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.
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.
Building kids’ speech and language skills isn’t just some magic we cook up in the clinic – it’s something you can do in your very own kitchen too! As our FOCUS speech therapists can explain, the more you can help your child try to practice their skills everywhere but the clinic, the better off they’ll be for it. What we’re aiming for here is something called carryover, and it’s something the American Speech Language and Hearing Association underscores can help those lessons “stick.”
This is especially important if they’re schooling, extracurricular activities and social events have been significantly curtailed during the pandemic. They’re going to need all the extra help they can get!
Our speech therapists recognize that cooking is a great activity because it not only helps them with lots of speech and language concepts (up, down, over, in, stir), there are math and science components, it encourages creativity, responsibility, teamwork and independence. Cooking can be a very naturally social activity, and it’s one that can help you make wonderful memories. Plus, it can be easily tailored to the child’s age and skill level with just a little planning. Start out with it just being you and your child, and once they get more comfortable with it, you can work your way up to have siblings and others involved – make a play date of it!
Social Skills of the Sous Chefs
The sous chef is the second-in-command in the kitchen. Anytime you’re working with high heat or open flames or sharp tools, it’s important that kids understand who is in charge and how important it is to listen carefully and follow directions.
It’s estimated that about one in a dozen kids in the U.S. between the ages of 3 and 17 has some type of disorder related to speech, voice, language or swallowing. Roughly 5 percent have a speech disorder specifically. When we look at even younger kids, it’s about 9 percent. Children who have speech sound disorders struggle to form speech sounds. They have trouble articulating individual sounds, being understood, modulating speech, they might stutter, have a lisp, etc. When it comes to speech sound disorders, working with a skilled, creative pediatric Fort Myers speech therapist can make all the difference.
About Speech Sound Disorders
Kids with speech sound disorders don’t have difficulty understanding language. What they struggle with is expressing language in the sounds of speech at a level that is age-appropriate.
As a Fort Myers speech therapist can explain, speech sound disorders are characterized by regular trouble producing speech sounds. That can mean several different things, including:
- Phonological problems. This is when one has a tough time producing certain sounds or sound blends.
- Vocal apparatus problems. This would be if someone has issues with their larynx or lungs that makes producing certain sounds difficult.
- Speech timing issues. This would be if a child has difficulty with their vowel onset time, vowel duration, consonant closure duration or voicing during consonant closure.
- Speech difficulty. This would be issues like stuttering or lisping.
Typically, we can classify a speech sound disorder either as a “phonological disorder” or an “articulation disorder.”
The ability to ask and answer “Wh” questions is an integral part of language development. Speech pathologists recognize that kids must first be able to understand questions before they can engage in an exchange of information. It’s the very foundation of conversation.
Most typically-developing kids will start to ask and answer “Wh” questions when they’re between 1- and 2-years-old. They’ll continue fine-tuning these receptive and expressive language skills into their school years. Children with delays, disabilities, injuries and other conditions may struggle with Wh questions. Our Fort Myers speech pathologists at FOCUS can help.
More than 20 percent of U.S. children are bilingual, a figure that continues to rise each year, particularly in a diverse region like South Florida. The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) notes that there’s a common erroneous assumption that bilingualism contributes to childhood speech-language delays. However, those who practice bilingual speech therapy note that often what can seem to speakers of one language as a delay or disorder can actually be common processes of a child who is learning more than one language simultaneously.
At FOCUS Therapy, several of our speech, occupational and ABA therapists are bilingual and even multilingual. This uniquely situates us to not only treat bilingual children, but to better recognize in the first place if the speech patterns a child is presenting are truly indicative of a speech-language delay or if they appear on track developmentally.
Conversation is something that flows naturally for many of us. But for some kids with delays and disabilities, conversational skills may be abstract and nuanced. One tool our Fort Myers speech therapists use to help practice conversational skills is through “scripts.”
Scripts can help kids learn how to appropriately initiate, maintain, extend and end social and conversational exchanges. These can be used to talk about special interests, participate in activities, engage in classroom activities and more. Conversational scripts take it a step beyond simple requesting and can help children recognize and understand the organization, guidelines and boundaries of everyday conversation.
As always, we tailor our techniques to the way each child learns, beginning with engaging topics about which they’re interested.
Children are born to learn through play. Playing speech therapy games at home with your child gives them a chance to practice the speech and language skills we’re working to help them develop in therapy, while also giving you a chance to bond with them.
Chances are, you’ve already played them together before, but there are a few ways you can tweak the games so that they’re still fun but even more effective at targeting certain skills like vocabulary, attention, memory, articulation, phonics, observation, deduction and expressive/receptive language.
We like these games in particular too because not only are they free, you can introduce them almost anywhere: On a road trip, at a restaurant while you wait for food, a rainy day at home or a sunny day at the park. And siblings can join in too!
Many children, when they are young and learning to talk, develop a stutter. Their brains are processing thousands of new sounds and words in the first years of their lives (aptly named a “language explosion”). As our Fort Myers speech therapists can explain, their vocabulary “explodes,” but the brain’s neural pathways are still catching up, and may have difficulty coordinating. This can be a factor in stuttering.
Sometimes, kids struggle with repetition of syllables, sounds and words. Others’ sounds are prolonged and some have so-called “blocks,” or speech interruptions. Some speculate there is a genetic component involved. No matter the specific type of stutter or the underlying reason, our Fort Myers speech therapists can help treat it.
Different Types of Stuttering
Stuttering is what’s known as a “fluency disorder.” As noted by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), someone who has a fluency disorder knows what they want to say, but has difficulty speaking in a way that is flowing, or fluid. They might say parts of the word or a whole word repeatedly. There might be an awkward pause between words. That’s stuttering, which is only one type of fluency disorder. There’s also “cluttering,” where one speaks rapidly and their words run together. Or they might say “um” with great frequency.
By Rachel Revehl, FOCUS Therapy Parent
Earlier this year, prior to the pandemic, one of our son’s speech therapists from FOCUS approached me with what seemed at the time an absurd idea: Would we consider allowing him to do some of his speech therapy sessions via teletherapy? He’d be a great candidate, she said. She also thought it might help us with our busy schedule.
That last part was tempting, but…
“Um, thanks,” I replied. “But, I just don’t think that would work for him.”
Seriously, how could it? He would NEVER sit for a full session without a therapist physically in front of him, I thought.