The 4 Goals a Speech Pathologist Has When Helping Your Child
How they go about making a specific plan for a patient
We’re not breaking up…..are we?
Have you ever gotten to a point in doing something so much that you feel like you just need to take a break?
No … I’m not talking about marriage. I’m talking more like working out. You know what I mean. You get to the point where you’re doing like 2 or 3 hundred pushups in a row. Who am I kidding? I’ve never done that many pushups. But I have tried having a trainer before. I remember getting to a point in the training where I felt like I could basically take over. As I did the exercises, I knew when my form was off and I knew what exercises I needed to improve on.
Speech therapy can be the same way. So many times, we want therapy to continue year after year after year. I get it. It’s hard to let go of something you know is helping your child. But breaks are sometimes not only needed, but beneficial.
Often, when working out you come to some sort of plateau. You feel like no matter what you do, you aren’t improving. Well, that’s when you can go back to the trainer, who will help you make adjustments and keep the improvement going. Speech language pathologists (SLP) are really knowledgeable and can help adjust your child’s plan of care so your child continues toward attaining his or her true potential.
Let’s first address the purpose of therapy. Your speech language pathologist’s goals should be:
1.Work with you to figure out the needs of your child and how their speech and language difficulties are affecting their day to day life and learning.
2.Come up with a treatment plan that allows for your child to improve in the areas you and the SLP feel are important.
3.Teach you strategies you can use to work on the things your child has trouble with as well as discuss activities that can be done outside of therapy.
4.Teach you to be your child’s speech therapist at home!!
As a clinician, I feel No. 4 is most important. Most kids get therapy maybe 1-2 times a week for about 30-60 minutes. Most parents feel that isn’t enough.
Just imagine if you could learn everything the therapist was teaching and the strategies to teach the concepts. Your child would be getting therapy basically at all waking hours. All of a sudden your interactions change. For example, you know that when your child has difficulty understanding a direction, you can assist them by using the “breakdown” strategy.
This is where you maybe break the direction up into pieces. For instance “Dominic, go to your room and get the ball.”
Well little Dominic may just look at you with a confused face. Kind of like the face my wife says I have when she asks me to do something. But that’s neither here nor there. By “breaking down” the direction, you may first say “Dominic, go to your room.” Then, when that is complete you say “Get the ball.” This allows him to fully understand the direction. Similarly, you may use a strategy that would make it easier to produce a sound, such as providing a tactile or visual cue.
Let’s say little Mia has difficulty producing the “B” sound. We may point to our lips to get her to realize that we need our lips to make lip sounds. Now that is awesome. When children apply what they have learned in therapy, it is wonderful because we want children to improve; BUT when parents apply what they have learned, it is magical. Questions to ask your therapist could include:
1.What are the goals for my child?
2.What strategies are you using to assist my child and teach them the concept? Can you teach them to me and help me do them correctly?
3.What can I do at home to help with generalization of the skill?
Every child is different so each plan of care may differ in how long therapy lasts. At some point though, through ongoing discussions with the clinician there should be an ending point. You get to now apply what you and your child have learned in therapy.
Keep in mind that this isn’t the end-all-be-all. In most cases, I recommend a re-evaluation in 6 months to ensure that there is continued improvement or even to adjust the plan of care. As a therapist, I understand there still may be concerns. I want, however, my parents to feel empowered by the knowledge they now possess. My goal is that the parent leaves my therapy session understanding our objectives and strategies.
Bob Keeshan made a good point when he said “Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent.”
Aye, aye captain.
Jonathan Suarez is a speech pathologist at Cook Children's. Speech/language pathologists focus on oral motor, speech, language and communication skills to enhance development, restore function and to prevent disability from pediatric conditions, illness or injury.