telling your child he has autism

My Son Has Autism… When – and How – Should I Tell Him?

Your child has autism. You know it. The rest of the family knows it. His teachers and therapists know it. Maybe even a few of his classmates know it. But when should HE know it? And how should you tell him?

It’s something many of our FOCUS Therapy families grapple with at some point. The answers really depends on the individual. Some parents opt to tell their child when they’re very young, hoping an early understanding of why they struggle more with certain things might make it all less confusing. Other parents wait until their child becomes aware of their differences and starts asking questions. A few parents wait until their child is older with a better ability to fully understand their diagnosis. Our FOCUS speech, occupational and ABA therapists know there isn’t one right answer, but we’re here to support our patients and help guide families in these discussions.

Recently, a patient’s mother asked about the best way to handle some of the questions her 7-year-old son on the spectrum was asking. Christie Lawrence, a registered behavior technician (RBT) with our Fort Myers ABA therapy team, herself the mother of a teenager with autism, offered her thoughts.

“I would say the most important part of informing your child of their autism diagnosis is to empower them,” Lawrence said. “Autism can bring many gifts, and it’s so important to teach our children to find and focus on their strengths and build confidence from their success.”

feeding therapy swallowing therapy

What to Expect in a Feeding Therapy Evaluation

Many people think of the role of speech therapists as being limited to speech and language. However, we also play a key role in pediatric feeding therapy evaluation and treatment.

Our Fort Myers speech-language pathologists are experts in oral mechanics – all the way down to the esophagus. We’re specially qualified to support individuals with feeding and swallowing difficulties.

Most people don’t put a ton of thought into the process of feeding and swallowing, but but both actually involve dozens of steps and systems working in conjunction. Feeding is what it takes to get food off the plate and into the mouth. Swallowing involves all the steps it takes to chew and then move food down the throat while protecting the airway leading to the lungs.

A child may have a feeding AND swallowing disorder, or just one or the other. For example, a child on the autism spectrum may have a feeding disorder wherein their food intake is extremely limited due to sensory processing difficulties. They may only need feeding therapy. A child with tracheostomy tubes or dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) or odynophagia (pain while swallowing) may only need swallowing therapy.

Fort Myers speech therapist

Does My Child Need a Fort Myers Speech Therapist if His Speech is Hard to Understand?

When your child is hard to understand, it can be stressful for you, your family, friends, educators – and perhaps most especially, your child. Of course, nobody enters this world speaking perfectly, and each child has their own timeline for proper pronunciation. However, it’s also important not to wait too long if you notice your child is more difficult to understand than his or her peers. The sooner a Fort Myers speech therapist can intervene, the faster your child can catch up to where they need to be. That can be critical to ensuring they don’t fall too behind socially and academically. Speaking skills mastered before pre-K and kindergarten can significantly impact the ease with which your child will be able to read and write.

Although every child develops at their own rate, knowing what key milestones to watch for is a good idea. In general, as noted in a recent Parents.com article, you should understand:

  • At least 50 percent of what your child says by age 2.
  • At least 75 percent of what your child says by age 3.
  • About 100 percent of what your child says by age 4, even if all the sounds aren’t perfect.

By the time your child is about 6 or 7, he or she should produce all sounds correctly most of the time. If you can’t, it is well past time to reach out to a Fort Myers speech therapist. Ideally, we like to start treatment of children with speech and language delays and disorders as soon as possible – the earlier the better. At FOCUS, we are big proponents of “early intervention,” which starts between ages 2 and 5.

Fort Myers occupational therapists

Fort Myers Occupational Therapists: Helping Kids With Time Management

Why did the man sit on the clock? …. Because he wanted to be on time!

Compelling a child to complete tasks in a timely manner is a daily struggle for so many parents. This is especially true when your child has developmental delays and disabilities. As Fort Myers occupational therapists, we recognize that time management is not only an executive function skill that our brains will keep working on well into our 20s (!), but it’s also an abstract concept that’s tough for a lot of kids to grasp – to their parents dismay!

For the most part, schoolchildren aren’t taught time concepts until 2nd grade. Yet we often expect kids their age and even younger to “get it” when it comes to how time works and how to manage the time they have. “You have 8 minutes before we leave for school,” or, “It’s 20 minutes until bedtime.” And then we’re frustrated when they aren’t ready or have a meltdown at the transition. After all, you DID give them a heads-up!

The good news is, there are several strategies our occupational therapists can offer to help your child both grasp the concept of time and manage it better.

pediatric speech therapists Fort Myers

That Tricky “TH” Sound – When Should You Be Concerned? Pediatric Speech Therapists Weigh In.

Does your child say “brudder” for “brother”? “Dat” for “that”? “Fing” for “thing”? As our Fort Myers pediatric speech therapists can explain, the ‘th’ sound is one that develops later for a lot of kids. Some master it sooner, often when they start school and are constantly interacting with older kids. Others continue making this error. Most child development experts agree this is a sound that should usually be developed by age 7 or 8, though it’s certainly something you can begin working on earlier.

Of course, all children develop at their own pace, and a singular issue doesn’t necessarily mean your child is going to need speech therapy, particularly if your child is younger than 7 and your only concern is the “th” sound. Still, most kids develop their speech sounds in the same general order, beginning in the first year of life. (The American Speech-Language Hearing Association has a development chart you can use for reference.) The key is if you notice a delay, you don’t want to wait too long in addressing it.

