By Marìa Eugenia Fanti
Mary (*) has a two years old baby and his teachers at school said that he doesn’t talk enough, they recommend speech therapy for him, but what does it means? “What’s wrong with my kid?” Ask Mary to herself; like her many mothers have the same stressful feeling.
In those cases like Mary’s son, some doctors recommend to wait and see what happen, give them time to develop languages skills, but expert like Soraya Fernandez, specialist in Speech Language Pathology and Early Childhood think that is a big mistake: “if a child is not talking, parents must take him to an speech and audio evaluation as soon as possible. Childrens can learn even 300 words per day, if we lost this chance, the kids will be behind and there is not need to these to happen”.
But what exactly is Speech Therapy? In words of Soraya Fernández, Master degree in Speech Therapy from University of Denver Colorado: “Speech Therapy are stimulation techniques to help children or adults to overcome difficulties in learning or language rehabilitation".
Most experts agree that the causes of a speech delay are different: ear infection (otitis media), deafness, developmental disorders, and lack of stimulation from their parents, genetic or neurological problems. "An evaluation and diagnosis on time is very important, because if we know why our child has a speech delay we can give him a right treatment and get good results”, said the Director Manager of The Joy of Learning Preschool, Soraya Fernàndez.
When a speech delay is not detected in toddler’s years, children will have less chance to learn how to read and write in Elementary School. Also emotional and social skills can’t be properly developed. "Children who are unable to communicate, have behaviors that are not appropriate. Most of children who bite or hit other kids can’t speak and that’s why they have those behaviors. The social development depends on the ability to communicate, the emotional development also depends on the communication," said Fernandez.
Fernàndez also said: "one of the people who can help detect speech delays in children are the teachers at school. Sometimes parents by guessing do not help the language to developed, they are not enforcing child to communicate. When the child comes to school environment, he has the need of communication and he can’t, then the teacher realizes that he or she has a speech delay. Parents should be open to any advice teachers give to them in that matter.”
Strategies against speech delay
The expert Audrey W. Prince (*), a specialist in development of the Language suggests:
1)Talk with your children: write down the issues and events that draw attention to your child and start conversations with him. Make conversation a game by asking the child to “pick a card” to initiate a conversation.
2) Get close and listen: when you speak with your child get close, so he'll be able to see your lips and facial expressions, hear your voice clearly, and make eye contact with you. This will help your child keep more interest in the conversation. Make sure during conversation with your child you send a clear message that you are listening to him.
3) Respond and expand: when a child says something to you, respond whenever possible. Add more context to the language even when a child’s respond is a simple one. For example, if the child says “I like apples” (the teacher/ parent might say: “I like apples too. What color of apple do you like best?
4) Talk about what you are doing: Talk to your child about what you are doing or what he is doing. This type of talking expose children to language in general, involve them in learning conversation skills, and helps children acquire and use vocabulary that is important in their everyday lives.
5) Tell stories: tell stories everyday about things from the past or things that will happen. During a story, use prompts to encourage storytelling like, “tell me a story”, “what happened next?” and when did that happen?” or “tell me what you did at school?”
6) Use appropriate levels of vocabulary: when speaking with children we have to be careful to not use too many new words or too few new words. Parents must be aware of each child’s abilities to figure out if the vocabulary is confusing to the child or if he/she is able to keep up and understand.
7) Provide prompts that promote oral language: include microphones, old telephones, puppets, flannel boards and even paper towel tubes in your child’s play area. Items to play dress-up are big hits with children. Pretending to be someone else encourages children to mimic the vocabulary, facial expressions, and body language that they see and hear form others. These types of prompts encourage oral language interactions. Make them available and encourage children to use them during their playtime.
In the other hand, the expert Soraya Fernández also recommends parents to have a commitment with their child: “ It is very important not to miss your child’s speech therapy, be punctual, also follow the instructions of the therapist and make verbal stimulation exercises with you child at home. Spend time with your son, at least 15 or 20 minutes a day just to talk, give them a unique time”.
The success of the speech therapy depends not only on having a good therapist and follow-up care, but also the commitment of parents and teachers in the development of the child. "There is no magic pill to change the behaviors of our children, there is hard work and commitment" reaffirms Fernández.
(*)We use fictitious name to keep the confidentiality of the sources.
(*) V.S Bennett-Armistead, Literacy and the youngest learner. Scholastic, Inc; New York, NY, 2005.
* Here below we offer information about places for evaluation and speech therapy in Miami-Dade and Doral:
* Miami Children's Hospital, Outpatient Center Doral. TLF: 786-624-3672.
* In Early Steps, the evaluation is free. (North): 1120 NW 14 Street, Miami, FL 33136. TLF: 305-243-6660.
* Early Steps (South): 17615 SW 97 Ave Palmetto Bay, FL 33157. TLF: 786-268-2611.
* Florida Diagnostic & Learning Resources System: 5555 SW 93 Avenue, Miami, FL 33175. TLF: 305-243-7257.
* BioNetworks: 1441 SW 1st Street, Miami, FL 33135. TLF: please call 305-541-3400.
* Speech on Spot: 6447 Miami Lakes Drive, Miami Lakes, FL, 33014. TLF: 305-556-2225.
* B&V Therapro: 14291 SW 120th Street, Miami, FL 33186, Suite # 103. TLF: 786-208-2814 or 305-0168.
*Thera-pro: 888 NW 27 Ave, Ste 5, Miami, FL 33125. TLF: 786-431-1133.