Fort Myers speech therapy
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.
It’s a new school year, which means a new routine – and all of us at FOCUS Therapy recognize the transition this year is especially significant because it’s the longest so many of our kids have been away from school for any one stretch. For some, this school year and all the milestones that go with it are going to continue to look much different.
School officially starts for students in the Lee County School District on Aug. 31st, with one of four instruction model options. The Fort Myers News-Press reports most will do so at half capacity. Desks will be spaced-out. Certain hallways and stairwells will be designated one-way. Classroom changes will be staggered and lunches will be served in classrooms to prevent large gatherings of students at any one place on campus. Approximately 58 percent of students are learning virtually, with 39 percent signing up for Lee Home Connect and 19 percent for Lee Virtual School.
Our dedicated team of therapists and staffers is SO excited to hear all about your first days back to school. Because this new year is going to mean many changes and everyone will be quite busy, we wanted to send out some friendly reminders to help families as they navigate through these challenges.
The FOCUS speech therapy team is flush with great ideas when it comes to using a deck of playing cards to get your child talking.
Card-playing is a popular past time because decks are small, portable and offer endless possibilities. Our speech therapists love cards too because they can be used during sessions (or at home) as a “communication temptation” for our patients. A communication temptation is any type of motivation we use to get kids engaged, talking and practicing the various skills we’re working on in speech therapy.
In addition to classic card games for kids (think Go Fish, Gin Rummy and Crazy Eights), it’s fun to make up games directly tailored to the skills of the children with whom we’re working. Here, we’ll outline some examples. Feel free to try them out yourself or make up your own!
In our many years of collective experience as speech-language pathologists, our FOCUS team has amassed lots tools to help us address children’s speech and language problems. We have loads of interactive games, cool crafts, brightly-colored books, fun toys and the technology that made us one of the first providers of online speech therapy for kids in Fort Myers (even prior to the pandemic). We also glean a lot of insight working with other professionals in a multi-disciplinary clinic.
But the most powerful tool we have? Parents!
Parent involvement in a child’s speech therapy is so, so important. Those who are committed to our process and make efforts to use our strategies at home are going to see their children make more significant, faster strides. That’s our personal experience, but there’s a lot of research to back us up on this.
We get it, though: Easier said than done. Parents these days are pulled in a thousand directions at once. This is only compounded if your child has been diagnosed with a developmental delay or disorder. There are appointments for doctors, specialists, therapies and school programs – on top of the everyday demands of work and other commitments.
It can be very tempting to simply rely on your speech therapy team to”fix” the speech problems. It’s true that we do (as we sometimes joke) “have ways of making you talk.” We bring to the table proven clinical strategies to help improve your child’s communication skills. But at the end of the day, parents are the rock star reinforcements.
Happy New Year from all of us at FOCUS Therapy!
To ensure this year goes as smoothly as possible, we’re publishing the 2020 FOCUS Therapy Scheduled Office Closures list in advance.
Typically, our Fort Myers therapy clinic’s schedule mirrors that of the Lee County School District. In other words: If the schools are open, we’re open. If schools are closed, we’re closed. Keep this in mind anytime there are severe weather closures, etc. (particularly during hurricane season!). Obviously, this doesn’t apply to the summer schedule, but where there are deviations, your child’s therapists should alert you in advance. Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions!
Scheduled 2020 FOCUS Therapy Office Closures
- 4/10/20 – Good Friday
- 5/25/20 – Memorial Day
- 9/7/20 – Labor Day
- 11/26-11/27 – Thanksgiving and the Friday after
- 12/21/20-12/25/20 – Christmas Week
- 1/1/21 – New Year’s Day
(Note: We will be open during spring break, March 16-20th and Friday, July 3, 2020.)
You my notice in the FOCUS waiting room that our Fort Myers speech therapists sometimes form some basic signs with our hands while we’re speaking to some of our patients. But it’s not exactly sign language. What we’re doing in those instances is using a speech-language therapy technique known as “sign-supported speech,” sometimes referred to as SSS.
Sign-supported speech is a form of simultaneous communication (SimCom), which was originally formed for the benefit of those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. However, the method has also proven an effective way for our Fort Myers speech therapists to teach speech and language to children with language delays and disorders.
