Tips from a Speech Therapist

Several people have asked me to write a post to share therapy tips.  When I sat down to write out some helpful hints, my mind went crazy!  There is so much I’d like to say! Where does one even start?!

The first thing I want to say is this:  I am not your therapist.  Well, I might be, or have been, or will be, but I’m probably not.  Therefore, I can’t treat your child through this blog.  I highly recommend that you find a local speech language pathologist to work with your child.  He or she will complete an evaluation and come up with a treatment plan that best suits your child’s (and family’s) needs.  Every child is different, regardless of diagnosis.  I know we are all probably autism parents here, but no two kids on the spectrum are alike.  That means that each child needs a treatment plan that is tailored to their needs.  So, again, find an SLP in your area.

I’d like to start a series where I talk about therapy ideas, give book recommendations, and all that fun stuff.  You’ll have to stay tuned to the blog for more on that endeavor!

For now, I do have some things I’d like to share, mom to mom.

You are Mom First

This is something I struggled with initially.  I have always known that Colin was different, so I have always worked with him.  I thought, being a therapist, I had the knowledge and tools to help him.  So that’s what I did.  Well, I tried, anyway.  The therapist in me wanted to seize the day and take on every moment as a language building opportunity.  I was able to do that for a time, but it was exhausting and wore me down.

Having a child with special needs is hard.  You see them struggle, and all you want to do is help.  You see that struggle and that creates a sense of urgency in yourself.  You want help, like, yesterday.

Your life has become an endless schedule of therapies:  speech, OT, PT, music, ABA, Floortime, social group.  You take it upon yourself, life the amazing momma that you are, to carryover those therapies into your daily routines. You feel like you have become your child’s therapist!  But where does “Therapist” end and “Mom” begin?

2010 Therapist Deidra would have given you completely different advice.  Here’s the thing though:  2010 Therapist Deidra did not yet have a son on the spectrum.

The new (and hopefully) improved 2018 Autism Mom Deidra will tell you this:  life is happening.  Survival is the most important.  Oh, so you didn’t sleep much last night because your child decided to wake up for the day at 3AM?  Just make it through the day, bro.

First and foremost, you are Mom.  Love on your babies.  If you have other children, don’t forget about them.  “Therapy stuff” can rule your life if you let it, but your other children will notice if that happens.  You are their mom too.  “Mom” is, and always will be, your most important title.

Be in the Moment

Being in the moment is hard for us autism moms.  We don’t get to just chill and enjoy the moment.  We are always calculating, thinking two steps ahead of our kids.

What’s he going to do next?

Run?

Scream?

Throw that toy at his brother’s head?

Steal food off the stranger’s plate at the restaurant?

Oh, no!  He is eyeing that nasty gross something on the ground, is it going in his mouth?!

You know exactly what I’m talking, right?!  We are always in “preparation to strike” mode.  Also worrying about what is going to happen next and trying to figure out when the next meltdown is coming.  I encourage you to just enjoy the good moments when you get them.  Be in this moment and enjoy your child.

I find that we are most successful when we just play.  Remember, play is a child’s work.  Play with them.  Enjoy them.  Have your moment.   I think you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish with some good ol’ family time.

Work at your Child’s Level

We all mean well and want to help our children….but where do we even start?  This is where you need to find a professional in your area to help you choose the right goals.  You need to know where your child is functioning before you know what to work on.

So many parents want to start working on colors, shapes, and letters.  Why is that?  Well, it’s probably because almost all children’s toys focus on these concepts!   If your child is nonverbal or has very few words, these are just not appropriate.

Ask yourself this question:  Does pointing to/naming “triangle” really help my child communicate with me every day?

Probably not.  So that would not be a functional thing to work on right now.  With our kids on the spectrum, we often have to back way up and get those foundational communication skills.  That is what I mean by “work at their level.”  If we try to jump too far ahead, both you and your kid will end up banging your heads against the wall in frustration.

I know these things might be common sense, but I think we all need reminded from time to time.  I plan to do give some book recommendations soon, so stay tuned!  Best of luck to you as you continue on your autism journey!

We are all in this together, Mommas!

Deidra Darst

Written by, Deidra Darst

My name is Deidra and I am a speech language pathologist and my husband is a programmer. We have a 3 year old named Collin who just received his autism diagnosis. We also have a 4 year old son named Finley. We love Disney. We also have a small hobby farm with about 60 ducks and chickens. You can follow our journey at theslpmom.com.

