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.
Your child has autism. You know it. The rest of the family knows it. His teachers and therapists know it. Maybe even a few of his classmates know it. But when should HE know it? And how should you tell him?
It’s something many of our FOCUS Therapy families grapple with at some point, and answers really depend on the individual. Some parents opt to tell their child when they’re very young, hoping an early understanding of why they struggle more with certain things might make it all less confusing. Other parents wait until their child becomes aware of their differences and starts asking questions. A few parents wait until their child is older with a better ability to fully grasp what their diagnosis means. Our FOCUS speech, occupational and ABA therapists know there isn’t a singular right answer, but we’re here to support our patients and help guide families in these discussions.
Recently, a patient’s mother asked about the best way to handle some of the questions her 7-year-old son on the spectrum was asking. Christie Lawrence, a registered behavior technician (RBT) with our Fort Myers ABA therapy team and herself the mother of a teenager with autism, offered her thoughts.
“I would say the most important part of informing your child of their autism diagnosis is to empower them,” Lawrence said. “Autism can bring many gifts, and it’s so important to teach our children to find and focus on their strengths and build confidence from their success.”
When your child is hard to understand, it can be stressful for you, your family, friends, educators – and perhaps most especially, your child. Of course, nobody enters this world speaking perfectly, and each child has their own timeline for proper pronunciation. However, it’s also important not to wait too long if you notice your child is more difficult to understand than his or her peers. The sooner a Fort Myers speech therapist can intervene, the faster your child can catch up to where they need to be. That can be critical to ensuring they don’t fall too behind socially and academically. Speaking skills mastered before pre-K and kindergarten can significantly impact the ease with which your child will be able to read and write.
Although every child develops at their own rate, knowing what key milestones to watch for is a good idea. In general, as noted in a recent Parents.com article, you should understand:
- At least 50 percent of what your child says by age 2.
- At least 75 percent of what your child says by age 3.
- About 100 percent of what your child says by age 4, even if all the sounds aren’t perfect.
By the time your child is about 6 or 7, he or she should produce all sounds correctly most of the time. If you can’t, it is well past time to reach out to a Fort Myers speech therapist. Ideally, we like to start treatment of children with speech and language delays and disorders as soon as possible – the earlier the better. At FOCUS, we are big proponents of “early intervention,” which starts between ages 2 and 5.
Does your child say “brudder” for “brother”? “Dat” for “that”? “Fing” for “thing”? As our Fort Myers pediatric speech therapists can explain, the ‘th’ sound is one that develops later for a lot of kids. Some master it sooner, often when they start school and are constantly interacting with older kids. Others continue making this error. Most child development experts agree this is a sound that should usually be developed by age 7 or 8, though it’s certainly something you can begin working on earlier.
Of course, all children develop at their own pace, and a singular issue doesn’t necessarily mean your child is going to need speech therapy, particularly if your child is younger than 7 and your only concern is the “th” sound. Still, most kids develop their speech sounds in the same general order, beginning in the first year of life. (The American Speech-Language Hearing Association has a development chart you can use for reference.) The key is if you notice a delay, you don’t want to wait too long in addressing it.
An assessment from a licensed child speech therapist can help you determine if it’s something your child will likely grow out of or whether they need some additional help. Waitlists for child speech-language therapy services in Southwest Florida can be lengthy, so it’s best to inquire sooner than later if you have a question.
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.
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.
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!
FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers is hosting its first ever FOCUS POCUS Trunk-or-Treat event of socially-distanced Halloween fun for all our patients & families!
We’re welcoming everyone to dress up, bring a treat bag and join us for games, candy, prizes and more!
Our Southwest Florida speech, occupational, physical and ABA therapists are committed to providing enriching experiences for our young patients while encouraging the kind of inclusion we want to see at all events. That’s why we’re opening our FOCUS POCUS Trunk-or-Treat fun to our patients as well as their siblings and family.
From 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29th, FOCUS Therapy staffers and therapists will park their decorated vehicles a full vehicle-length apart in the parking lot outside our clinic, 4997 Royal Gulf Circle, Fort Myers, FL 33996. Parents will be encouraged to park to the west end of the office plaza, and we’ll have a carefully directed flow of trunk-or-treaters, with only one family allowed in front of a vehicle at a time.
“Halloween and trick-or-treat are such special events that kids look forward to all year long,” said FOCUS Therapy owner/founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco. “We know a lot of families this year may be wary of the traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating, but we don’t want anyone to miss out on the fun. It’s also great for our kiddos with disabilities and delays who could use some practice before venturing out door-to-door over the weekend.”
Some of our therapists will have fun, engaging activities and games at their “trunk stop” for children to play and engage, while still remaining socially-distanced.
“For many of our patients, traditional trick-or-treat can be tough anyway, whether because of sensory issues, language deficits or physical challenges,” Voltz-Ronco explained. “Trunk-or-treat events in general have sort of always been the perfect opportunity to allow for both tradition and accessibility. And now this year, as families with children of all abilities in our community are expressing concern about safe trick-or-treating, our team is excited to be involved in making that happen for them.”
For more information, contact FOCUS Therapy at (239) 313-5049 or e-mail Jennifer.Voltz@FOCUSFlorida.com.