Here is the second part of top tips for speech and language therapy from Helen & Elizabeth at SpeechBlogUK. If you have any tips that have proved useful, please do share them in the comments!
Your child's initial appointment
Your child will probably be seen in a clinic room if they are preschool. If they are school-aged, they may be seen in school or in clinic - different departments work in different ways. In a few cases you may get a home visit but these are unusual unless you are seeing an independent therapist.
What to expect
The appointment will probably last around an hour, maybe longer. If you are in clinic, the therapist is likely to spend a large part of the appointment talking to you about your concerns. He/she will also play with your child.
If your child is preschool age, they may not do much else and it may look as if they are not doing much. However, they will be looking at all sorts of things while they are playing, for example, how your child plays, how they communicate, whether they can follow instructions and answer questions, whether they can take turns, how long their attention span is, what they do with the toys...
All of these things will give the therapist useful information about how to help your child. They will probably like you to join in and interact with your child as well. Sometimes the SLT may do a more formal "assessment" of your child's difficulties as well, especially with an older child. This sounds heavy but will just involve looking at a book full of pictures and asking your child to name things or find particular items.
WARNING: Your child may not be at their best in the unfamiliar situation, and you may find that your child does not respond to things you are sure that they can do. If this is the case, tell the therapist. They will be happy to talk it through with you and work out whether the unfamiliar situation is causing the difficulty or if it’s some other aspect of context that is making the difference.
How to get the most out of your appointment
Make a list of your concerns and take it with you. You are the person who knows your child best so the therapist will want to hear what you are concerned about (and not) and what you have already done to try and help, if anything. Think about what you want to convey. Take with you any other useful information - with a young child, if you have a list of when they did things (crawled, walked etc) in a baby book, you may find it useful to take this with you.
Also, if your child has seen any other professionals (audiology, paediatrician, psychologist etc) take the reports with you. A school report may be useful to the therapist if you have a school-aged child. The more information the therapist has, the more likely they are to be able to make an accurate and detailed assessment. At the end of the appointment, the therapist will give you some feedback about what they have found.
REMEMBER: If you don't understand what is being said or the follow-up plan that is suggested, ask. In all professions, you become immersed in something and it is easy to say something that you think is easy to understand that is confusing to the person you are talking to. I know the mechanic at the garage certainly does when I take my car in to be fixed! At all stages, if you are unsure, ask.
What to tell your child
Obviously you will want to tell your child something about where they are going and why. Keep this low-key. If your child is quite young, just tell them that you need to go and talk to someone. He/she will have toys for them to play with, and will probably chat to them too. There is no surer way of ensuring that a child will clam up than telling them that someone is going to listen to how they are talking! You would probably be reluctant to talk too in that situation! If you have an older child they may be more aware and inquisitive, but still be positive and low-key about it. Tell them that someone is coming into school to see what some of the children do. You are one of the children they want to talk to. They might sit in your classroom and watch for a bit, or they might talk to you on your own and look at some pictures with you.
Similar advice applies for getting the most out of follow-up appointments. Make a list of what you want to say/ask and take it with you, especially if appointments are infrequent.
WARNING: Be aware that if you have a lot of very specific questions, your therapist may not be able to answer all of them immediately.
If the SLT has given you advice or activities to try, make sure you try the things that have been suggested. You may start doing the practice and then discover that you are not sure what you are supposed to be doing. You may run out of ideas to work on a particular thing. You may have tried for a long time and find that your child is just not making progress. Talk to your SLT. Call or email and ask for more ideas or let them know that you are struggling. Don't feel that you have to wait until the next appointment, if a brief conversation on the phone would help to clarify something or give fresh ideas.
REMEMBER: You are the person who knows your child best - make sure you think about what you want to convey each time and what you want to get from the appointment.
Do come and look at our website www.speechbloguk.wordpress.com for more information as well. We cover a range of topics for both parents and therapists. We have several posts with top tips for different topics (first words, generalising sounds, speaking clearly etc), and ideas of things to do, and we're planning more in the near future.
She is also an experienced broadcast and print journalist & author. Tania also runs a PR, web & social media consultancy, SocialOro Media. She is a Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate with Ehlers Danlos syndrome.
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