Back in October last year I wrote a blog post about being referred back into the speech and language system for my youngest daughter Harper. I know from personal experience there are far worse things as a parent to go through with your child but I just couldn’t believe that I was having to do speech and language therapy for another child in the household.
We were referred in September to speech and language by our Health visitor, in December we received notification of a SALT (Speech and Language Therapy) appointment. It wasn’t however quite what I was expecting. Having been through the speech and language system previously with my eldest son I was expecting an individual appointment first to assess my daughters current language levels. But as it turns out the first appointment was for a workshop for parents only – no children to attend!
Advanced Speech and Language Therapy is something I am very familiar with after almost 8 years of helping my son Chase develop his language with a computer. In all honesty I was a bit concerned that the workshop wouldn’t be teaching me anything I didn’t already know. However I decided to attend anyway because Harper’s speech delay is entirely different to Chase’s speech issues. Besides a refresher of what I have already learnt is never a bad thing.
The workshop was held at our local community hospital and was run by two SALT practitioners. In total about there were about 10 parents in attendance. Keeping the group small was much appreciated individual questions about our own children were still able to be answered.
The day itself consisted of learning about the speech and language development in children and how without learning the basics, a child cannot then carry on up the learning tree to reach the higher points such as refining speech. We were all informed that at current our children were all on the language branch of SALT. Once our children had been individually assessed though they may move on to the speech branch.
Throughout the day we got to asses where we felt our child was within different areas of language development. The SALT therapists also highlighted many reasons why a child might be behind on their speech and language. One of which ticked all the boxes for Harper I felt – and that was that she has an older sister who does all the talking for her.
The Big Sister Impact
Now that my elder non stop chatterbox daughter Brooke has started school it’s meant that I have more time to have 1 to 1 conversations with Harper. Harper has thrived in the past 3 months since Brooke has started school and she’s gone from barely communicating to talking in 3-4 word sentences. Her speech is still very much difficult to understand at times but it is slowly improving. This just really pushed home to me that the reason for delay was that someone else (her big sister!) was doing all the talking for her.
At the end of the workshop we were given some useful activities to do based on our personal assessments on what our children needed to work on next for the language development. For Harper I really feel her needs now fall firmly within the speech category. This means we will be waiting for our individual assessment.
What I learnt
One of my favourite activities of the workshop was watching some videos of a parent talking to their child during play. Each video showed two different styles of encouraging speech and language. The two styles were very different and it highlighted one big error I had been making with Harper – questions! I’m forever asking questions to Chase as it’s the best way to actually get a response and encourage him to talk. For younger children though constantly asking questions – especially when they don’t always have the means to answer – can cause them to become flustered and anxious. It can have the opposite effect of what I was expecting and the child may simply stop talking or not want to answer because of the pressure!
Instead when working with Harper I shall be looking to narrate what she is doing rather than pose what she is doing as a question. For example if Harper was playing with a toy doll and brushing the doll’s hair, instead of asking ‘What are you doing to Dolly?’ I would simply say ‘You are brushing Dolly’s hair’. This has worked fantastically and I find Harper then repeats back to me what I have said or then makes a comment about something else she is doing with play.
One of my other favourite things I took away from the workshop was a reminder of something called copy plus one. This is something I have been doing with Chase for a long time but it hadn’t occurred to me to introduce to Harper. Whenever Harper makes a sentence I simply repeat back to her the sentence but then add on another word or something to go along with it. In the long run this will help her not only increase her vocabulary but also will help her start to form even longer sentences than she already uses.
Probably the worst news of the day was to discover that the waiting list for the individual appointments was over a year. This means Harper will be almost 4 by the time she gets assessed. I’m going to push forward though and make sure I’m dedicating 15 minutes a day to SALT activities (as recommended to me by at the workshop) . Harper’s made leaps and bounds in the past 3 months, and with nursery starting for her soon I really hope that she continues to flourish at the same speed.
I’ll be updating again when we reach the next milestone in our SALT journey – our individual assessment. I’ll also be updating with a SALT update for Chase soon, he’s got some funky new software we’ve been using at home to help with his communicating!
This blog post is about my own personal experience with my own children and their speech and language development. Material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual, and is not a substitute for your own health care provider's medical care or advice.