Thursday, May 26, 2011

Speech and Your Child - Tips from KidsCare Therapy

Welcome to summer time in North Texas (and everywhere!) from all of us here at KidsCare Therapy! We are excited to be back this week to further honor Better Hearing and Speech month. In our last post you learned all about speech therapy, including what they do and the symptoms they treat. This week we will focus on some of the potential warning signs for delay, as well as offer up some tips that can help to ensure a child in your life continues to develop their speech skills on target. 

While many of the patients that a speech therapist treats will have diagnosis such as ADD/ADHD, autism, and developmental delays – generally speaking they will be treating a list of symptoms that happen to coincide with these diagnoses, not the diagnoses themselves. As you learned in our last post these symptoms can range from speech or language delays to articulation or dysphagia.

So by now you may be asking, “How can I tell if a child in my life needs speech therapy services?” For receptive language problems (problems pertaining to how a patient processes and understands communication) it is important to see if the child can follow directions that are given, and to make sure they are comprehending questions they are asked. If they look or seem confused when you speak to them it could be a sign that they are not processing the communication.

If a child is not using words, or is unable to communicate their needs, then they most likely have an expressive language delay (which pertains to what they are able to say or how they use language to communicate). While the level of communication will differ with age, look to see if the child is able to express their needs. Even a baby will squeal or cry to get a desired response. Please see our developmental delay chart for specific milestones that a child should be achieving at each age.

So, what are some things you can do to keep a child on par with developmental milestones related to their speech? Well, constantly communicating with the child is perhaps the greatest contribution to their thriving. Talk through each activity you do, and ensure the child tries to communicate in order to request their needs.  Reading to a child, or having them read, is also another great way to continue development. When reading, it is helpful to ask the child questions as you turn each page to ensure there is comprehension (or that the receptive language is being developed). Using pictures is also a great way to have kids associate and learn words.

Having regular well checks for your child is a great way to ensure they do not fall behind because of speech, occupational or physical delays. In addition, if you are in doubt about whether a child has any of these symptoms, it is always a good idea to consult your physician regarding potential problems and have them evaluated.
In the following success story you will see how, with the help of a special new device and speech therapy, a child was able to communicate with her family for the first time.
When Lindsey was five months old, she was diagnosed with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC), a condition that limits mobility in nearly every joint and muscle in the body, as well as affected her tongue, eyes, spine, limbs, and mind. There have been over 400 types of AMC diagnosed; unfortunately, Lindsey has one of the most severe cases. 

Due to this disease Lindsay had a hard time communicating with her family and the outside world for the better part of her life. Soon after beginning speech therapy three years ago, Lindsay was given a Dynavox®—a device that allows users to point to various pictures on a screen, and the device then speaks the word describing the chosen picture. Due to her limited mobility, Lindsey operates her Dynavox® by “headgaze”—a dot on her glasses that operates the mouse on the Dynavox® screen.  Combined with speech therapy, this device has allowed patients like Lindsey to develop their communication skills beyond what would have ever been possible before.

When Lindsey started speech therapy a little over a year ago, she was unable to say any words at all. Communication with her family was essentially nonexistent—with little hope of any accelerated progress. While using the device took some time to get used to, coupled with speech therapy she was slowly able to learn the words associated with each picture, as well as pick up on how the device operates.

Lindsey has developed tremendously over the past three years. Starting with simply saying “Hi Lindsey”, she is now able to carry on conversations via the device. She puts sentences together and is able to think about the answers to questions asked of her. She also actively participates in the classroom—which has proven to even further enhance her progress.  Her Dynavox® enabled her to overcome her articulation problem, and because of this she has been able to advance her receptive and expressive language through speech therapy. She has gained the ability to cognitively understand what each word means and how they can be structured together. This device and speech therapy has allowed Lindsey the independence to interact with the world, continue to grow, and thrive.
These days Lindsey is able to experience an entirely new world and her family is so grateful for the ability to communicate with their daughter.  Her mother is now better able to understand Lindsey’s wants and needs, both personal and medical, and develop an even stronger relationship with her. “The possibilities are endless for Miss Lindsey. It is a blessing each day to be able to communicate so clearly with my daughter—the same daughter for whose future doctors painted such a grim picture,” says Lindsey’s mom.

Be sure to stay tuned for next month’s feature on our last discipline – physical therapy!


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