language delay Fort Myers

Four Things to Know About Developmental Language Delay in Kids

Some kids are “language late bloomers.” A percentage will catch up to children their same age on their own. Others, however, will continue to struggle with language learning. We call this a developmental language delay. If these difficulties persist beyond the earlier stages of development (past the age of 5), it can significantly impact their reading, writing, math, reasoning, and social skills later on.

Kids whose language troubles can’t be explained by some other cause (such as a disability, syndrome or physical impediment) and continue until they’re in school are typically diagnosed with Developmental Language Disorder.

Some indications of a language delay may include:

  • Not babbling by 15 months.
  • Not speaking by the age of 2.
  • Inability to speak in short sentences by the age of 3.
  • Trouble following directions.
  • Difficulty putting words together in a sentence.
  • Leaving words out of sentences.

If you suspect your child may be struggling with language comprehension or expression, you do not need to wait until they are school age to have it addressed. In fact, you should have it assessed and treated much sooner, if possible. As noted by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), early intervention (before age 5 and preferably before age 3) can have a substantial impact on the long-term implications of a speech-language disorder or developmental language disorder.

Our early intervention speech therapy team at FOCUS Therapy can help your child struggling with language skills to catch up to their same-age peers, specifically targeting skills like:

  • Cognitive thinking (problem-solving, thinking, learning).
  • Communication (listening, talking, understanding, gesturing).
  • Physical/sensory skills (seeing, hearing, crawling, walking, climbing).
  • Social-emotional skills (playing, understanding feelings, making friends).
  • Adaptive/self-help skills (eating, drinking, bathing, dressing, etc.).

If you think your child may need some extra help in the area of language development, here are four things to know:

speech therapist Fort Myers

Fort Myers Speech Therapist Tips on Reducing Kids’ Screen Time

Kids’ recreational screen time more than doubled in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics. This is concerning news because, as a Fort Myers speech therapist will tell you, excessive use of screen time can have numerous adverse impacts. In particular, these include:

  • Unhealthy weight gain.
  • Reduction in social skills.
  • Depression.
  • Delay in speech-language development (particularly for younger children).

The researchers looked at a group of more than 5,400 kids. Their average daily screen time prior to the pandemic was about 3.8 hours (still pretty high!). (The data was initially gleaned to study how cognitive development is impacted by screen time.) Then during the pandemic, kids’ use of electronic screens doubled to 7.7 hours daily. It should be noted that figure excluded school-related screen time, which many kids engaged in on-and-off, either in virtual school or some hybrid. Here in Southwest Florida, many schoolchildren are also assigned a set number of weekly minutes through a reading-math program called iReady. This too would have been excluded.

Analysts were solely looking at recreational screen time. That would include the use of electronic devices (phones, iPads, gaming systems, etc.) for things like:

  • Multiple-player gaming.
  • Single-player gaming.
  • Texting.
  • Social media.
  • Video chatting.
  • Browsing the internet.
  • Watching streaming movies, videos, or television shows.
Fort Myers speech therapy

Why Early Intervention Speech Therapy is SO Important if Your Child is Delayed

Speech and language skills are critical to a child’s ability to learn and interact in the world around them. When speech-language delays are identified and treated right away, there are exponential benefits for their social-emotional and academic growth. The early years are the most important for building strong speech and language skills. In this stage, your child’s brain is growing extremely fast in the first five years of life. During this window, kids are more open to learning than they’ll ever. To minimize the long-term negative impacts of a speech-language delay or disorder, our Fort Myers speech therapy team recommends early intervention – starting before age 3, if possible.

Communication is one of the most critical developmental tasks of early childhood development. It’s the way children start to form their understanding of the world. When a child has trouble communicating (being understood and/or understanding others), it can hinder their ability and confidence to express their ideas and observations of the world around them.

Kids who struggle with communication in earlier stages of development may struggle with:

  • Low frustration tolerance.
  • Emotional outbursts.
  • Excessive shyness.

They may also appear less academically advanced than their peers. That’s because reading, writing, and verbal assertions are essential to the learning process. The foundation for these skills starts very early – from birth. Your child may be too young yet for school, but if you notice they aren’t on pace with their peers in terms of speech and language skills, it’s a good idea to act promptly. The sooner you can address it, the less chance they’ll fall too far behind academically.

Also by the time kids get to school, their speech and language delays or difficulties may become markedly obvious, sometimes even to them. This realization can be a blow to their confidence, leading to lower class participation and performance. The earlier they can start working on it with a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP), the less the deficit is going to impact them later on.

A child’s inability to express themselves or understand what’s being expressed to them has an undeniable negative impact on their ability to fully enjoy and participate in daily life. The earlier we can intervene with speech therapy, the less difficulty they’ll have as they get older.

Fort Myers speech therapy

Fort Myers Speech Therapy Insight: Strategies We Use to Help Your Child Talk

Our Fort Myers speech therapy team has many strategies to help children learn important speech and language skills.

