Our Experience with Speech Therapy (guest post)

It is Better Hearing & Speech Month and I have invited parents to tell about their experiences of coming to speech-language therapy.  I am excited to get to share these guest posts with you throughout the month.  The goal is to raise public awareness and educate about what all "speech therapy" can mean (it is such a diverse field)!  Today, I am honored to share with you a guest post written by Maeve's mom.  Read on to find out what "speech therapy" means to her family.


When Maeve turned two the only word she spoke daily was da-da. She liked to babble simple one syllable sounds, but mainly communicated by leading us by the hand to whatever she wanted. Or, if she wanted to go somewhere, she would bring me my shoes, for example. I was worried because other children we came in contact with were speaking so well, even much younger toddlers. My husband was a late-talker who received no outside services and came out fine, but I didn’t want to wait too long in case Maeve needed more specific help. I received conflicting opinions among our family and friends about what to do. Some said “she is developing at her own pace, let her be” and others said, “this is not normal, you really need to get her checked out.” 

Soon after her second birthday I talked to my husband and we decided to bring Maeve in for an evaluation with a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). I found Cassandra Stafford (Casey) on an internet search for nearby SLP’s and scheduled a meet-and-greet. Part of me felt nervous that my child would be labeled, or that I would be told something was “wrong” with her. Instead, I found a kind, knowledgeable person who would partner with us to teach and help Maeve, to support her in the journey from silence to speech. Maeve received no formal diagnosis at that time, and we weren’t concerned about her hearing, but it was determined that she definitely qualified for speech and language services on an ongoing weekly basis. She was more than a year behind her peers in both receptive understanding of language, and expressive speech [and language].

Around the same time, we starting using sign language to increase our communication, and decrease frustration when trying to figure out what Maeve wanted. She took to it and quickly learned 40 or so basic signs, though the standards like “eat”, “drink”, “more”, and “all done” saw the most use. It was wonderful to finally have at least rudimentary back and forth communication, and I feel that it helped it click in her brain that communicating, even nonverbally, is a way to connect with others and get needs met.

In our weekly therapy sessions, Maeve has the opportunity to make choices and play with toys and games that Casey uses to encourage communication. For example, giving only one or two pieces of train track, and waiting/encouraging her to say or sign “more” before giving her another piece. These types of interactions have been really helpful for me to learn and use at home with Maeve. Basically making things just challenging enough to elicit speech and signing attempts, but not to frustrate her.

I attend all the speech sessions with Maeve, and pass on what I learn to my husband at home. Initially we learned things that seem like common sense, but that we weren’t doing, like holding objects up to our faces while speaking about them, “Do you want a banana?” with her able to see and hear us say “ba-na-na,” because she was looking at us, and not down. Or keeping our speech very simple, and building off of it, adding one word at a time as Maeve’s understanding increased. Since most kids just seem to pick up speech and language without special effort by the parents, I had not anticipated all of the techniques that exist to encourage it. Having an SLP has helped me to feel that we are doing all we can to help Maeve, and she sees it as fun play time. We don’t know how much or how easily she would have increased her speech and understanding without speech therapy, but I know that with it we have reduced frustration for Maeve and our whole family, as we learn and grow and communicate together.

Since our first session 8 months ago, Maeve has made good progress. She isn’t speaking in sentences yet, but she is saying many more individual words, and a few two-word phrases. She also babbles in a more complicated way, and makes many more speech-like sounds in her play, which I see as a step in the right direction. She understands much more of what we say to her, as well. She looks forward to our weekly sessions, and instead of shyly hanging back outside the therapy room, knocks on the door and runs in. She enjoys choosing activities, and she is much more engaged and interested in speaking and pointing and making eye contact and having opinions that she is able to express now. Our SLP encouraged us to get an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device recently, which in our case is an iPad Mini with a program called Speak for Yourself, that allows Maeve to touch buttons that have pictures and words that she can use to speak out loud with. This has allowed her to make more choices and requests, like “ eat peanut butter and jelly”  or “go playground” even though she isn’t able to verbally say the words clearly yet. Using this program is helping to expand her vocabulary by giving her opportunities to hear the words spoken.

I could go on, but suffice it to say that having a knowledgeable SLP that my child enjoys has gone a long way toward decreasing my anxiety about my child’s speech and language development, and it has empowered me as a parent by giving me tools I can use at home, as well as providing a partner in the process, who helps track progress and make suggestions specific to my daughter and her needs. 

Maeve is going to be okay. Eventually she will no longer need speech therapy. I look forward to that day, but in the meantime I am thankful for Speech-Language Pathologists who dedicate their lives to helping people communicate.


You may also be interested in the following post:

Imparting Hope (guest post)

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