is more relevant to those children who are currently pursuing the verbal route of communication. And while a child may currently need an assistive to communicate, this can change! I have seen this happen several times in my clinical practice. Second, I strongly feel that especially earlier on in the communication development of a child with ASD, the ability to communicate his or her needs and wants to promote academic and social success is paramount. However, at some point in the long-term plan, misarticulated speech should become a strong priority.
So when speech articulation does indeed become a priority in your child’s overall therapy plan, one excellent place to start is the well-established developmental norms of mastering certain sounds. Target the sounds that kids tend to master earlier in childhood because these also tend to be simpler to say from the standpoint of what the mouth needs to do to say the sounds correctly. Also, keep in mind that when your child is learning a new sound (e.g. the L sound), he or she may be able to say the sound perfectly in words and in short sentences but that clarity may break down in longer sentences or conversation. That is completely normal. As each sound becomes mastered in conversation, make sure you’re providing positive feedback so your child always feels encouraged. While the long term goal is perfectly articulated speech, the shorter term goal may be for your child to be more consistently understood by peers and adults. For example, your child might say “lip” perfectly in conversations, but say “kwip” or when trying to say “clip”.
In terms of what therapy approaches should be used, this should generally also be taken with greater consideration in kids with ASD. A variety of approaches should be employed and each be given their due. For example, one child may make considerable progress with more traditional approaches to articulation therapy, as I like to call it, “talk therapy.” Another child may benefit from a more phonological approach to therapy while another may do best with a tactile method like Speech Buddies Tools. I have found that it is especially true with children with ASD to use a variety of approaches and not be afraid to cycle through these various approaches. Talk to your speech therapist about the current and future plan and be proactive in staying abreast of your child’s plan.
In many autistic kids’ therapy programs, language and social use of language (i.e. pragmatics) are emphasized. This is usually the correct course of action. However as your child’s language blossoms, when the time is right, talk to your speech therapist about a strong shift toward working on speech articulation in your autistic child. As speech clarity improves, so does his or her capacity to be understood by communication partners. This in turn motivates a child who may have deeply struggled with communication to initiate exchanges more frequently; in essence, it is a positive feedback loop that can make an enormous difference on your child’s academic and social life.
If your child is on the autism spectrum (or you suspect he might be), and you have not yet found a specialist, please consider working with a local speech therapist to address his speech and language challenges. Speech Buddies Connect is a great resource to find a certified professionals in your area and if you are in Brooklyn or NYC, you can book an initial appointment for only $25.
Image credit: Seattle Children’s Hospital