Fort Myers speech therapy

The Best Age for Fort Myers Speech Therapy? Mind the Milestones.

When we’re looking at the best age for kids to start a Fort Myers speech therapy program, one thing we’re going to zoom in on is whether they’re meeting certain developmental and language milestones.

In the first 3 years of life, a child’s brain grows and matures rapidly. It’s an intensive period for acquiring critical speech and language skills. These are developed in a world that is rich with sights, sounds, and regular exposure to the speech and language use of the people all around them – parents, daycare workers, siblings, grandparents, cousins, friends, shop workers, and more.

One of the reasons language develops so fast during this time period is that the brain of a baby, toddler, and young child has a great deal of plasticity. What this means is it’s able to absorb a great deal for quickly. It also means that the neuropathways that allow us to cement certain skillsets are not yet rigid. So if one neuropathway isn’t working as it should, new ones can develop – assuming they are taught to do so. This is why early intervention therapies are so important.

Speech and language development can vary from child-to-child, but if they’re missing major milestones, it’s important to take action.

Too often, we see parents and even some specialists take a “wait-and-see” approach if a child isn’t meeting these milestones. But it’s our firm belief this is a mistake. Because just as quickly as kids develop these skills, they can also fall behind. If we pass these small windows of time without Fort Myers speech therapy intervention, it’s going to be more difficult for the child to learn. Not impossible, mind you, but tougher.

CDC Milestones for Speech Language Development

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has a hearing & communicative development checklist that we recommend reviewing (it’s based on the “How Does Your Child Hear & Talk” guide from the American Speech-Language hearing Association). Ultimately though, if you have a concern, it’s best to start exploring interventions right away.

Even if professionals evaluate your child and determine they don’t need Fort Myers speech therapy, it’s better than waiting too long and having the impact of a delay snowball – particularly considering that so many specialists and clinics in Southwest Florida are on extensive waitlists.

As Fort Myers speech therapists, we always urge a proactive approach rather than a reactive one when it comes to a child’s communication skills. Parents sometimes wish they had started the process sooner, but almost never regret starting as soon as they did.

-Jennifer Voltz-Ronco, Speech-Language Pathologist & Owner/Founder of FOCUS Therapy

Some milestones to consider:

Birth to 3 Months

  • Reacts to loud sounds
  • Calms down or smiles when spoken to
  • Recognizes your voice & clams down if crying
  • When feeding, starts or stops sucking in response to sound
  • Coos and makes pleasure sounds
  • Has a special way of crying for different needs
  • Smiles when he/she sees you

4 to 6 Months

  • Follows sounds with eyes
  • Responds to tone of voice changes
  • Notices toys that make sounds
  • Pays attention to music
  • Babbles in a speech-like way with lots of different sounds, including those that begin with p, b, and m
  • Laughs
  • Babbles when happy, excited, or unhappy
  • Gurgles when alone or playing

7 Months to 1 Year

  • Likes playing pat-a-cake & peek-a-boo
  • Turns and looks to where sounds originate
  • Listens when spoken to
  • Understands common words like “milk,” “up,” “cup” etc.
  • Responds to basic requests “come here”
  • Babbles using short and long groups of sounds (upup, bibibi, tata, byeybye)
  • Babbles to get up or to keep attention
  • Communicates with gestures like holding up arms, waving, or even pointing
  • Imitates various speech sounds (even if they don’t make sense)
  • Has 1 or 2 words (Hi, Mama, Dada, Bye-bye)

1-2 Years

  • Knows a few body parts, can point to them if asked
  • Follows simple commands “bring the cup,” “roll the ball” and simple questions, “where is the dog?”
  • Likes simple rhymes, songs, and stories
  • Will point to pictures in books when named
  • Picks up new words on a regular basis
  • Uses some of those 1-2 word questions “Go bye-bye?” “Where doggy?”
  • Can put together 2 basic words “more juice” “want car”
  • Uses different consonant sounds at the start of words

2-3 Years

  • Has words for most everything
  • Uses 2-3-word phrases to talk about and ask for things
  • Can use the d, n, t, f, g, and k sounds
  • Is easily understood when talking to family and friends
  • Can easily name objects to ask for or direct attention to them

3-4 Years

  • Hears when you call from another room
  • Asks simple WH questions (who, what when, where, why)
  • Talks about preschool, grandparents’ house, activities with friends
  • Uses sentences with 4 or more words
  • Speaks easily without having to repeat words or syllables

4-5 Years

  • Pays attention to short stories and can answer basic questions about it
  • Hears & understands most of what is said at home and in school
  • Uses sentences with lots of details
  • Tells stories that stay on topic
  • Communicates easily with adults and other kids
  • Uses rhyming words
  • Names letters and numbers
  • Says most sounds correctly (except for tricky ones like r, s, v, l, ch, z, sh, and th)

These milestones are understood to be when about 90 percent of typically developing kids in a given age range have mastered these skills.