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Comments

  • Elaine

    March 2, 2018 at 5:40 pm
    Reply

    Hey.... my little fella wasn't really talking at 3 but doing better now at 4... I was adamant it was verbal dyspraxia since he […] Read MoreHey.... my little fella wasn't really talking at 3 but doing better now at 4... I was adamant it was verbal dyspraxia since he was about 18 months, (wonder might it be a little more at times, but as speech has come on other issues improved so we are just ploughing on with speech for now and hope for the best) we were already concerned from 12 months but got sidelined by a poor Irish system... went private for slt from 33 months. We did a lot ourselves amateurly from about 18 months working on speech and language and speech sounds, did hanen program etc... no progress really with emerging speech and language but clearly later this work showed up in quicker progress in those areas once in the expert hands of an excellent slt... he had no spontaneous acquisition of speech sounds apart from what we worked on until he worked with speech therapist who was good into taking a motor planning approach. However what I had never thought to do was to go back to basics with him as his understanding seemed good. 2 notable things were firstly and all along really celebrating ANY utterance... any vocalising at all... didn't have to be words or approximations, but virtually ANY utterance was bells and whistles from us... the key was to make him brave, to push thru the reticence..... but the key from the SLT was to walk him back to basics and without skipping anything walk him thru typical speech sound development.... starting with how, hi, ha... working through open vowels for b, p, m, Etc quickly, lots of crossovers, not drilling intensively but kind of stepping it all up, aiming for easy achievable stuff but quickly jumping to other sounds once he.d achieved one a few times catching all the expressive language milestones for age as she walked him back to start a and crutches him thru typical speech, language and morphological development.... but the targets were always easy... .. Kaufman type approximations and speech errors were offered as a model quickly if he seems reluctant so TAT offered as CAT to get him by that issue when he wouldn't even begin to attempt it otherwise... targets were always easy, and typically ordered to adhere to class milestones.... and get on with speech and language acquisition... phonology beimgmkept on the back burner til he had caught up enough..... it's been a year and a half and we.ve seen him flourish. .. behaviour has been an issue and I wonder if he may come out as having a diagnosis much later on but he.s happier now... he really did, despite receptively having no apparent issues, need to be walked back to ha, da, ma Etc to get going... anything that he found too difficult wasn't lingered on as behaviourally he.d stop complying so was a tricky client.... but getting him brave and confident to try after being locked in and held back for so long was so important. He was increasingly anxious, socially withdrawn, defiant, distressed and by 2.5 the impact psychologically was apparent from very early on despite our best efforts, but since 3 til now with constant sit he has come on in leaps and bounds and improved across all areas... I think a lot of kids with asd have motor planning issues and coupled with social emotional and sensory issues, and growing anxiety from not communicating and meeting related and intertwined milestones as a result... it gets so complex so quickly developmentally... but to walk my son right back to the start was so crucial, and effective, that it seems so right in the approach. Slt also had to take a whole language approach to speech sound work that was play based to maintain engagement and compliance too as my son was challenging, reticent, withdrawn and gaze avoidant. Progress has been remarkable... thanks for listening! Read Less

  • Hannah Neilson

    March 8, 2018 at 10:51 pm
    Reply

    I agree that you would want to consider working at your child's level when working with speech therapy. It would be smart to consider this […] Read MoreI agree that you would want to consider working at your child's level when working with speech therapy. It would be smart to consider this because it would ensure that you will be working with someone who is qualified. My son is having a lot of trouble with his Ls, so I'll have to consider finding a therapist who can work at his level. Read Less

  • Abhinav Shahi

    March 15, 2018 at 7:53 am
    Reply

    Thank you for share this post. speech therapy plays the very important role to improve the hearing and learning quality. It is very important for […] Read MoreThank you for share this post. speech therapy plays the very important role to improve the hearing and learning quality. It is very important for those people who have hearing loss problem. Read more: https://www.hearingsol.com/help/speech-therapy/ Read Less

  • Jocelyn McDonald

    May 11, 2018 at 7:58 am
    Reply

    My sister has a young daughter and is concerned that she hasn't started talking yet, and is wondering if she should consider speech therapy. Your […] Read MoreMy sister has a young daughter and is concerned that she hasn't started talking yet, and is wondering if she should consider speech therapy. Your article from the point of view of an actual therapist was extremely insightful, and i especially enjoyed when you talked about the importance of getting on your child's level and communicating with them honestly to get a feel where the child is functioning. This information was very helpful and I'll be sure to pass the information onto my sister when she looks into speech therapy. Read Less

  • Derek Dewitt

    June 7, 2018 at 7:57 am
    Reply

    My son has been having a hard time with his speech, so my wife and I are looking into finding a pathologist. I like your […] Read MoreMy son has been having a hard time with his speech, so my wife and I are looking into finding a pathologist. I like your point about how a professional can help you set goals. We'll have to find someone that can suggest age-appropriate exercises and lessons for us to practice with him. Read Less

  • Max Sayer

    June 12, 2018 at 12:00 pm
    Reply

    One of my daughters struggles with her speech so I wanted to look up some information about speech therapy. I really appreciated how this article […] Read MoreOne of my daughters struggles with her speech so I wanted to look up some information about speech therapy. I really appreciated how this article talked about finding a professional in your area to help you choose the right goals. I think that this is a great idea because I am not sure the best way to go through this process. Read Less

  • Katie Wilson

    July 5, 2018 at 5:35 pm
    Reply

    Thanks for the advice about considering playing and having fun with a child when they are going through speech therapy. Finding someone who will be […] Read MoreThanks for the advice about considering playing and having fun with a child when they are going through speech therapy. Finding someone who will be able to engage them on this sort of playful level would be really helpful as well. My husband and I are looking for a speech pathologist for our son, so we'll have to find someone who will play with him. Read Less

  • Duncan Lance

    August 29, 2018 at 7:25 pm
    Reply

    These are some great tips; after all, if your child has speech problems you'll want to do what you can to help them. I particularly […] Read MoreThese are some great tips; after all, if your child has speech problems you'll want to do what you can to help them. I particularly like that the article recommends teaching through playing. That way kids have a stimulating way to sill practice their speech in between visits to the therapist. Read Less

  • Mark Murphy

    November 29, 2018 at 10:44 am
    Reply

    I really appreciate your tip on how the struggle that your kids might have with a speech therapist is very natural and common with their […] Read MoreI really appreciate your tip on how the struggle that your kids might have with a speech therapist is very natural and common with their learning development. My wife and I have been thinking of putting our son in a new school since his speech is making him nervous in his current classroom. Instead of doing that, I will be sure to let him struggle with a speech therapist so he can get better! Read Less

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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