Our Experience with Speech Therapy
A two year old benefits from speech therapy and early intervention.
By Patty Dawson
By the time Ben had turned 2 (we brought him home at 13 months), he was
using less than 6 words, and most of them were not articulated correctly. I knew he could understand everything we said but he was not speaking. Because he's so bright, he was getting really frustrated at not being able to let me know what he wanted and we were seeing frequent temper tantrums (not to mention my frustration at not being able to understand him!). We did teach him a couple of signs but they were just not sufficient. Since my first two talked so early and so well, I was not sure what was "normal" for him, but I did know he was struggling. At his 2 year old checkup, our pediatrician suggested we have a First Steps evaluation (Kentucky's early intervention program) to see if he would qualify for speech services, and - fortunately for us - he did qualify.
Ben got into a preschool that had integrated speech therapy twice a week starting last September (we just finished last week as he'll turn 3 in June and age out of First Steps) and I have seen amazing progress, although he still has far to go. He has gone from using half a dozen monosyllabic words with only 2 consonant sounds to regularly speaking in 4 or 5 word phrases using about 10 consonants and multiple syllables. I can understand him about 80% of the time. However, he rarely speaks in front of people whom he knows will not understand him, as his articulation is still poor (he can only make consonant sounds that come from the front of his mouth so far), which does impact his social skills with other children somewhat. As long as one of his immediate family is nearby to "translate" for him, he is happy and does speak some, but if he is in a situation where he doesn't know everyone, he becomes silent. He's even able now to play games of make believe and ask me questions using where and why. I can tell that he gets very excited when he can tell me exactly what he's thinking now. One thing that is very funny is that he is gets mad if I don't repeat his words back to him exactly - I can't get away with just saying "okay" or "uh-huh" in reply, as he is smart enough to know that if I do that, I might not have understood him exactly. He wants to make sure that I know exactly what he's said!
The First Steps therapist gave Ben a thorough evaluation at the outset of the program to determine exactly what services would benefit him. We had the option of either having a therapist come to the home or the twice weekly preschool. We chose the preschool so he'd have more opportunity to practice with peers. The speech therapist worked with Ben one on one twice a week, sometimes in the classroom and sometimes alone. She kept me updated monthly on his progress and what I could be working on at home to assist. She also gave me a clear picture of Ben's abilities compared to other kids his age so I could have some realistic expectations for progress.
We went through our early intervention program and were given several choices for therapists, plus the preschool option. I have to say, I was thrilled at the cost as well...they go on a sliding fee scale and it is extremely reasonable...the MOST we would have had to pay was $50 monthly for a twice weekly preschool with services (which would have also included physical and occupational therapy had he needed it), and we were near the top of the scale and only paid $20 monthly. Nobody should worry that speech services are too expensive if they have early intervention in their state. In the fall, Ben will be entering preschool in in the public school system with continued speech therapy - although he has improved greatly, his articulation and expressive language skills still qualify him for public preschool - and this time it's free! First Steps was very good at assisting us with the transition to public school - they walked us through the entire process. It was wonderful!