So much of it is creating opportunities and encouraging practice in a fun, play-based atmosphere. Some examples include:

  • Putting things just out of reach, to encourage the child to ask for it.
  • Provide only part of a game to play with, and encourage them to ask for other pieces.
  • Pretend to be forgetful. Let the child “catch us” being forgetful or getting an answer wrong – the love to be helpful so we can get it right!
  • Pause during an activity that is predictable. It could be singing a favorite song or game and just pause. This encourages them to retrieve and use their vocabulary.
FOCUS Fort Myers speech therapy preemie low birth weight

Why Our Fort Myers Speech Therapy Intake Forms Inquire About Low Birth Weight

Some parents note when filling out our Fort Myers speech therapy intake forms that we inquire as to whether their child had a low birth weight. You may wonder what this has to do with speech therapy. The answer, as noted in research published by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, is that compared to babies with a birth weight in the normal range, those with low birth rate:

  • Were more likely to have a communication disorder.
  • Were more likely to have used speech-language, occupational, and physical therapy services.
  • Had weaker motor abilities.
  • Had lower school performance.
  • Had higher incidence rates of pneumonia.
  • Were three times more likely to repeat a grade.

In short, while some babies with low birth weight are perfectly fine, some are at high risk for communication and developmental problems that can extend well into childhood. Our Fort Myers speech therapy team at FOCUS Therapy can help.

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FOCUS Therapy Opening Second Fort Myers Location Near Gulf Coast

Big news, FOCUS Family: FOCUS Therapy is opening a second location in Fort Myers!

Our new FOCUS Therapy location, conveniently situated near FGCU, Gulf Coast Town Center and Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), will allow us to expand our vital services (speech, occupational, physical & ABA therapies and ADOS testing) to hundreds more children in one of the fastest-growing communities in the country.

The new FOCUS Gulf Coast Office, located at 9961 Interstate Commerce Dr., Unit 150 & 160, will officially open its doors Aug. 9, 2021. This new facility will allow us the capacity to ultimately onboard an additional 20 therapists and treat 200 more children than our existing patient list. We’ve hired 10 new therapists to start, and will bring on more as we grow throughout the next year.

“Opening this new site is both extremely exciting and deeply humbling,” said FOCUS Owner/Founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco. “I set out to fill a critical need in this community 10 years ago, at a time when there weren’t enough clinics providing pediatric therapy in Southwest Florida. There still aren’t. As the population in our area continues to grow at a rapid speed, the demand for quality therapy has expanded at an even faster clip. This brings us one step closer to ensuring all children in Southwest Florida have access to the therapy services they need to succeed.”FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers

At our existing location on Royal Gulf Circle off Colonial Boulevard, we have a waitlist of 160 children. Similar waitlists are reported at other pediatric therapy clinics throughout Southwest Florida.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, roughly 9 percent of kids in the U.S. have a speech sound disorder. Further, about 5 percent of kids have a noticeable speech disorder by 1st grade. Now consider that in 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported approximately 1 in 54 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). That’s 1 in 34 boys and 1 in 144 girls, with diagnoses being reliably made as early as 18 months. There is a mountain of clinical evidence showing these kids can thrive – but only with access to intensive, early intervention therapies (speech therapy, occupational therapy and applied behavior analysis).

Whether we’re talking about a speech delay, down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, brain injury or other condition, the more assistance a child receives early on, the better their odds of school readiness, social engagement, academic success and long-term independence. That’s because neuropathways for young children are still developing, and young minds are little sponges for new knowledge. This ability of the brain to change, rewire, relearn and strengthen key connections is called neuroplasticity. It’s especially agile during early childhood, and that’s why we’re so adamant in preaching early intervention. It’s also why we couldn’t delay any longer in opening a second FOCUS Therapy clinic location.

“Children cannot wait for services this important,” Voltz-Ronco said. “This new Gulf Coast location of FOCUS Therapy is going to allow us to reach more kids in this community – and faster – benefiting not just themselves, but their families, the schools and our entire community as a whole.”FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers

FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA therapy, physical therapy and ADOS testing in Fort Myers. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

More Blog Entries:

Therapy Isn’t a Quick-Fix – Why You Should Still Follow Our Course Until Successful, May 7, 2020, FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers Blog

Why FOCUS Therapy Celebrates With “Therapy Graduation” Ceremonies, Sept. 5, 2020, FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers Blog

Fort Myers speech therapists

Cooking Up Some Communication! Tips From FOCUS Speech Therapists on Meal Prep as a Language Booster

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.

Fort Myers speech therapist

Fort Myers Speech Therapist Insight: What’s a Speech Sound Disorder and How Do You Treat It?

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.”

Kids often say sounds the wrong way when they’re first learning to talk. This is totally normal. Lots of toddlers can say sounds like w, m or p pretty early on, but struggle to master sounds like th, v or z. The majority of kids can say pretty much all of their speech sounds correctly by the time they’re about 4. If a child is struggling with these sounds beyond 4 or 5, they may have a speech sound disorder.
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FOCUS Therapy Cancellation Policy Update

Dear FOCUS Therapy Families,

If ever a year could be described as a rollercoaster, it was 2020. FOCUS Therapy is beyond grateful for the families, therapists and staff who stuck with us through whirlwind months of office closures (in accordance with CDC guidelines), rapidly-expanded teletherapy services, scheduling upheavals and enhanced safety protocols. Our services are vital to patients’ health and development, and we’re committed to delivering no matter the obstacles. Still, our success has always hinged heavily on the dedication of our FOCUS families.

As a token of our thanks, this new year we’re gifting each patient a clean slate on their appointment cancellation record. Starting Jan. 1, 2021, cancellations for the prior calendar year will not count against you or adversely impact your child’s standing as a FOCUS patient.

Fort Myers speech therapists

Conversational Scripts and How Our Fort Myers Speech Therapists Use Them

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.