Although we don’t want parents stressing milestones, it’s a good idea to keep track of them because we don’t want them to fall behind.

Also worth noting is that these are just the basic milestones for speech and hearing. There are others that focus on growth, movement, physical development, and literacy. Any kind of concern for speech, language, or hearing issues is best addressed promptly. In addition to in-depth exams, FOCUS also offers free screenings to help you determine if it’s an issue you should raise with your pediatrician.

Should I Be Comparing My Child’s Speech & Language to Other Kids in Their Class?

The answer to this is yes… And no.

Fort Myers ABA Therapist

Fort Myers ABA Therapist Travel Tips for Families of Kids With Autism

Travel is an enriching experience for kids and families. Family vacations, special holiday trips, and unique adventures – it’s the stuff cherished, lifelong memories are made of. That said, traveling with kids is likely to be an inevitable challenge. If your child has autism, it may require even more planning & preparation – but it’s worth it! Here, we offer travel tips and tricks from a Fort Myers ABA therapist.

Prepare Your Child

As adults, it’s easy to take for granted our kids’ trust in handling all the arrangements and making sure they’re safe and as comfortable as possible during the trip. But consider that for kids on the autism spectrum, you’re not only dealing with the normal challenges of travel, but disruptive changes in routine, unpredictability, dense crowds, new noises, sights, and smells.

As a Fort Myers ABA therapist can explain, preparing your child can go a long way in helping to ease anxiety and make for a smoother trip. Some aspects of travel that adults sometimes take for granted that can be scary/intimidating/unfamiliar to kids include things like: Airport security, loudspeaker announcements, large crowds full of strangers, unfamiliar restrooms (with extra loud hand driers), cramped seats, changes in air pressure, etc.

Teaching stories with visuals and simple, clear explanations can be a good resource to help prepare them. Taking an Airplane is a teaching story prepared by Jet Blue and Autism Speaks.

You might also consider practicing the use of public restrooms (visual prompts and supports may help). Be prepared for emergencies and accidents.

If you’re visiting somewhere your child has never been, help them to understand what they should expect. Show them pictures of the place. If you’re going to be meeting up with friends or family you haven’t seen in a while, show them pictures of who will be there. You may also show them pictures or videos of activities you may be engaging in while you’re there.

Write out a list of trip rules, and make sure to reward your child if they follow through with positive behavior.

FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers

3rd Annual FOCUS POCUS Halloween Event Was a Huge Success!

Our 3rd Annual FOCUS POCUS Halloween event at FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers was a true success! 💚💚💚

We so appreciate everyone who participated, spread the word, came out to see the magic & showed their support. 💚💚💚

FOCUS is so fortunate to have some incredibly creative people on our team, and it was magical to see the smiles of kids as they anticipated entering – and even bigger smiles as they left! 💚💚💚

Our kids don’t always get to enjoy holiday activities in the same way or in the same spaces as others. Some don’t handle crowds well, or sometimes parents don’t want to subject their child to potential callousness because of their differences. But our FOCUS families knew they could bring their littles here for big fun, welcomed by familiar, smiling faces & open arms. 💚💚💚

This year was extra special after the rough few weeks we’ve all had here in SWFL. We hope it was a night our kids & their families will remember for years to come – we sure will! 💚💚💚

FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers

Join Us for Our Annual FOCUS POCUS Trick-or-Treat Event in Fort Myers!

FOCUS Therapy

FOCUS Therapy Scheduling Limited Appointment Times for All Therapies

FOCUS Therapy

FOCUS Therapy Closure 9/27 and 9/28 Due to Hurricane Ian

FOCUS Therapy

FOCUS Therapy Closed 9/27 Due to Hurricane Ian

FOCUS Therapy ABA therapy

ABA Therapy & Occupational Therapy Helps Kids Self-Regulate Big Emotions

play based therapy FOCUS

All Therapy at FOCUS is Play-Based Therapy

At FOCUS, all of our Fort Myers therapies are play-based therapy.

Of course, play can be a lot of fun for as adults too – but the real reason we use a play-based therapy model in our speech, occupational, physical, and ABA therapy sessions is simply because: It works.

Study after study shows that when we engage kids in a play-based model of therapy, they’re going to be more engaged, excited about therapy – and they’re going to better remember the skills we’re trying to teach them.

