Tuesday, November 9, 2010

An Update on Speech Therapy

As a parent, do you ever feel as though other people do not see your child as you do? That they just don't see the same potential, deficits as you. Well, that is where we are with going down this new path with Speech Therapy. Granted, we (the Therapist and wife and I) are beginning to be on the same page in our assessment of John and the direction we think we should be going.

My wife and I began by getting an initial evaluation done by a Speech Therapist here in town. The evaluation didn't go well as John was cranky and did not perform for her the way he performs for us all here at home. This is understandable and is expected at any evaluation of a child. But unfortunately, the Therapist has only the documented evaluation to go by as a place to begin treatment. This means that the Therapists' first impression of John, whether accurate or not, is where his deficits were defined, not to mention that having the diagnosis of Down syndrome brings with it a host of pre-conceived ideas from people.

Needless to say, both Joy and I were not impressed with the evaluation or the Therapists abilities to draw John out and motivate him to perform which I think is the hallmark characteristic of a good Therapist. So, we immediately moved him to a Therapist with Pediatric experience and we are now in our 3rd week of 2 days/ week outpatient sessions.

So far, it has been a break-in period for both John and Therapist as they work together to learn each other and the Therapist sees John for the child that he is and not just another Down syndrome child. As John gets more comfortable with her, he opens up more and shows more of himself. As for the Therapist, she is a talented Therapist who seems to connect with John and make him open up for her. What remains to be seen is her willingness and ability to listen to John and his parents and adjust her therapy to meet the needs of John. I think it is a downfall of we Therapists not to listen as much as we should and to begin our therapies at the place that we think they should begin which is usually someplace behind the clients' true abilities.

With a non-verbal child such as John, I know that it is difficult to establish what he knows and what he doesn't, whether the problem is cognitive vs. oral-motor. So in this initial phase of getting to know one another, we (wife and I) are waiting and watching to see what happens with an occasional comment here and there to our Therapist.

At this point, the Therapist doesn't see John the way that we see him, but we are convinced that she will in her time. It is not enough that she take our word for it because she needs to see him and and where he is for herself and this is a process that I believe must be respected by parents. But I will say that if the process drags on for too long, then you may want to reconsider whether that is correct Therapist for your child or not.

So for us, we are giving the process time while we gently give advice. We will see where it leads in another couple of weeks. John is performing more and more for her at every session. We will see how much she is listening to him.

So, my advice for weary parents that are going through this process is to choose a Therapist (Physical, Occupational, or Speech) that:

  • loves children

  • makes therapy fun

  • motivates your child

  • adjust the treatment to the interest of the child (almost anything can be turned into a treatment depending upon how you do it)

  • listens to both client and parent

  • can adjust to meet the need of the child and not just repeat the book format

I'm sure there are others, but these are important to me and my wife. As a consumer of health care, we need to take control of our health care and that means that we need to communicate. But we also need to have a health care provider that will listen to us.

Good luck to you and you choose a Therapist for your child. And remember - not all Therapist are created equal. There is more that goes into therapy than just learning from a book.