I have been a pediatric speech language pathologist for 17 years.
I am also a homeschool mom to 5 children; 3 typical girls and twin boys with special needs.
Had I not been a speech language pathologist (called SLP herein out) I do not know if we would have been able to afford for me to homeschool. Because so far, 4 of my 5 children have needed speech therapy as a part of their daily curriculum in my homeschool.
When a child is enrolled in public school a teacher will typically refer a child to an SLP that he/she suspects may need speech or language therapy. As almost all public schools have a certified SLP on staff, it is easy to determine if a Speech/language evaluation or therapy is needed. If an evaluation or therapy is needed, the child’s speech /language needs are addressed, for free, via the child’s Individualized Education Plan, or IEP (please see this link at KidsHealth.org for more information on the IEP process).
But what if your child is homeschooled? How can you tell if your child needs speech therapy? If your child has received a diagnosis, such as (but certainly not limited to) autism or some other disorder that is known to affect speech/language skills, you probably already know you need to seek out therapy. But what about a child who just mispronounces a few sounds? Or whose speech/language is just not quite as strong as his older siblings were? or just stutters time to time? Here are a few tips:
- Educate yourself on developmental norms. For example, if your 4 yr old cannot say the /r/ sound, this is not cause for alarm as /r/ is not a sound a 4 yr old is expected to make (although many can), if however, your 4 yr old is leaving end sounds off all words and unintelligible to anyone who is not a family member, then a plan needs to be put in motion. (I will be putting a free printable on my blog this week that explains which speech sounds are due when.)
- Talk to your pediatrician. Pediatricians are educated on said norms. They can also be a good referral resource for finding an SLP in your area. That being said, there is one exception: stuttering concerns. If your child is stuttering and your pediatrician says “they will grow out of it”, you need to watch this carefully. Some stuttering IS outgrown, some is not. Stuttering is a time sensitive speech disorder needing remediation prior to a specific age, so waiting to see if it is “outgrown” is not a good plan of action.
- How is their functional communication? Is your child grade levels above in vocabulary but no one but you can understand them–or the opposite…they speak perfectly clear but have trouble putting together age appropriate speech? These are both warning signals a speech/language evaluation may be merited.
- Depending on your state, swallowing/eating issues may or may not be addressed by an SLP (some states have OT do this therapy). Regardless if you suspect any concerns in this area you need to contact your primary care physician immediately.
This is not a comprehensive list; the area of speech/language pathology is vast and can include (but not limited to) the areas of speech, articulation (how sounds are produced) expressive language (what is said), receptive language (what is understood), swallowing disorders, oral motor weakness (when is excessive drool just excessive drool and when is it a problem needing therapy? an SLP will know), social skills, play skills (0-3yrs), reading/writing disorders, stuttering, and more! Children who have suffered prolonged illnesses or hospital stays, were preemies, or who have suffered an injury (head injury, for example) are at high risk for needing speech/language pathology services.
This year, 2012 finds me at my blog, Brighton Park writing a weekly series on speech and language needs in the homeschool environment. This series starts this week. It will include more information about how to tell if your child needs speech/language therapy, how to pick a good therapist (and how to tell a bad one), how to cut the cost of speech language therapy, how to work on particular sounds in your home school with materials you already have and more. I hope that you will join me for the series and enjoy weekly giveaways that I will feature this month to celebrate my 3 year blogoversary.
Katie is a Christian, a Jane Austen lover, a wife to her own Mr. Darcy and mother of 5 children, ages 11-1, including twins who have special needs. A pediatric speech language pathologist by trade for the past 17 years, she is back in graduate school working on a new masters in history and French, while continuing homeschooling. She misses sleep. She pens her sometimes fairly humorous tales of homeschooling, homemaking and homesteading journeys at the Brighton Park Blog and facebook page, and tweets about them as @kateinbrighton. She also wants to remind you that this guest post does not constitute the giving of medical advice.