How do we know when it is time to do anything? How do you decide when is the right time to start a new project, look for a new job, buy a house, get married, get a puppy, go back to school, say good-bye? When you’re a child, your mother tells you when it’s time to do everything. Time to eat dinner, time for a bath, time for bed, time to start your homework, time to leave the park, time to grow up. Getting the timing right is more important than making the decision itself. But how can we be sure that it’s the right time? If we act too soon, we will not be ready, but if we wait too long we will miss out on the chance. We ask trusted friends and family, we think, we plan, we pray. Eventually, we have to decide that now is the time, or next week, or two years from now will be the perfect time to do the things that make up the narrative of our lives. In my speech-language therapy private practice it’s crucial to start therapy at the right time. I trust a combination of parental instincts in the parents of my clients, my clinical judgment, research, the behavior and attitude of the child, and input from others such as the child’s teachers or doctors. But something else affects the decision. A supernatural sense of the rightness of time. Most of the time therapy works, but sometimes the timing is off. Then I acknowledge that we started too early or, sadly, too late and accept that the timing was not right. Of course, other factors influence the success of therapy, but ‘magic timing’ is so important and sometimes so difficult to get right.
How does your individual story fit into the bigger story? Recently, a university professor described the first day assignment that he’s used for the past two years with great results. On the first day of the semester he asks each student to write the story of how they ended up in his class – in other words, to tell their story. He discovered that by telling their stories, the students, no matter where they came from, felt they deserved to be there – that they belonged in his class and felt part of the community from the beginning. Grades improved. As a speech-language pathologist, I work with students on writing skills and story grammar structure. It is amazing to see the confidence that develops when students hone the ability to tell and eventually, write their stories. They understand how they fit into the larger world and how their unique stories and perspectives are so valuable.
In this New Year, I’ll continue to blog about speech-language pathology topics regularly, but will reserve the last week of each month for “personal favorites”. Here’s my first list of personal favorites in 2017:
- Food and Drink: Wissotsky Tea. An Israeli tea company wth Russian roots, Wissotsky packs a punch with intense green tea flavor. If you like green tea for your morning beverage, this is the real deal.
- Reading List: Belgravia. If you miss Downton Abbey, check out this must-read novel by the same author, Julian Fellowes. I couldn’t put this one down.
- Gadgets: Nutri-Bullet/Magic Bullet. Recommended by a friend just before Christmas, I got one for my husband. Throw in a bunch of frozen fruit and veggies, add water and welcome to a fast, healthy breakfast with simple clean-up!
- Cosmetics: Asprey Purple Water. This line of lotions and shampoo from the Ritz-Carlton has a totally irresistible scent – floral and fresh with no greasy residue. Worth it-
The American Speech-Language Hearing Association’s (ASHA) website is an excellent resource for learning about communication disorders. As a member of ASHA for over 25 years and recipient of ASHA’s ACE award for continuing education, I have consulted our association numerous times regarding questions about research, ethics, private practice policy and referrals. Their evidence maps summarize recent scholarly articles about a wide range of communication disorders. Recently, ASHA reviewed 12 studies that examined the relationship between parents’ MLU or mean length of utterance and language outcomes in children with developmental disabilities, including autism. The summary conclusion was that although numerous intervention packages that have shown to be effective for children with language disabilities recommend that parents use shortened speech when communicating with their children, there is insufficient evidence to support this recommendation. In fact, with autistic children, there may be a negative effect from using shortened speech; evidence suggests that children with autism may benefit from hearing longer, more grammatically complex sentences.
For most families with children, holidays are mini productions – a whirlwind of buying, decorating, entertaining, and carrying on with time-honored traditions. Special holiday-themed school events, performances and parties etch into evenings and weekends during December. In the midst of all of the joy and fun, routines easily fall by the wayside. Although many children love this festive time of year and parents do their best to keep it all going, some children are easily overwhelmed by the disruptions in their trusted routines. Too much sugar, too much stimulation and too little sleep can lead to irritable little ones. For those with special needs or those who need to keep up practice schedules for their speech-language therapy goals, it is worth taking a good look at the holiday production going on in our own families to see where we can do some pruning. Trimming away some of the activities, decorations and treats might yield a more peaceful and meaningful season for everyone. When our son was little we were invited to a very special holiday party downtown at one of the museums. Inside was a twinkling wonderland of glittering decorations and a buffet of confections piled so high – candies, cakes, and spun sugar creations – that left even the most devoted holiday enthusiasts like me to feel this was too much. Sometimes over-the-top festivities have nothing at all to do with the holidays which are really meant for spending extra time with loved ones, sharing some special meals, enjoying beautiful music and giving a few wrapped surprises. Enjoy your holiday this year with all the trimmings and try trimming away some of that excess glitter.
Adapting your therapy plan to meet curriculum needs requires flexibility and thinking on your feet. As a speech-language pathologist in private practice who works with school-aged children, I want to make sure the work we do in private sessions is relevant to what the child is working on in school. Communicating regularly with the child’s parents and teachers regarding therapy goals and classroom work helps bridge the gap between the session and the classroom. For example, I am working with a young student who struggles with writing. Just before his last session, I received a note from his parents and classroom teacher about an in-class writing assignment due the day following our session. I worked on his speech-language therapy goals of improving sentence formulation and paragraph organization within the broader functional goal of preparing him to write a draft for the first chapter of a history book for class. He used a graphic organizer to brainstorm 10 ideas, expanded those ideas into 8 coherent sentences, and then, organized the sentences in chronological order for the purpose of his school assignment. Since the student had significant difficulty recalling details and in-depth information, we did quick online research during the session to flesh out his ideas. We used Google docs on two devices simultaneously, so I could check his sentences easily and help him edit his writing. Although it was challenging to complete the assignment in under an hour, the student was successful and prepared for class.
Recently I attended a fundraiser breakfast event at the National Press Club for the non-profit group, Reading Partners. I wanted to share the good news about this wonderful and worthy group for all those interested in literacy for young children. Reading Partners pairs reading tutors with public school children in D.C. in an effort to improve their reading fluency. It has been my experience as a speech-language pathologist, specializing in the treatment of young children, that reading aloud in a 1-1 context with children is the best way to improve their decoding and comprehension skills. For example, the premise of the Read Naturally program which I have used with struggling readers for many years, is that reading aloud with a skilled reader improves fluency speed and accuracy significantly. At the Reading Partners event, powerful testimonials were given by both adults who have served as tutors and from a child who participated in the program. If you are not yet familiar with Reading Partners, check them out and consider getting involved in a very worthy cause.