When you are told to "wait and see" OR "it isn't impacting their academics"
As a speech-language pathologist, I’ve worked in a variety of settings. I started my career in the public schools and became very well acquainted with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). I later worked in the healthcare system and dealt with insurance. Two situations often popped up that parents commonly hear:
“Wait and See”
There is a wide range in what is considered ‘typical’ speech and language development. Therefore, determining if speech services are needed can be a challenge. Not all children need speech therapy. For the ones that are delayed- those words or sounds may come on their own. However, we don’t have a timeline and there is no guarantee. The longer a habit/behavior/sound is practiced incorrectly, the longer it takes to fix. This often leads to frustration and decreased confidence. In my 10+ years of therapy, I’ve yet to meet a child that did not benefit from early intervention. Young children have the advantage of “brain plasticity”-- where neural pathways are established as their brain develops.
“Not Educationally Relevant”
This one pops up in elementary and middle school. I’ve observed 6th grade students with a lisp, incorrect /r/ production, or a stutter who are not receiving speech therapy. Why? Because they are getting good grades, have friends, and the error is not impacting their academics. Communication is intertwined in every school subject and social situation. Becoming a confident and effective speaker is crucial for future success. A recent study by Butler University found that students with articulation impairment were judged to have less academic potential by teachers. There is a link between errored sound patterns and self-esteem, willingness to participate/engage in class or social groups, and possible career choices.
All of this being said, I do understand where the organizations are coming from and the obstacles that they face. Funding, staff, documentation, billing, reimbursement– they all play a role. In creating Sounds & Smiles, my hope is to provide an additional option. An option for students who are embarrassed to go to speech therapy at school. Or, for students that don’t meet eligibility requirements but want to improve how well they are understood. Also, for parents that need guidance and ideas for how to foster language development. I’m truly blessed to teach and encourage children in their communication skills.