At the beginning of every new school year, there are a thousand details for parents to attend to including buying school supplies, filling out forms, scheduling after-school activities, and working out transportation schedules, just to name a few. But just imagine trying to do all that in a new city or even a new country! For the many families who move to the Washington, D.C. area from overseas, it is especially confusing to figure out the best school situations for their children. Even more so for those whose children need therapeutic services or even special school placements in a country that is foreign to them. For international families, Washington offers tremendous opportunities and many options for giving children what they need to optimize their education while living here. For example, there are small private schools that offer specialized reading and learning programs for children who are struggling with learning. For children who need extra help, there are many private practices that specialize in assessing and treating childhood learning and language disorders. Speech-language pathologists , who are skilled at diagnosis and treatment of speech, language, reading and writing disorders, can make referrals and help parents plan for their children’s education while in the States. Hopefully, the process of making a new start in the Washington area will be a positive experience for the many families who come here from around the world.
What do the Olympics and speech-language pathology have in common? Plenty, as it turns out! Those stellar Olympians flying through the air, leaping across finish lines and passing balls with miraculous grace and strength displayed unparalleled athletic skill over the past two weeks. But what the world witnessed at the Olympics was only the finished product – the end result of years of training and commitment. Of course, most Olympians have the physique and athletic aptitude that set them apart early on, but their commitment and focus propel them to being winners. In a few weeks, we will have a chance to witness the Paralympics, even more amazing given the hurdles those athletes have to overcome to cross their finish lines. Without skilled and understanding coaches, a commitment to regular practice, a positive “never give up” attitude and plenty of loving support and encouragement, they could not succeed. So it goes for those working to improve their communication skills. Whether trying to learn how to form words for the first time, overcoming a lisp or a stutter, learning how to read or write, or communicating via an augmentative communication tool, those who make progress are those who stay positive, commit to a regular schedule of intensive practice and receive support and encouragement from many people including their speech-language pathologist and their family and friends. Communication disorders are extremely complex and difficult to overcome, but the brain is an amazing organ, amenable to change throughout the lifespan. Most people can improve their communication challenges given proper training, intensive practice, a positive attitude and plenty of support and encouragement.
My child stutters – will she outgrow it? Should I be worried? In twenty-five years of practice as an SLP I have been asked this question many times. Many children start stuttering around age 2 1/2 – they repeat words and beginning sounds in words – and then the stuttering goes away in a few weeks or months. While it is true that many children will get over their childhood stutter without professional intervention, it is still a good idea to check with a speech-language pathologist who will answer your questions and possibly recommend an assessment of your child’s speech and language skills. Stuttering is a neurological condition that involves a misfire in the timing of phonatory and articulatory mechanisms that control speech. Environmental, emotional and psychological factors do not cause stuttering; however, a child at risk for stuttering may exhibit stutter-like behaviors or full blown stuttering, at times, if he or she is experiencing significant stress. Although it is very difficult to judge which children will stop stuttering on their own and which ones will need professional intervention, there are several factors that help speech-language pathologists make decisions about best practices regarding childhood stuttering. If your answer to any of the following questions is yes, then it is time to consult with a speech-language pathologist:
- Has your child has been stuttering for six months or longer?
- Is there is a family history of stuttering or other speech-language or learning disorders on either side of the family?
- Is your child is experiencing distress about his/her stuttering and/or is aware that stuttering is having a negative impact on his/her ability to communicate and on his peer and other relationships ( i.e., reports of being teased or not talking in social situations)?
- Does your child have a history of early speech-language difficulties?
Stuttering is a complex speech problem, but help is available. Speech-pathologists are always happy to answer your questions and concerns!
Recently, I had a conversation that went like this:
” I’ll scan the document and then attach it to the email. You’ll really like that new app I recommended. Sure, you can just Venmo the amount you owe me”. When I was a college student thirty years ago, the preceding conversation would have been incomprehensible. Even further back, in high school, the word ‘computer’ covered everything hi-tech. Today we communicate in ways that were unheard of and unimaginable just a few years ago. Words that thread seamlessly through our everyday exchanges evolve from technology, of all places. We learn to use our devices to communicate virtually and then, we use the language of technology in our conversations. “Let’s Facetime on Saturday. Or we could catch up on Group me. Anyway, I loved your Instagram post”. Social media gives us new and instant ways to communicate and provides an outlet for our creativity. Digital natives who have grown up accustomed to the constantly evolving language of technology are eager to get the newest devices and virtual tools and they easily adapt their vocabulary to signify their intentions. I wonder what our conversations will be like thirty years from now? What new words will we be using casually in our everyday exchanges?
What is a lisp and can it be remedied? The word lisp comes from the Old English word ‘wlisp’ meaning to ‘pronounce s and z sounds imperfectly’. Many children have difficulty pronouncing s and z sounds. Such errors are considered developmental in nature until around age 5 when these childhood speech errors are typically resolved. However, in some children, a lisp persists on beyond age 5. There are many types and variations of lisps including frontal and bilateral lisps. In all types of lisps, instability in the tongue and/or jaw results in an imperfect sound on s, z, sh,ch and other sounds. Speech-language pathologists can assist in diagnosing and treating lisps in children and adults. With guidance and practice, a lisp can be remedied. The result? Speech that is clear and precise!