Thursday, February 20, 2014

Just Because Something Needs to be Fixed Dosen't Mean It's Broken

My sons like to talk. Before I had them, I thought it was just girl children who'll talk incessantly but nope, sometimes boys do it, too. Builder Boy, my oldest, was a big fan of Thomas and Friends and from watching the show so much he picked up the habit of narrating his play. So instead of just making sound effects he was saying exactly what was going on as it happened. And not just with his trains; with every toy he played with.

Builder Boy was not an early talker. When he first started talking it wasn't exactly clear, but I usually understood him. When people had difficulty understanding him, I assumed it was just because he was a little kid and they weren't used to having to understand little kids. As he got older I did not worry about it much; I dismissed most of it as not being developmentally inappropriate. When he gets excited about something (which is often) he will speak very quickly and sometimes drop a few sounds. And often what he's excited about is something specialized that the people who are trying to listen often don't know anything about, which makes it more difficult. Like Mincraft or machines or Bob the Builder.

A relative kept insisting something must be wrong with his hearing; that he at least wasn't hearing all frequencies. But we had him tested, and his hearing is perfect; all frequencies.

When he started reading things seemed to get better. Since we homeschool, we didn't see many people who didn't already know him and were a bit used to the way he talked, so it wasn't such a big issue that I thought it had to be addressed. I got kind of sick of hearing about it from a certain relative, so I purchased the eBook version of Speech Therapy at Home: Super Star Speech. It was written by a homeschooling mother who was also a certified speech therapist, for parents who couldn't afford to pay for speech therapy for their kids. "Perfect!" I thought. One problem: the assessment pictures had the name of the word under the picture, the sound you're supposed to be listening on the side, and the words "initial," "medial," and "final" at the top (for where in the word you were supposed to be listening for the specific letter sound.) And he could read. He didn't know what "initial" and "medial" meant, but he looked at the letter on the side and noticed that it was in the beginning of the first picture/word, the middle of the second picture/word, and the end of the last one. So he intentionally made sure he enunciated that sound in the word. Which completely skewed the test. I e-mailed the author who was very nice and prompt in getting back to me. But she'd never heard of a child doing that before, and wasn't sure what to do about it.

At the beginning of this school year I finally bit the bullet and took him in to the local elementary school to get him assessed for free. (In my state homeschoolers are able to access some services through the schools for free.) He scored, to my novice understanding, extremely low. I felt like a failure. Not only had I failed to teach him to speak properly as his mother, but also as his teacher. My saving grace that snapped me out of my guilt was my younger son who spoke just fine. He had learned to talk with me doing the exact same things as I had done with Builder Boy, and indeed, Early Bird had the added influence of Builder Boy talking not quite clearly all.the.time. Someone pointed out to me that if it was all my fault then Early Bird would have the same problem. And he doesn't. So I need to stop beating myself up about it all.

So now we're going to the local elementary school once a week, and it does seem to be helping. I'm glad we went in. While waiting for him at the school I saw a flyer for a "Preschool Screening." Mostly checking to see if there are issues that will have to be addressed during the kindergarten year. I've signed Early Bird up. I don't think anything is wrong, but I don't want to miss anything; just in case.

I wrote this up for two reasons. 1) to encourage early screening if it is available in your area. Even if you don't suspect a problem. If you are in a homeschooling friendly school district, it can't hurt. And 2) to encourage those who have had a child already diagnosed with a problem not to blame themselves. You have not let your child down; getting help proves that.

I often wondered, if all his talking to himself while playing reinforced wrong pronunciations. There's a good chance it did. But I am glad I wasn't stopping him, wasn't constantly correcting him while he played. I would have hated to put a damper on his enthusiasm. It's working out just fine now, and he's still talking up a storm without being inhibited.


  1. You are doing an awesome job! As a former SLP (now homeschooling mom), I've needed to do speech therapy with some of my kids and I've have years of training and experience in what to do to help. Some kids are just wired a certain way and as a result they have some speech issues. It isn't the parent's fault. I love your blog, BTW :)

  2. All children in America who need special education services qualify for help through their school district starting at age 3 through an IEP process. But with speech therapy it's different. Articulation for some reason, doesn't always qualify. (I think it has to do with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but I'm not positive.) With articulation, it can differ by district.

    Then to make things even more complicated, your state has the Katie Beckett Law. Not every state has this. My understanding is that for serious/expensive situations like Autism therapy, the Katie Beckett law means that kids get an automatic # of therapy hours a week without parents having to engage in any drama. The Katie Beckett law is such a big deal that some families with Autism move to states that have it.

    Good for you for being persistent! Or as I used to say before three years of speech therapy myself, Good foh you foh being perthistent! :)


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