An assessment from a licensed child speech therapist can help you determine if it’s something your child will likely grow out of or whether they need some additional help. Waitlists for child speech-language therapy services in Southwest Florida can be lengthy, so it’s best to inquire sooner than later if you have a question.

Fort Myers ADOS testing

Study: ADOS Testing Measures Autism Risk Equally Well in Boys and Girls

ADOS testing, also known as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, was found in a recent, large study to measure severity of autism traits equally well in both girls and boys. This is good news because research has shown doctors may misdiagnose or overlook autism in girls, because it can sometimes look a little different than it does in boys. Boys are four times more likely to have a diagnosis than girls.

FOCUS offers ADOS testing in Fort Myers at our pediatric therapy clinic. Early diagnosis is important for both girls and boys to be able to access early intervention support and therapy, so it’s important that the testing effectively recognizes the symptoms in all kids. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 1 in 59 kids have an autism diagnosis.

As our Florida ABA therapy team can explain, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition impacting one’s ability to communicate and socialize with others. However, it’s necessary to recognize that symptoms of autism can very significantly from person-to-person. (Hence the phrase, “If you’ve met one person with autism… you’ve met one person with autism.) Still, girls may not always fit the “traditional” understanding of a person who has autism. In some cases, they may also be better at hiding it.

Florida speech therapist

4 Things to Look for in a Florida Speech Therapist for Kids

At FOCUS, we’re familiar with the process of searching for a Florida speech therapist for kids. When we’re looking to hire speech therapists, there are some key things that we look for – and it goes beyond the right education, certification or qualifications. All those things are important, but they won’t necessarily dictate whether a person is going to work well with kids.

Approximately 5 percent of kids ages 3-17 have a speech-sound disorder that lasts more than a year, often requiring some type of intervention. Sometimes, the cause is due to something like autism or down syndrome or childhood apraxia of speech. But sometimes, it’s for something like a stutter or just a general delay in speech-language skills. For many of the kids who receive speech-language therapy, you’d never be able to tell later in life. This is especially true the younger they are when they start. That’s our goal: To get kids to catch up to their peers and be able to communicate, socialize and function as normally as possible. But in order for children to reach their maximum potential, they need to be paired with therapists who are going to be effective!

Here, we’re offering some insight into the qualities we prize in our speech therapists (and therapists of other disciplines, for that matter). We hope this helps parents in their search to find the Florida speech therapist who will be right for your child.

Florida speech therapy at home

Florida Speech Therapy at Home With Virtual Therapy

Beyond the current need for social distancing, there are many reasons parents may be looking for pediatric therapy options that would allow their kids to have Florida speech therapy at home. There’s the convenience of it, particularly if you have to work or have other kids and commitments. Travel can be especially difficult too if you live in a more remote area.

Whatever the incentive, FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers offers the next best thing: Teletherapy. Also known as virtual therapy, it’s a service we’ve been offering since even before the pandemic, becoming a regional leader in the field. We now extend it not just to those in Southwest Florida but to kids across the whole State of Florida who may be looking for speech therapy at home. Our reason is simple: It works.

Although many are initially skeptical of speech teletherapy, research and our own anecdotal evidence have proven it’s actually very effective for many kids with a range of conditions. And, it can be carried out in the comfort of your own home with a laptop and internet connection.

Fort Myers ABA therapy

Finding the Function of Behavior: ABA Therapy Insight

In the field of behavior science, we commonly use the phrase “function of behavior.” As behavior analysts at the Fort Myers ABA therapy team at FOCUS, figuring out the “function” of a child’s behavior is hands-down one of the most mission critical parts of the job.

As parents or caretakers, it will be so helpful for you and your child too if you’re able to determine why a behavior occurs. When we don’t know what truly causes a behavior and respond reactively, we may be unintentionally reinforcing that behavior. Why is my child facedown on the floor screaming when I told him we were eating tacos tonight? Why is he nonstop kicking the back of his sister’s car seat even though I’ve begged, cajoled and yelled at him to stop?

All behavior has a reason. A function. If you’re looking for a different outcome or response, it’s imperative to find out why it’s happening in the first place. And understand that, for example, if the answer is attention (a common incentive), yelling or having an otherwise big response to it may be having the opposite effect.

Fort Myers speech therapy lisp

My Child Has a Lisp. Does She Need Speech Therapy?

Lisps are practically universal among small children who are learning to talk. In fact, they can be pretty darn cute. But when a lisp persists beyond a certain age, it’s time to consider whether speech therapy intervention is necessary.

Lisps usually last until about 4 years and 6 months, when they resolve on their own. Pay attention to your child’s peers and see whether your child’s speech stands out in this way. If your child is still talking with a lisp after age 4.5, it’s probably time to make an appointment for a speech therapy consultation. If the speech therapist recommends therapy, it’s best to start right away. The longer you wait, the harder the habit may be to fix.

It’s also a good idea to seek speech therapy services from a private clinic as opposed to relying on public schools to take care of it. It’s not that there aren’t good speech-language pathologists in schools (in fact, many are excellent). The issue is that many school therapists may not be able to treat a child with a lisp until age 7 or 8. Beyond that, if the lisp doesn’t directly impact the child’s education, school district speech therapists may not be able to treat them at all.