You’ve decided that it’s time to look for a speech therapist. Whether this decision has come as the result of working with your pediatrician or just following your gut instinct to investigate further, it wasn’t necessarily an easy one to make. Nor is knowing what to look for and expect from your speech therapist, and we understand that completely. We’re here to help.
What Should You Look For In Your Speech Therapist?
One of the most important things you want to look for in a speech therapist for your child is disposition. While many speech therapists may be pediatric in education and experience, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is child-friendly. In fact, many parents report that they’ve had unfortunate experiences with speech and language therapy because the therapist and their child simply didn’t ‘click.’
Obviously, different personality styles work differently with different and unique children. That’s a given. But, one of the most important things you need to look for in your child’s speech therapist is a level of comfort from your child when interacting.
The whole goal for your child in speech therapy is better communication, and your child is not comfortable with the therapist because they are less than…well, warm and fuzzy, that may be hindered. That’s not to say that every speech and language therapist should be oozing in the warm and fuzzies, but they certainly need to be child-friendly and comfortable with all ages of their pediatric clientele.
In the initial consult, look to see how your child engages, but more, how the therapist engages your child. Does the therapist get to your child’s level? Is his or her voice a soothing and encouraging one or one that may intimidate your child and make him or her withdraw? Does the therapist seem to have a genuine interest in what your child can and can’t do, as well as whether or not your child seems to be enjoying him or herself? These are essential factors to pay attention to, as they can directly affect the amount of progress your child will make.
Not every speech and language therapist can have decades of experience and education under his or her belt, nor should they be expected to in order to be a successful therapist. But, it’s important when looking for a speech therapist for your child that the one you choose has experience and education for your child.
While licensing requirements vary from state to state, all 50 states require a speech therapist to have a Master’s Degree in speech pathology or Communication Sciences in disorders to practice as therapists. A Master’s is the basic requirement, and many speech therapists continue in their education post-Masters as they obtain additional certifications as well. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is a great place to start looking for a speech therapist because all members have passed a national exam for certification.
When looking for a speech therapist for your child, you’ll want to ask about their level of experience with children who are similar to yours. If your child has a feeding issue and no articulation or enunciation issues, odds are someone who specializes in the mechanics of speech is not as valuable to you as one who has lots of experience with children who have feeding disorders.
In the same vein, while some children’s issues are more speech-related, others are language, and while training may be the same for two therapists, their personal experiences with caseloads may be different. It’s not rude to ask those questions, and ask about their experience levels, nor is it rude to ask whether the treatments they recommend are research-based and how much so.
While your child needs to feel the speech therapist is friendly, you need to be confident that he or she is capable of treating your child with efficacy.
Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
When you first ask yourself what to look for and expect from your speech therapist, it’s important to realize that you should be looking for someone who is asking the same about their client’s parents. A good therapist will know that you are your child’s best teacher, source of information and advocate, and the therapist will not only recognize you as a partner but want you to be involved.
The speech therapist you look for should expect that you want to help as you can, and you should expect that they consider you part of the interventions because they only spend such a limited time with your child.
You should also expect that your therapist includes you in making decisions about treatment and interventions. You know your child best, and if you don’t feel an intervention may be the best use of your child’s time, you should feel free to voice those opinions. A good therapist will take them into account and together, you can come up with ways to at least give them a shot before you rule them out. The best speech therapists will not only observe and listen to your child when working with them but will do so with you because you are such an integral part of your child’s learning and growing.
Speech and language intervention is a team effort, and being involved is definitely what you should look for and expect from your speech therapist. If you don’t feel that you are being treated as a partner, don’t feel bad about looking elsewhere.
There are so many excellent speech and language therapists out there, we’re sure you’ll find the perfect fit.