We've had three SLP's in our home through Early Intervention programs . Each experience was unique, and I know I have learned a lot. (We had two additional therapists after M turned 3, but I am focusing on the therapists I interacted with regularly since the after three experiences were outside of my home. One of those experiences was especially awful...)
The first speech therapist we had was temporary since we were moving out of state within a couple of months. I was never impressed with him, but didn't know if my concerns were valid. In his defense he was working with a young child, about 18 months. M, at the point, had one word MMM for more. She did not have the diagnosis of apraxia yet. But he still didn't do much with her. It seemed his goal was to interact with her by making her laugh and sign "more." She was already doing these things, and he didn't really encourage much else (by my memory). I remember asking him how long he had been an SLP, and was surprised that it was close to 20 years, because, really, he just didn't seem to be experienced.
From the very first telephone conversation with M's second therapist (after our move), I was impressed. She asked a lot of questions and seemed to look forward to meeting my little girl, so that left a positive impression. From the very first session in our home, she was in control, leading purposeful play while highly sensitive to M's reactions and desires. She was firm. Just because M didn't want to do a certain activity, didn't mean M didn't need to do it. Even a nonverbal child can be expected to make sounds. This effective therapist motivated M to complete the activity. She used familiar and new (or not often used) activities during each session. This helped M be comfortable, yet excited for what was to come. She asked questions about M's speech even though there was no or minimal progress for months and months. She remembered what I said and documented it in her daily notes. Based on the session and M's development, she would assign homework for us to complete with M. Much of the homework was something we could implement easily into daily routines, too. Despite the lack of speech for months, she still created purposeful homework for us. (And when we had a newborn she wasn't phased when we didn't do much!) When this therapist was stumped over M's lack of progress after months of therapy, she sought out more information. She didn't wait for the apraxia diagnosis to change how she worked with M. (Please note: the goals in M's plan did not need to change to reflect the changes in how she implemented therapy because she was still working toward those goals.)
|M, age 2, and Ashley, our special SLP|
She became like family-a true friend. Though I know that parents are really, typically, the only advocate for a child, this woman truly cared for M and her success. Though at age 3 she stopped working with M (not our choice), professionally, she has not stopped being part of our lives. This therapist will always get much credit for M's success, though M's speech didn't really blossom until after age 3. (And yes, I believe she and I both cried when we said good-bye at our last therapy session...but we're still in touch.)
One last thought...don't let experience determine whether or not an SLP will be effective. This highly effective speech therapist had only been working for a few years.
We had learned much from M's second therapist. It may have been hard to teach us new and effective ways to help our son's speech, especially since he was only a bit behind. My son's speech therapist may have been a good therapist, but I didn't feel that the sessions were effective. He was not engaged much of the time. She didn't talk or sing as much as I expected, but tried to play with him and tried to incorporate words, phrases, and sentences. I didn't learn a lot from the sessions (but I had already learned much from M's former therapist). The homework that was assigned was often things we were already doing to encourage his speech, though she did create some new tasks for us, too. Despite all of this, I'm still glad we had E in therapy. She helped us to remember that M's speech problems and E's were very different and needed to be treated differently.
Our days with Early Intervention (the birth to age three program) are over, but I had been thinking about SLPs, and how fortunate we were to have our special SLP.
I've written before about some of the techniques we learned to encourage and increase speech and vocabulary and about M's remarkable speech history. Feel free to ask questions by leaving a comment or emailing me at derekannette [at] gmail [dot] com.