Recent research published in the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research found that when speech therapists used sign-supported speech for word learning when working with children who have a developmental language disorder, it had a positive impact on the child’s linguistic and cognitive development.
Most any Fort Myers speech-language pathologist will tell you one of the first questions families of young children ask when inquiring whether certain missed milestones are cause for concern: “What if my child doesn’t respond to his name?”
It’s impossible to give a blanket answer because every child develops at a uniquely individual pace. (It’s also physicians – usually specialists – responsible for the actual diagnosis.) That said, a long-time speech-language pathologist will likely agree: If your child doesn’t respond to his name by the time they turn 1-year-old, it could indicate a developmental delay that requires action. You’ll want to alert your child’s primary care physician and discuss whether the concern warrants referrals for closer evaluation by specialists.
Responding to one’s name is a critical building block of functional communication. This wouldn’t be just a single instance when he couldn’t tear his attention from a riveting show or “selective hearing” in a moment of intense fun. This would be an issue that is consistent and noticeable (at least by you).
What Child’s Failure to Respond to Name Could Mean
A loyal, affectionate dog can be a kid’s best friend. Recently, a speech therapy study found that introducing animals – dogs especially – into speech therapy can help strengthen the intervention and make those lessons “stick.”
In a randomized control trial published by Czech researchers in Anthrozoos, researchers compared more than three dozen children ages 4 to 7 receiving traditional speech therapy services for developmental dysphasia to the same number and age group receiving animal-assisted speech therapy with a dog. What they discovered was that the presence of a dog during speech therapy helped foster a better relationship between the therapist and the child, in turn resulting in the child being more engaged and more apt to learn the lessons and skills being imparted.
FOCUS Fort Myers speech therapy for kids doesn’t actively employ a therapy dog, but we do occasionally bring in our calmest canines and other furry friends to say hello. It’s true that animals are a great “conversation starter” for anyone. Children can be highly motivated by animals, especially those that are attentive, loving and patient. Even children intimidated by dogs may warm up the longer the dog remains calmly nearby.
Children with Down syndrome often have speech delays and speech impairments. This is in addition to other differences in growth and development, which includes intellectual disabilities and unique facial features. Fort Myers speech therapy at FOCUS can help children with Down Syndrome make strides in their speech and communication skills, which helps boost overall learning and development.
A study published in the International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology reveals children with Down Syndrome may have motor speech deficits that aren’t being properly or adequately diagnosed, which impacts the type of speech interventions their speech therapists use when treating them.
Researchers pointed out that most children who have Down Syndrome have historically been diagnosed with a condition called childhood dysarthria. It’s basically a condition where the muscles we use to talk or breath (i.e., those in our lips, face, tongue and throat) are weak, leading to a motor speech disorder that can be mild to severe. (In addition to Down syndrome children, dysarthria is also diagnosed frequently among those who have brain injury, cerebral palsy, stroke and brain tumors.) What the study authors discovered is among children with Down syndrome, symptoms of childhood apraxia of speech might be missed among those already diagnosed with dysarthria because many physicians assume these disorders can’t be co-existing. Turns out: They can!
Speech therapists at FOCUS Fort Myers study for years – first in the classroom and then for the rest of our careers in practice at our clinic – learning ways to help children master key communication skills, from appropriate conversation to phonological awareness to comprehension. We use all sorts of tools to make that happen – including puppets, games, puzzles, swings, crafts – even a ball pit! But the most effective tool? Parents!
Parental engagement in helping carry over these same strategies with their child undeniably results in better, faster progress. (And the earlier we/ you get started, the better!)
We can cite countless examples that have us convinced, but it’s backed up by peer-reviewed research too.
Parental Involvement Helps Children Make Faster Speech Therapy Progress
The American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology followed the effects of parental involvement in language intervention on children between 1.5-to-5-years-old with language impairments that were both primary (language only) and secondary (accompanied by cognitive impairment or disability). Researchers reviewed 18 previous studies examining how well children did when speech therapists offered parents specific strategies to work with their kids outside the clinic setting.