Impacts of Speech and Language Difficulties

The impacts of speech, language and communication difficulties in childhood are significant and potentially lasting. Speech therapy might not be able to prevent these impacts for all children but we can minimise them as much as possible by giving children the support and skills they need. The type and amount of impact for each child varies depending on the type and severity of their difficulties, their environment and their personality. It is also influenced by how early, how much and how good their speech therapy and other interventions are. Here we give you a brief summary of the known impacts of speech, language and communication difficulties in children’s lives. This list can be daunting and depressing for some parents but it highlights the importance of accessing a good Speech Pathologist as soon as possible to help your child develop. Sometimes parents don’t fully understand the impacts of their child’s difficulties which means they don’t prioritise therapy amongst the other many demands of life as a parent, not because they aren’t good parents but just because they don’t understand the significance of the problem. This list will explain that significance.   Speech and Language Difficulties are Common: It has been estimated that between 16 and 21% of five year olds experience speech or language difficulties, with up to 50% of these children have problems in both areas (Reilly et al., 2010).   General Outcomes: Children with speech and language difficulties are at risk for ongoing communication problems in adulthood as well as cognitive, academic, behavioural, social and psychiatric difficulties (Bashir & Scavuzzo, 1992). Children with speech and language difficulties in...

The importance of customer feedback

We are lucky in Toowoomba to have a wide variety of medical and allied health services that deliver excellent care, but none of us can improve if we don’t get feedback. We’ve had some new families choose us to help their children recently and these parents have commented on how different our service was to some other health services they had experienced in other locations. I hope that the experiences they relayed were rare experiences but the feedback they’ve provided on our service has helped us to know how we can continue to improve our service. We encourage families to provide as much feedback as possible to their health service providers because we know from firsthand experience that it makes a real difference and often if there’s an issue there’s a simple solution we can easily put in place if we only know there is a problem. Sometimes people only provide feedback when they have a complaint to make so were were extremely grateful to these clients for providing feedback on the things they loved. This helps us to know what to keep doing or to do more of. Here are 3 things we are continuing to focus on at Chatterbugs because our clients love it: 1. Parents get the answers they need. One mother related how with many medical and health appointments she feels like she answers a barrage of questions from the professional but that then her questions don’t get clearly answered in return. She said, “I love Chatterbugs’ Simple Steps Plan that outlines exactly where are are, where we are going and the first steps to get there.” For every new assessment...

Foundations for Communication

As Speech Pathologists, there might be moments where the things we do in therapy sessions may surprise or confuse parents. To the untrained eye therapy sessions may look like we’re not accomplishing much, just having some fun playing together. This can be especially frustrating when you have come to speech therapy because your child’s not talking. The truth is that there are many key foundations to successful communication, and these foundations are necessary before other skills can be learned successfully. For example, if a child has difficulty paying attention, they will struggle to understand much of what is said to them simply because they haven’t attended fully to it. Similarly, if a child has difficulty understanding language, they will have difficulty learning new words and grammar skills. Most language is learned by hearing, and if you are having trouble understanding what you hear (or aren’t really hearing it because your attention is poor) you will struggle to learn to use it. Five of these foundations to communication are: Joint Attention: The ability to understand that we can pay attention to the same object as someone else. For example, your child is able to follow eye gazing, pointing, or other gestures from another person (a communication partner) which leads to both paying attention to the same object. Shared Enjoyment: The ability to share an event or feeling with another person. For example, your child sees something funny on TV, laughs and then looks at you to see if you also enjoyed it. Intent: The ability to use different forms of communication (verbal or non-verbal) to send messages to other people. This can involve using verbal (like saying “look”, “watch”, “come here”, etc.)...

Story Time in the Park – free community event this Friday!

We’ve been proud to support our fabulous local library together with First Five Forever in this fantastic series of community storytelling events. Our team have had heaps of fun and met some new friends. The good new is…it’s on again this Friday 5th February at Laurel Bank Park. If weather is looking less than ideal we will be in the hall at the park (near Hill Street). There are lots of stories, activities and singing for the kids and friendly conversation for parents. The fun kicks off at 9am and is completely free – hope to see you there! If you are looking for things to do with your child then this is perfect: Things to do in...

The questions you’re too scared to ask your speech therapist (but really want to know!)

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....

Best ever strategy to help a child’s eye contact

I often have parents ask me for ideas to help their child learn to use more eye contact. I first used this trick many years ago (can’t remember how or who I learned it from or I would give them a hug and BIG thankyou!). Years later, I still use this strategy regularly with children who struggle to make eye contact. Here’s how it works. During play choose a preferred/interesting toy (eg one with light/sound if they don’t have favourites) and hold it near your eyes. As soon as they look at the toy, give it to them. Then gradually as they get the idea of the “game” wait longer until their eyes flick across to your eyes then give them the toy. This would be the sort of activity you could do very quickly throughout the day without having to do any formal practice time. The really beautiful thing about this trick is that it not only teaches children how to make eye contact but also that eye contact is purposeful and makes things happen in the child’s communication world. Happy eye contact...