speech therapy Fort Myers
Most parents know the thrill of hearing a child say, “mama” and “dada” for the first time. Then comes the adorable baby talk. But what if your child isn’t saying words by the time they’re 1 year old? What if they’re still mispronouncing lots of basic words by age 5? At what point do you decide a speech therapy consultation might be in order?
The first thing to bear in mind is that kids develop at all different paces. So the fact that your child is behind a bit isn’t necessarily cause for alarm. That said, it never hurts to have your child evaluated if you aren’t sure. FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers offers free initial consultations to help parents determine if a more extensive evaluation is necessary. Evidence has shown time-and-again that “wait-and-see” is an ineffective approach when it comes to children with speech-language disorders or delays. The reason is the longer kids go without early intervention, the more developmental skills they must catch up on. Plus, the older they are, the harder it is to unlearn bad habits and adopt new ones because neuropathways have less plasticity as we age.
“If there is reason to be concerned when your child is 18-months-old, there is no reason to wait until they’re 3 or 5 to have them evaluated,” explained FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco, MS/CCC-SLP. “The earlier we can diagnose a speech-language disorder or delay, the less impact it is going to have on your child’s development, academic achievements, and social/emotional well-being.”
Speech delays can have a number of causes, including oral impairment (problems with the tongue or palate), oral-motor problems, hearing issues, or a neurological condition like autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although we treat children of all ages, we do recommend initiating assessments as early as possible, ideally as soon as you notice an issue.
Steps to Take if You’re Concerned Your Child Might Need Speech Therapy
If you think there’s a possibility your child might need speech therapy services, consider the following steps:
If you’re wondering whether your child might need pediatric speech therapy (speech therapy provided to kids), it’s best not to “wait-and-see.” That’s because problems compound, bad habits become more ingrained, and neural pathways critical to learning become more inflexible.
Another thing to bear in mind is the proven success of early intervention. As noted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), early intervention is the process of providing support to infants, toddlers, and young children who have or are at risk for a developmental delay, disability, or health condition that might impact typical development and learning. The earlier services are delivered, the more likely the child is going to develop effective communication, language, and swallowing skills.
Areas of Development Pediatric Speech Therapy Targets
Pediatric speech therapy will target five areas of development, including:
- Communication development.
- Cognitive development.
- Physical development, including vision and hearing.
- Social-emotional development.
- Adaptive development.
FOCUS Therapy is highly effective in treating a wide range of delays, disabilities, injuries and challenges – in large part because we’re working on site at our two Fort Myers clinics with inter-disciplinary teams that include not only speech therapists, but occupational therapists, ABA therapists (who target behavior), and physical therapists.
For more information on whether your child may not be reaching important speech-language development milestones, ASHA is a great resource! So is your pediatrician, who can issue a referral for your child to be assessed by a trained speech-language pathologist with a full evaluation, which can shed light on challenges as well as treatment solutions.
FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy at two clinics in Fort Myers, with virtual speech therapy and occupational therapy offered to kids throughout the state of Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.
More Blog Entries:
Fort Myers Speech Therapist Tips on Reducing Kids’ Screen Time, Nov. 5, 2021, Ft. Myers Speech Therapy Blog
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:
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.
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.
FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers is ALL about celebrating milestones big and small. We know just how hard these kids work – whether it’s speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA therapy or physical therapy. We also know how hard their therapists and families work, too. When a child meets all the objectives of their plan of care – that is a huge success that deserves special recognition!
We’ve always held therapy graduations for kids, but we’ve been thinking more about their importance lately, not only because we’ve held several in the past few weeks, but also because we know so many kids in our community have missed important rites of passage like these in recent months. It was a real loss to them and their families. It drives home the point that whether you’re 8 or 18 or 80, a graduation is a very significant appreciation of one’s personal achievements and hard work. It’s also a gift to their family and others who have supported them along the way. When a child starts therapy, it’s often as much a journey for their family and therapy team as it is for them.
“Therapy is a commitment for the parents and the child,” explained FOCUS Therapy Owner and Founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco. “They have to attend a certain amount of times per week, they need to show up, they need to give it their best. If it’s going to be effective, parents need to be on-board to ensure consistency and carryover. The kids work hard, the families work hard – and the therapists work so hard too! So when a child gets to the point that they’ve met all their goals and therapy is no longer necessary, I have always felt it is SO important to celebrate that victory.”
Sometimes children with speech and language delays need a bit of additional help learning about social situations and appropriate responses. Our speech therapists in Fort Myers know one tool that has proven extremely useful is “Social Stories.”
A social story is basically what it sounds like: It’s a short, simple story intended to teach children what to expect in certain social settings. These short books, which include pictures of the child and familiar settings, don’t have to be fancy. They can incorporate photos you shoot on your smartphone and print out on your computer. A therapist can craft or help you create a social story for help with certain scenarios in which your child seems to be struggling. When the story is read repeatedly to the child, combined with images of themselves and the difficult scenario they are confronting, it can be powerful. Social stories can also help those with language delays and deficits to understand certain nuances of interpersonal communication – giving them tools to interact in a manner that is both appropriate and effective.
Social stories were first developed in the early 1990s by Carol Gray, a Michigan school teacher whose four children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. She explained it helps children understand what can be difficult for those with language delays or deficits to comprehend.