When I started my career as a Speech and Language Therapist, I was thrust into the unknown world of managing my relationship with clients. Along with providing Speech therapy sessions, another equally important facet is your bond with parents and professionals.
University teaches you what to do, not why you do it and how to do it. I was fortunate enough to have a few people, who took me under their wing and guided me. I am ever grateful to them.
During my career, I have met the strongest, perceptive and inspiring people among children, parents and professionals. Being in the service oriented industry, it’s always heart over mind. We are emotional about our jobs, because we work from our heart.
Therefore, I would like to dedicate this blog post on the most fun, enlightening and engaging questions of my life, as an SLT. These answers are a result of being reflective and from experience. We all don’t have answers to all the questions. I made mistakes, I said the wrong answers and at times didn’t like the questions either. So, I wouldn’t be where I am now, if I didn’t learn.
I also add in between snippets of parent’s confessions, we have had in between our sessions.
1.I had an initial consultation with a client. The parents came into my room and I gave them a brief introduction about my education and my experience. Then, I asked them, “How can I help you?” In return, they asked me “Well, can you please tell us, what kind of populations you have worked with. We want to make sure; you are a good fit for working with our child”.
Answer: Yes, I do understand your concern. I’ve worked extensively in the age range that your child is in. I would like you to attend my sessions, so that we can discuss the current level of your child, set goals and manage each others expectations. However, expect a few sessions to be free play and building rapport, because firstly coming here should be meaningful and reinforcing for your child.
I must say that, acknowledging their concern and giving them specific information and support, instantly reduced their anxiety. Based on the difficulty, I usually give them specific examples of setting up goals and therapy.
2. Why do you want us to test his/her hearing? He/she hears just fine.
Answer: To speak, we must hear the sounds and words. If we don’t hear properly, then we do not develop language at a pace that it should be. Let’s do this test, “Guess, what I am trying to say, with my voice turned off”.
Parents feel weird doing this, but they tell me that they couldn’t understand and follow what is being said. As Speech therapists; hearing evaluation is the most important thing to do before suggesting any intervention plans.
Please click“Blindness cuts us from things, but deafness cuts us from people”- Helen Keller here for a blog post, I had exclusively written about the importance of hearing evaluation.
3. How are you different from an English teacher?
Answer: An English teacher, teaches the application of the vocabulary in academics. However, a Speech therapist is a communication specialist. We understand where the breakdown is happening, why the child is not communicating like other children of their age, assess their delay or disorder, what is the age the child is functioning at ( A child who is 6 years old, uses his language like a 3 year old), what is the best modality (pictures, signs or devices) to adapt and what are the modifications we can make to help children communicate.
4. This was a teenager’s mother. She asked me “How can you motivate my son to come for therapy”?
Answer: That is a very relevant question, because teenagers are adults in the making. In my experience, most of the times, teenagers refuse to come for therapy for two reasons. Firstly, they do not like to sit in the waiting area where smaller children play. Secondly, they do not feel there is anything wrong with them.
During my assessment process, I make sure that a checklist is given to your child to express his/her concern on his/her communication and language. After the assessment process, I share the results with them, along with the goals we need to work on.
Coming up with a communication contract between the therapist and student is a nice way to commit and revisit the progress in a terms time.
However, after doing all this, some children do not wish to come. At that point, I meet with parents and tell them that, if they do not enjoy or learn from the session, it is all in vain. I have had to discharge, refer or give a term break to some students.
Parent confessions: “I am tired, mentally and physically, trying to bring him for therapy every day. I am the only one who thinks he needs help. Hence, I am the only one rejoicing at his successes”.
5. Do you think my child has Autism?
Answer: It is not fair on the children, to label them with any diagnosis after spending a couple of minutes with them. Autism is a diagnosis made primarily by a psychologist and a multi-disciplinary team. Being an SLT, I can assess their communication and tell you what their strengths and weaknesses are. We can build on their strengths to improve their confidence and climb up the ladder, whilst working on their weaknesses at the same time.
As parents, I must acknowledge that you are doing the right thing, by understanding that your child needs therapy. Over the course of time, children surprise you. However, if a diagnosis is what you are looking for, then let me spend more time with your child, keep you updated and refer you to a psychologist.
6. Do you use organic products during therapy? I was working with a child with oromotor difficulties. So, we use food items like honey, peanut butter (after checking if they are allergic), cheerios etc.
Answer: I didn’t think about that, since no one ever asked me about it.
Hence, I purchased organic products and I have been using only organic products for therapy.
Parent confessions: “I underestimated and misjudged my child. He is a star!”
7. Can I sit in the sessions with you?
Answer: Yes, of course. I would love to have you in my session. It makes sense, because the child spends only an hour or two with me during the week. He/she spends the most time with you. It would be great if you can watch and learn from what I do and do it at home.
I recommend doing activities which are more naturally occurring in the home environment. Making it structured like my session, would make him/her feel its homework. For e.g. If I was teaching your child prepositions like in/out, then I would ask you to use it at the beach (putting sand in and out of the pail), grocery shopping (Put apple in the bag).
8. Am I confusing my child speaking and reading in our native language?
Answer: A resounding NO! In fact, it makes sense on some level, because if the child has difficulty with communication, then speaking in two languages could make things worse. Unfortunately, some well meaning educational professionals propagate this idea.
The fact is that the number of languages a child speaks does not contribute to communication deficits. It is the complexity of the language that is being used at home. Which means, if the parents are using a language system that is undeveloped and foreign to them, then communication will not develop sufficiently.
You must provide a great language model for your child. For e.g. Read books in your native language to your child/Have a specific time of the day, when everyone in the house speaks their native language.
A recent research done in 2010, based on the impact of cross-linguistic storybook intervention on English language development in preschoolers. Researchers selected books that were available in children’s home language (in this case, Spanish) and in English. Parents were asked to read the books in their native language. Meanwhile, teachers read the same books in English. To sum up, language skills of these children in the English- speaking environment increased in frequency and complexity.
Parent confessions: “I am 40 years old. I want to help my child in the best way possible. Do you think I stand a chance to becoming a Speech Language Therapist”?
Well, there is no age limit for learning. Whatever you are, be a good one.