Stop Judging Speech Therapy

I hear people often make comments about toddlers and speech therapy. People say it’s not needed or parents just need to talk to their kids more. Please, for the love of my sanity, do not assume this. It is 100% false, at least in Leo’s case. I really hope that those who have so much judgement towards speech therapy have at least been in a session and witnessed what happens there. Speech therapy is not just for spoken language. It is for all forms of communication, and unless a child is communicating in some type of way but just doesn’t say words yet, there is no reason for anyone to make a mother feel awful for having to put their child through therapy. Not once child is the same, and just because little Johnny didn’t speak until 3 years old and then never shut up, doesn’t mean every other child will follow those footsteps. If a child is prescribed speech therapy, I can guarantee you they need it, and wont benefit from “wait it out” advice from other parents or mom groups. The child will first be evaluated by a speech and language pathologist that will assess the child’s skills and development. These are highly trained and educated people, not just a random person talking to a child. Leo was first refereed to a speech therapist at 15 months old, the same time he was refereed to the Center for Autism. And first, let me be clear. Speech delay does not mean your child is autistic. Autism evaluations require a child to meet and display many different symptoms and delays to even be placed on a waiting list to be evaluated. Most doctors will not give referrals for speech delay specifically. There is a lot more to it and you can read about my son’s early autism signs here

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Leo was diagnosed with severe expressive and receptive language disorder about a month or two before his autism evaluation. This landed us in speech therapy every other week, and on a wait list to get the next spot available to make it every week. I never thought I would ever have to “force” eye contact with my son. It is actually a heartbreaking and ugly thing to do. I would never wish it upon anyone. When you have to force a child to make eye contact to receive things like toys, attention, love, praise….it gets sickening. My child could be doing wrong, but if i say his name and he looks at me, I praise him. My days consists of telling my son “good eyes” when he makes eye contact with me. I’ve never heard this before from any parent I’ve come across. So I think it’s OK for me to say that speech therapy isn’t because the parent doesn’t talk or engage with their child. Speech therapy is necessary when you have a child that does not learn like a regular neurotypical child does. And as far as being repetitive, trust me. We will repeat ourselves a million times a day like a broken record, almost going mentally insane, for months before my child will even make the first attempt at a word. So when you see Leo, and he makes good sounds, please don’t say “awe see! He is just a normal kid!”. That discredits all of our hard work and dedication to Leo’s learning. He is learning because of therapy. Without it, we wouldn’t know how forcing eye contact makes him communicate which in turn promotes speech. We wouldn’t know that all of Leo’s sensory issues would cause a learning delay and that a simple weighted compression vest could soothe his body and mind, allowing for him to sit and actually interact with us for more than 10 seconds to be able to teach our son. Therapy has been everything we needed. Without it, we wouldn’t know the tactics needed to teach our son who is not only autistic, but hyperactive and sensory seeking. When we first started therapy, our help me grow providers and speech therapist were always shocked when they would watch how I normally try to interact and teach Leo. They would say that everything I explained I do with Leo would be exactly what they teach parents with neurotypical children to do to promote speech and language. So I knew it was not me, thankfully. For a long time I blamed myself for Leo’s delays and behaviors. I thought I was too hard on him or not hard enough. I expected so much from him and was often told that I need to loosen up, he is still just a baby! And they were right. I just needed to extra help from his wonderful team of therapists to understand Leo’s unique learning style and the culprits to his short attention span and hyperactivity. Raising a child, any child, takes a village. Raising an autistic child takes a village of therapists and doctors who dedicate their lives to making parents like us just a bit easier. 

 

Special thanks to Leo’s amazing team of therapists through the Cleveland Clinic and Help me Grow. 

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