Q: Why did the emu cross the road?
A: To prove he wasn’t a chicken.
Sometimes as a parent in speech therapy sessions you might have some questions but feel too chicken to ask, such as:
- “Why does the therapist just play with my child?”
- “Why won’t she just get him to say some words?”
- “We’ve been in therapy for X weeks and my child’s still not talking! How long does this take?”
- “How many times do I have to repeat this? I feel like a broken record.”
- “Why does speech therapy cost so much? It looks like an easy way to make good money.”
No one wants to seem rude or like they don’t care about their child, so often these questions go unspoken. So, rather than wait for you to ask those questions we want to make it easy on you and answer them upfront. Parenting is hard, and raising a child who also needs speech therapy is even more complicated, so we’re doing what we can to lighten your load.
As a speech pathologist I sometimes feel a bit like a duck – I look like I’m gliding along floating on the surface but underneath I’m paddling like mad! Here are a few insights into what’s going on underneath the surface so that you and your child can understand and enjoy the therapy process more.
1. It’s not “just” play
We seem to have a preconceived idea that playing is somehow goofing off and is in direct opposition to working and making progress. So when our child has trouble with something we expect them to have to “work” to learn it. The fact is play is how children learn. As Albert Einstein said, “Play is the highest form of research”. So it might seem just we are just playing but that play is carefully constructed to stimulate learning of different skills your child needs.
2. What you see is not all you get
It might seem like you pay a lot for each speech therapy session but that doesn’t mean your therapist is getting paid a lot. For a start, on average every one hour you spend in the therapy room is matched with another hour of preparation, planning and record keeping specifically for your child. We also have all of the costs associated with a normal business such as rent and our professional registration. Also, our insurance costs (because we are a health professional) can be very high. Then we also engage in numerous (very) expensive professional development courses and workshops to make sure our skills are current and your child gets the best possible outcome as quickly as possible. Additionally, although some of our materials seem inexpensive, they’re often not, and our assessment tools are highly specialised and therefore super costly. For example speech pathology test forms (that’s not the test equipment, just the form your child’s results are recorded on) can cost anything up to $20 each! So if you are thinking your therapist is making their millions from your fees it couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact:
“The average salary for a Speech Pathologist is AU$58,337 per year.” source: http://www.payscale.com/research/AU/Job=Speech_Pathologist/Salary
There are certainly easier ways to make money if that’s what you care about – our speech pathologists work because they love making a difference in children’s lives and helping families flourish.
3. There is no “normal” for rate of therapy progress
Every child is unique and we treat them as such. As a result some progress quickly, others progress slowly. That’s why at Chatterbugs we take setting goals and measuring progress so seriously because we are making sure every step of the way that your child is getting the best possible outcome. That outcome and how we measure it will look different for every child but we are always looking for progress and ways to accelerate it. If we don’t see observable progress then we change what we are doing. If you think of your child’s development like a complex engineering project although we might plan for everything we can think of there will always be unexpected variables that mean we need to change the plan and that’s why regular review consultations are so important.
4. Communication is not just about word output
When our child’s not talking as much or as well as we would like (or not at all!) it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that our only measure of success is how many words they can say. Communication is so much more than that though. Often your therapist will need to be working on what we call prelinguistic skills before spoken words will be a worthwhile goal. Prelinguistic skills are probably best described as the foundational skills for formal communication. They include things like attention, engagement, turn taking and being able to understand that words hold meaning and make things happen. I know it’s really hard when you desperately want your child to talk to be patient through this phase of the therapy process but it is worth it. Keep in mind that your speech pathologist desperately wants your child to talk too – it’s why we do what we do and love it!
I hope this has helped you find some answers to those questions you didn’t feel comfortable asking and if you have more we promise we won’t be offended! The only silly question is the one you didn’t ask.
Talk, Eat, Play & Learn!