Well hello there! Welcome to Musings with Gretch. I introduce myself more fully in the “howdy” post, but basically, the tagline on my blog says it all: I have too many words, and need somewhere to put them, because my poor, long-suffering husband? His ears must be exhausted. 🙂 I also like to share–mostly to encourage; sometimes simply to laugh. I’ve had this blog for 8 months, and this is my first post. Why? Oh, tons of silly little reasons. But I’m here now. This post is a bit of a unicorn for me, as I’m actually sharing reflections not only to encourage, but also to inform.
For the last eight months, I’ve been serving a preschool population of children within a local school district. I also serve a handful of elementary kiddos, but over 2/3 of my job is spent with the nearly three-to-5 year old population. I’m a speech-language pathologist (or speech AND language pathologist, if you prefer – or “she’s my speech teacher” also does in a pinch) so my jam, at least in the educational setting, is anything to do with speaking, listening, and expressing thought through language. Although I have a few preschoolers on my caseload for therapy, my main job is to evaluate them for possible communication delays. I prefer to use the word delay rather than disorder, because the word delay implies “not yet”, while disorder suggests more permanency. I like to promote hope and sit in the “not yet” for as long as I can.
I want to be an encourager, and as someone who has walked the road of special needs within my own family, I know God has prepared me for such. Aside: I am a Jesus freak, so I mention God all the time. If this annoys you, I’m not sorry. But I hope you’ll stay with me, even if you’re not a Jesus follower, because I promise I don’t bite. God is just so much of who I am that to NOT mention Him on my blog would be disingenuous. Anyhoo…I want to encourage others, so actually working with the parents of this population of children is more my mission, than working with the children themselves. MOST of the parents, regardless of their level of education, race, or socio-economic status, have been wonderful and advocate well for their child/ren. I am so pleased to see this. I am even pleased to work with the
annoying demanding extremely concerned and vocal parents even though they exhaust the crap outta me because I know they are working to give a voice to someone who may not have one. I was one of those parents. I am one.
I mean, don’t be annoying unless you must; but your child is worth a secret eye-roll and deep cleansing breath of his/her practitioner at your expense. I think most of us went into our professions to help others. But knowing there is a difference between what we want to provide, and what we are ABLE to provide, can be a bit of a grind on our psyches. Most therapists, teachers, medical staff (especially in the public schools) are serving you in a system that is over-taxed and underfunded. Things take much longer to turn around (e.g. reports and getting kids into therapy) because there is always someone else waiting in line who needs help. But we can only change care for the better if we all speak up. If your child needs something, please speak up! You know your child best of all. YOU are the most important part of his/her healthcare/educational team. YOU. S/he is at the center of activity, but parents are the project managers of their child/ren’s lives.
The primary reason I bring this up, is that I have been tempted to judge a few parents for NOT advocating, and my heart was convicted. Perhaps they are rotten people, who don’t love their children, but I think it’s more likely that they love fiercely, but don’t know what to ask for on behalf of their child/ren. Back in the 1900s, when I attended gradual school, a wise professor said: “I have never met a parent who said, ‘This is BEST and this is second best. I believe I’ll take second best, please.'” As a clinician, that perspective has never left me. Oh, sure, it needs to be dusted off and brought to the forefront of my mind every now and then, but it’s true. Most of us truly want the very best for our children.
With that in mind, I want to help you advocate for your child/ren by sharing some tips regarding normal speech and language development. This is not an exhaustive list, but a place to start. If you have concerns, speak to your pediatrician or call your school district, or do both.
- Generally speaking, kids begin to speak at about one year old. First words may include: “mama”, “dada”, “dog”, “milk”, “juice”, “ball”, etc.
- Kids are putting words together at about 2 years old (e.g. “mama juice”, “go outside”), and speaking in phrases and small sentences by 3 years of age.
- Kids all simplify speech by using what’s called phonological processes. These are things like saying, “ba-ba” for bottle, “pagetti” for spagetti, etc. This is developmentally normal, as speech sounds are acquired in a specific-ish order and it’s quite a load on the brain and body to learn how to say each sound. However, if they simplify their words such that you can’t understand them at all by the time they are preschool age, they may be demonstrating a delay.
- By preschool age, most children should be mostly understandable to their parents and other familiar listeners. And they should have no problem understanding you – e.g. able to follow directions, engage in a discussion, tell a story, etc. If you’re the only one who understands your preschooler, I think it’s worth exploring with your doctor or school district.
- Your child does not need speech therapy if s/he is understandable, but can’t produce R’s at age 2 or 3. R is a later developing sound. This link is super helpful in determining the acquisition of sounds.
- By kindergarten, your child should be producing mostly adult-like speech. Consonant blends and later developing sounds might show some errors, but in general, they should be easy to understand.
- This link is from the American Speech Language and Hearing Association, and gives great guidelines not only for development, but for what you can do to facilitate growth and development in a child’s communication.
- Ear infections matter. A child with a history of re-occurring ear infections likely has had a swiss cheese-like exposure to speech and language. They will show strengths and holes in development. When the ear is full of fluid or gunk, that creates a mild hearing loss for the period of time the child has that fluid/gunk in the ear. Let’s say a child is sick for even just a week – think of how much language we hear in a week’s time. If you multiply that by the number of ear infections which last a week, this is a significant loss of exposure to language. If your child is susceptible to ear infections, keep an ear/eye on his/her speech/language development, and remain in communication with your pediatrician. It’s very common to see delays with these kiddos.
- Please, for the love, READ out loud to your child/ren. Often. This is far superior than putting him/her in front of a TV show or app (even better than Mr. Rogers, but he’s pretty darn amazing). But it takes time and energy to read. I get it. If you happen to have older siblings, have them read to their younger ones. I cannot underscore this enough.
- Please, for the love, READ out loud to your child/ren. 🙂
Parents, you are doing such hard, holy work in raising humans. It seems endless, but it is so worth it. Long days, short years. May God bless and protect you and your babes. Please comment below if you have any questions. I’ll do my best to answer or find the answer. Much love to you.