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May 9, 2012

Parents hold the Key!

The Late Talker BookA child diagnosed with Oral Apraxia, does not mean they're autistic. A child diagnosed with Sensory Integration Disorder does not mean they're autistic. A child diagnosed with Tactile Defense Disorder does not necessarily mean they are autistic. I think you see where I am going. An autistic child may be diagnosed with multiple disorders but a child diagnosed with multiple disorders may not be autistic. The problem is this: the brain is an incredible machine in our bodies and we, as parents, specialists, teachers, doctors, barely know how the brain functions. Its true that our knowledge of the brain in conjuncture with the body has jumped leaps and bounds in the last century but yet we're still trying to understand these 'disorders.'

Many people, including your child's pediatrician, believe that they are one in the same and that a child who acts 'differently' is autistic or on the autistic spectrum. This may be true, but not in all cases. Quite frankly, I believe testing a child in this gray area before age 7 is pointless because some tests conclude with unclear evidence either way. There is a possibility that your child, and you know your child better than anyone, just has a speech disorder along with other disorders, and that you see how it affects every aspect of your child's' life including their behavior. 

When your child at 24-36 months is diagnosed with Oral Apraxia (speech delay or speech disorder) its usually recommended by whomever tested the child that they begin speech therapy with a Speech Language Pathologist AND occupation therapy with an Occupational Therapist. Your job as a parent is to be PRO-active in researching what this means. I suggest first reading this book: The Late Talker because its written by first experienced parents who went/are going through it already and secondly they are also people who are also specialists in some arena of child development.

What does a typical speech therapy session look like? If private, the parent usually sits in a small room watching their child through a one-way mirror go through various activities. If integrated in a pre-k classroom then the child is usually pulled out for a short 20-30 minutes to work with a SLP that works for the city public schools. If the first, then the parent can see first-hand exactly how their child is handled. If the second, then the parent is left wondering what's going on. Unfortunately, and all to often, the second is more common because most people cannot afford private therapy, or their insurance only covers minimal sessions. Either way, I have three major tips for the parents of kids who are receiving speech therapy.
1.Find out the 5 W's/H of your SLP, meaning:
    • Who is the person and what's there phone number?
    • What technique will they be using on your child, and what training have they received?
    • When can you talk to your child's SLP for regular updates on their progress? ie. once a week
    • Where does your SLP see your child's weaknesses and strengths?
    • Why? Too many questions go along with this one so let's just stick to, "Because God said so"
    • How should your child be receiving speech therapy at home and school and is that enough?
2. Set up personal goals for your child (at home, and at school with your child's SLP and OT)
    • What I mean by this is to write out goals for your child that you believe are the most important. Start small with something like your child being able to say his/her name. Some goals may take an entire academic year to achieve, others might come easier to your child. Track their progress by writing it down. Be realistic!
3. Pray daily. Lay hands on your child before they leave for school or start their school-work at home. Pray that God would give you the wisdom to know how to connect with your child and help them unlock their voice. Lay hands on their head (or wherever they can handle being touched) and ask God for endurance and patience that surpasses what you know you cannot handle. Ask God to do the work in bonding you with your child in an unspoken language. And lastly, ask God to help you have compassion for your children so when you get frustrated it becomes just another bump in the road-along the path of a speech delayed child. 

Finally, I firmly believe that if you are the parent of a special needs child it is because God knows and put something in the dynamic make-up of you that he can use to to make the life of that child unbelievably special. I believe that you (parents) are the key between your child's beautiful mind and the world to know them. Jeremiah 29:11 takes on a whole new meaning once you realize the task ahead of you because your life isn't about you, its about how God will use you in the life of that special little boy or girl.

Grace To You, Jenna

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