“We never say, ‘Ok let’s go back and do some therapy,'” explains FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco. “No, we say, ‘Hey, are you ready to go play?’ Kids don’t even realize they’re doing ‘work’ – and that makes it more enjoyable – and ultimately more effective.”

FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy, feeding/swallowing therapy, occupational therapy, behavior therapy, and physical therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Planning a Play-Based Therapy Session, Sept. 2, 2013, By Meredith Poore Harold, ASHA Wire

More Blog Entries:

FOCUS Therapy Take on New CDC Developmental Milestones Guidelines, Aug. 1, 2022, Fort Myers Play-Based Therapy Blog

FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers

FOCUS Therapy Only Schedules Evaluations if We Have Space to Treat Your Child

Evaluations are an important step in the process of securing speech, occupational, physical, and/or ABA therapy for your child. But parents and caregivers should be wary of facilities that offer these evaluations while lacking capacity to immediately treat the child.

FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco explains that unless her team is being called on for a second opinion of an initial evaluation, they refrain from conducting formal assessments if unable to promptly provide treatment once the evaluation is complete.

“A standardized assessment is only a snapshot in time during the child’s development,” Voltz-Ronco said. “It’s like taking a picture of a child now, and then expecting it not to change in a few months. … If your child cannot access therapy within 1 or 2 months of that evaluation, the results are no longer going to be accurate. Kids develop new skills every few months. But the longer the child goes without therapy, the more significant that standard score comparison/discrepancy to same-age peers is going to be.”

Jennifer Voltz-Ronco FOCUS Therapy Owner
Jennifer Voltz-Ronco, FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder

Beyond this, families who rely on insurance to cover the cost of these evaluations (and they aren’t cheap) should be aware that insurers typically only cover one evaluation every six months or so. Even though clinics can utilize standardized assessments administered by another, it’s not ideal.

“Your child gets the most benefit when the team that directly observed your child’s abilities and deficits are the ones who ultimately formulate a plan of care and follow through with treatment,” Voltz-Ronco said. “In my opinion, it’s unethical for a clinic to profit from an evaluation that reveals a child is delayed or needs intervention – without providing that help.”

Types of Pediatric Evaluations FOCUS Therapy Offers

Children are usually referred to FOCUS Therapy and other therapy specialists by their primary care physician. Evaluations are typically ordered when a child is showing some developmental deficit, such as not sitting up or crawling, not talking or making regular eye contact, or red flags for a possible cognitive deficit. They could also be diagnosed with a condition that we can pretty well say for certain is going to require some combination of therapy services (such as cerebral palsy, down syndrome, vision impairments or hearing deficits).

Depending on the child’s condition and identified areas of concern, qualified therapists will be scheduled to conduct age-appropriate assessments to determine the need for therapy intervention services.

The specifics of the evaluation may vary, but they are generally going to include:

  • A look at case history, including medical status, education, socioeconomic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, and information from other providers.
  • Child and/or parent interview.
  • Review of the child’s auditory, visual, motor, and cognitive status.
  • Standardized and non-standardized assessments of specific aspects of speech, non-spoken language, swallowing function, cognitive communication, etc.
  • Assessment of self-care and/or self-awareness.
  • Skilled observation. This is where we keenly observe an accurately record a child’s abilities and behaviors.

There are several different types of standardized tests (including the ADOS test for autism screening, which FOCUS Therapy also provides).

“If a parent wants a second or third opinion after their child has been evaluated by a school or another provider, that’s one thing,” Voltz-Ronco. “But they’re most likely going to pay for that out-of-pocket – and they’re going to understand the purpose upfront. But if parents are looking for action, to get the ball rolling on the therapy interventions that a child needs, then the clinic conducting the assessment should be able to provide that.”

Not all of them do. Therefore, it’s incumbent on parents to ask the question before scheduling the assessment.

“We’ve gotten calls from parents of children who were evaluated other clinics, only to be told after the fact that the clinic did not have the ability to treat their child,” Voltz-Ronco said. “They were told to just call around and see what other clinics may be able to use the report generated from their assessment. That, to me, is not ethical.

“It’s a situation where parents need to be aware of this issue, and make sure they are asking the question upfront: ‘If I schedule this assessment and my child needs treatment, do you have the capacity to provide that treatment?’ If not, I would advise parents to move on and find a place with the capacity and willingness to do both.”

FOCUS offers ADOS testing and other standardized assessments in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida for children who may need speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, or ABA therapy. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Assessment and Evaluation of Speech-Language Disorders in Schools, American Speech-Language Hearing Association

More Blog Entries:

ADOS Testing, FOCUSFlorida.com