A few weeks ago we met blogger BlogFox at Adoption: The Bear Facts as she answered some questions about herself. This week, we’re pleased to bring you a guest post from BlogFox too.
As a Speech and Language Therapist, I’m not sure we’ve done a great job as a profession in letting other people know what we do. We are not like Ronseal, we don’t just do what it says on our tin. There is an urban myth circulating that all we do is elocution or work on “diction”. No. No, no, no. That is enough to bring an SLT (Speech and Language Therapist) out in a cold sweat. We can (hopefully) offer a lot more than that. Here is my guide to what we do offer and why your child might need us.
SLT’s see children who:
• Are non-verbal or have very little speech.
Unfortunately, there is another myth circulating that if your children are pre-verbal they wouldn’t need any SLT support. In reality, they need an SLT more than most. Verbal language is not the only way to communicate. There are many alternative systems that we can provide/ advise upon: using objects, pictures, books, signs or electronic devices to replace or enhance the spoken word.
• Have difficulties with social communication (interacting with others)
This could range from children on the Autistic Spectrum to those who require more support due to their attachment difficulties.
SLTs are often involved in assessing this area of communication and might work with other professionals to make decisions around diagnoses. This is useful because Autism and Language Disorder can present similarly but are very different diagnoses.
Difficulties with attachment can also be confused with Autism so it is important that any professionals involved in diagnosis have sufficient knowledge of early trauma and loss and how this can impact a child’s development.
Children with social communication difficulties are frequently anxious and struggle with change. An SLT can provide advice/ training around the use of Visual Supports (timetables, now/next boards etc) and Social Stories to lower anxiety.
• Have difficulties understanding what they hear
The process of listening to and processing spoken language is complex. There are many things that can go wrong – from difficulties learning the meaning of new vocabulary; to difficulty processing too much information at once; to difficulties learning language concepts (big, hot, fast, different etc) to difficulties interpreting non-literal language e.g. “pull your socks up” doesn’t actually mean pull up your socks.
Knowing what your child can/ cannot understand can really help in everyday parenting, especially when it comes to behaviour management. Are they being disobedient or are they struggling to understand what you mean?
• Have difficulties using language to express themselves
Children need to hear language (used within all the right contexts) to be able to learn it and use it themselves. As many of our children have experienced neglect, they probably were not exposed to good language models as infants and consequently many continue to have delayed language skills for their age. An SLT can look at where they are up to and what gaps they may have e.g. a poor range of vocabulary, difficulty putting words together to make longer sentences, difficulty applying grammar rules and can provide advice/ therapy accordingly.
• Have unclear speech
This is the bit people confuse with elocution! What an SLT will actually do is decide what type of speech difficulty your child has. It could be Speech Delay (their speech is following a typical pattern of development but more slowly) or Speech Disorder (the mistakes they make are not part of a typical developmental pattern). There are some very specific speech disorders such as Verbal Dyspraxia which require more tailored therapy approaches.
• Have difficulties with fluency (Stammering)
This is a complex area of communication and usually involves the SLT considering all aspects of a child’s life – their health, background, communication skills, routines, environment as all of these things can impact upon a child’s ability to be fluent. This is one area of communication that can worsen without treatment.
• Have difficulties with their voice
Children whose voice is frequently hoarse or husky or disappears completely, may benefit from seeing an SLT. They will usually be referred to ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) too, to rule out a physical problem (e.g. Vocal nodules) but an SLT will work with them to improve the sound of their voice and help them to look after their voice.
• Have difficulties speaking in different situations
There is a rare Speech and Language condition called Selective Mutism. It is a fear of speaking and results in a child being able to speak freely in some situations e.g. at home and not at all in others e.g. at school. It has its roots in Psychology but is generally treated by SLTs. I mention this because I do wonder whether there could be a higher incidence of this condition in children who have experienced trauma (based on my own professional hunch only).
What to do if you are concerned about any aspect of your child’s communication:
Every child is entitled to NHS Speech and Language Therapy so contact your local department. Many will accept referrals directly from parents. If they don’t, your Health Visitor or Nursery/ School should know the referral procedure or can refer for you.
If you are not sure or have any questions, feel free to ask me by commenting below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are some further sources of information:
If you decide you want to explore the private route to getting therapy, you can find local therapists here:
Your experiences of SLT:
Have any of you accessed Speech and Language Therapy for your children? Did you find it useful? Were there any shortcomings?
Did the therapist take into consideration your child’s background and communication difficulties you might be having as a household?
I am doing some work on trying to set up a Specialist SLT Service for adopted children and would love to hear your views.