My son needs speech therapy. Well, actually for my family that needs to be plural. My sons need speech therapy. I know I've mentioned before that Ryan was in speech therapy before we moved, and now he's receiving his speech therapy through the public school here.
I guess from our experience with Ryan's speech, we thought it necessary that Sean be evaluated now too. We saw some similarities between his developing speech and how Ryan's speech developed. Sean was tested last week, and I had the meeting with the school yesterday. His results were in fact almost identical to Ryan's results.
Both my boys have an articulation delay. Their little mouths just aren't forming the words/sounds correctly. So now Sean will also start receiving speech therapy.
I feel bad for Ryan because being our first child we often don't know what we are doing. With Sean we can sometimes use our experience from Ryan to guide us. Ryan's speech issue wasn't even looked at until he was a year older than Sean is right now. I am thankful that we can learn from our experiences and apply the lessons where needed. And now through my experience of two children with speech delays, let me share some things I've learned:
1. If you think your child has issues with speech, keep pushing to at least get him/her tested. With Ryan I brought the issue of speech up to his pediatrician a few times. The first pediatrician kept telling me that at each age you can only understand a certain amount of speech. That was the trap though. Pat and I could understand almost all of Ryan's speech because we had learned his language without realizing it. Just because we could understand him didn't mean he didn't need help. With Sean recently the pediatrician said that with him being so young if we could understand him he'd probably be fine. Thankfully, I knew from experience and explained that we could not understand him a lot of the time. So from that he recommended we have him evaluated. I'm so grateful for the experience from Ryan that I knew better this time around with Sean.
2. Depending on where you live there are various resources available to you, but you have to advocate for your child. In Tennessee Ryan received private speech therapy funded by our health insurance. Here in Massachusetts, Ryan is in the public school for his speech therapy. Ryan gets his therapy during his days in Pre-K. Now Sean will be getting his speech therapy sessions in the public school. Both boys have had IEPs established. Maybe it's because we are new here, but the process has not always been clear. There have been many phone calls to the learning center, and even now I'm still unclear on what will happen with Sean in preschool next year. Thankfully I have time to figure that out.
3. People will judge you and your child. I notice it sometimes when we see friends and acquaintances. People sometimes act like my children lack intelligence because when they speak people cannot understand. I've even had a speech therapist start judging Ryan, and that is when I learned more about the need to advocate for your child. As a parent sometimes I feel judged that I've done something wrong for both of my children to need help. The speech pathologists have always assured me that I have done nothing wrong. And I can assure everyone that my children are intelligent. They have the words and skills that are appropriate for their ages; they just cannot express themselves so clearly with those words.
4. Do NOT push your child. I'll never forget when Ryan was two we had some company over. Ryan wanted the baby gate open and said his usual word for that "abra". First our company assumed that our son watched too much Dora and was speaking Spanish. After I explained that he was saying open, the guest then continually tried to fix that word in Ryan's speech to the point where Ryan was frustrated. My boys know how each word should sound, and they are trying to say it correctly when it comes out wrong. It's just their little mouths are a bit behind in forming the correct sounds. The speech therapists can push my boys. I will reinforce what the therapists teach, but I am not going to be the one to fix my children's speech problems by continually pushing them with words all day long. The therapists are trained to help them. The last thing I want to do is push my kids so much that they shut down.
5. You are not alone if your child needs help, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Today parents focus so much on bragging what their children can do and how smart they are. This creates pressure and breeds comparison. You child needing help isn't something to be ashamed of, and anyone who thinks differently is just wrong. Get your child the help if they need it. Most of all remember to encourage your child and tell them how proud you are of them.