As the new academic year approaches, it’s time to explore avenues…
Speech therapy and speech therapists
Parents become concerned when their young baby doesn’t seem to be developing on time and according to the expected developmental milestones. Early intervention for nursery school children and young toddlers is important and speech therapy should be considered when a child is not developing on time. At Catch Up Kids we work in collaboration with other therapists on the child’s team to tackle their developmental delay and help them achieve deficit skills. If the child has a speech therapist or occupational therapist that has been enrolled by the parents we work together to bridge the gaps. Over the years we have partnered with many speech therapists who provide the children with various interventions to help them including speech therapy.
When a child is not communicating the first step is to establish if imitation is possible for the individual in question. Imitation is the foundation of all social behaviour and of vocal communication. A young developing child of ten months can imitate wave bye bye or clap hands.
From here they move to imitation with objects. If I push a car the toddler should be able to imitate my action and push the car. If I bang a drum the toddler should be able to imitate my action and also bang the drum and so on. Two year olds learn from their environment because they imitate their peers. One of the targets during speech therapy would be to teach the toddler to imitate because if a toddler cant imitate a gross motor action or imitate an action with a object they will struggle to imitate vocal sounds and words. Repetitively practising imitation skills in speech therapy is important before the child will be able to communicate and confidently interact.
An assessment by a speech therapist enrolled by the parents would include identifying areas in which the child is either not developing at the same level as children their age or have significant difficulties that impact their functioning in daily life. Subsequently, children attend speech therapy sessions to work on goals targeted to their varying needs.
Some of the goals set for speech therapy may include:
- Helping the child to point to things they want. Pointing is a pre requisite skill to vocal communication.
- Manding for their needs ie requesting for the things they want. Young developing children are expected to mand a certain number of times per hour and if they not doing so, speech therapy can work on helping them better develop vocal Manding.
- Language comprehension and understanding is important to get the child to communicate appropriately.
- Assisting the child to make approximations for things they want and moving away from the child making only approximations of words to one word and then two word sentences to illicit communicative intent.
- Increasing the length and type of sentences the child can produce over time. Speech therapy will assist the child in eventually being able to make longer sentences and to be tested on pragmatics of language. We want the child to have spontaneous vocal functional communication and speech therapy targets will help the child achieve this outcome.
- Increasing the child’s understanding of concepts (e.g. same/different, location). This ties into their language comprehension.
- Teaching the child a rich language bank of words. After assessing the child’s vocabulary speech therapy will identify language skills the individual child needs to work on. For example do they have object labels, pronouns, prepositions, opposites, features, functions, plurals, past tense etc
- Helping the child speak more clearly and working on clarity of vocal production. The more opportunities a child receives to practise the speech motor planning of sounds and words the more likely they are to acquire speech. Oral motor exercises will be designed in speech therapy to help the child practise their oral motor system. Exercising the muscles of the face to strengthen the motor speech hierarchy system is targeted to help individuals who have an appraxia ie a speech motor challenge. Speech therapy can assist children bridge or overcome these speech motor challenges.
The speech therapist will create communication opportunities for your child to encourage their language development. You may also engineer opportunities for your child to motivate them to interact and communicate. A speech therapist will also work on improving the child’s communication skills when conducting speech therapy. As mentioned earlier, children mand ie request for their needs. This is the first level of language development. Next comes tacting which means they draw attention to things in the environment like look there is a dog barking or they point to an aeroplane flying over. Speech therapy will target the number of times a child tacts in order to catch up delay in language development. After tacting children develop the skill of asking questions. What is it? Where is Daddy? How can I make a clay lion? are question words speech therapy will target once manding and tacting is in place. The big question is WHY? Why is the sky blue or why cant I have a biscuit for example. The why question will be incorporated into a program when speech therapy is provided as this is an important question for a child’s language development. In order for the child to ask why questions there are pre requisite skills including understanding sequencing, concepts like before and after, as well as, if and then and cause and effect. All these concepts will be included in a speech therapy program once the child is ready and has the necessary pre requisite skills in place.
There are several ways in which you can support your child’s language and speech development. Setting aside time to read books and follow recommendations make in speech therapy will increase the number of times the child is exposed to practising the targets and inevitably their language development will improve. At Catch Up Kids we support the children’s development and help them catch up.