What to Expect from Pediatric Speech Therapy
All parents love to celebrate the milestones children reach as they grow. First smiles, first steps, first words… They’re all moments that are cheered by entire families.
For some children, however, those benchmarks take a little longer to reach. This can understandably result in some anxiety and may raise some questions about their child’s development.
Early intervention speech therapy can often help children reach certain communication goals to get them caught up with their peers, but how do parents know if it’s the right path for their children? Jenna Patterson, Speech Therapist at the Culbertson Memorial Hospital Dr. Robert Cox Memorial Therapy Services, said there are several signs she looks for in recommending pediatric speech therapy:
- Not babbling at age 4-7 months
- Lack of gesturing
- Difficulties with verbal requests
- Not speaking in sentences
- Trouble making certain sounds
- Excessive drooling, oral groping, and/or frequency gagging
If a child is exhibiting any of these behaviors, Patterson said, speech therapy may very well be an option. Once parents or guardians contact a speech therapist, an appointment will be scheduled to evaluate the child one-on-one and determine the best course of action.
Though this process can seem anxious and even intimidating to both parents and guardians, it’s important to understand that comfort is paramount to the process, Patterson said.
“The first speech therapy appointment will be an evaluation. This will usually include a standardized test, observation through play, medical history information, and/or a parent report,” Patterson said. “There will also be a play session where I observe how children will play along with a get-to-know-the-patient session.”
By making children feel comfortable during the evaluation, Patterson said they will want to continue with future sessions. This makes the process seem like less of a medical visit for children and more like a play date. Parents or guardians are also present so any questions or concerns may be addressed. Immediately following the evaluation, Patterson will make a list of goals to address the wants and needs of the parents or guardians, as well as a list of age-appropriate stepping stones for children based on same-age peers.
“The next few sessions after the evaluation are designed around play and child-directed therapy tasks. This helps children be comfortable and want to be successful in therapy,” Patterson said. “Parents can be present or can choose to remain in the waiting room.”
Patterson said she designs therapy sessions with play and tasks that are both therapist-direct and child-directed, depending on the child’s goals. Sessions typically involve Patterson meeting with children one-on-one and using activities and games to motivate them. As children play, Patterson directs them with easy-to-understand speech and repetition. Family members present may also receive ideas, handouts, and activities to encourage further development at home.
“After each speech therapy session, I try to give positives and point out the successes to reassure that their child is making progress throughout the months,” Patterson said. “All along the speech therapy plan, I am staying in contact with their team, which may include doctors, other therapists, school staff, and more.”
Though pediatric speech therapy may seem daunting, the reality is a process that continually fosters growth and development in your child, all the while emphasizing a feeling of comfort in a stimulating, fun atmosphere.
Is speech therapy right for your child?
Talk to your child’s pediatrician today and see if speech therapy is required. The Dr. Robert Cox Memorial Therapy Services are located at 206 S. Monroe St. in Rushville and are open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you have other medical concerns and need to see a provider, our team is here to help.