Child First, Speech Therapy Attendee Second

Your child finished their speech therapy session.

You walk to the car with them, holding their hand, and ask them questions about the just-completed session.

You've seen their last status report, their last intelligibility percentage; and let's face it-you wish that you just knew if the next report will state that your child is perfect and no longer needs speech therapy.

Or at least some sense of improvement?

Given your curiosity and desperation for improvement, you ask your child, "How was that session?" or "What did you do today?"

Hoping for some insight, even if it's just as simple as a smile or a head nod.

Now, looking back on these moments, when was the last time you left a speech therapy session and asked the child their feelings about it?

Not about what the session was like, nor what they did, but their actual feelings or sentiments. Such as, "Were you happy at speech therapy today?"

If you are deeply thinking about this, trust me, you're not alone. Parents, mine included, are naturally overwhelmed with IEPs, progress reports, and the intelligibility percentages flying around. The numbers, the writing; they consume you. So much consumption that you are desperate to witness your child's improvement. Thus, between the meetings and reports, your questions after sessions are similar to, "How was speech therapy today?"

However, these same reports that consume you-does your child even see them?

Do they even fully understand them?

Not necessarily.

I guarantee you your child is not as concerned with IEPs or some long, bland report about their pronunciation. In regards to speech therapy, your child is probably more concerned with playing a game,  having fun, saying something correctly without a therapist's intervention, and maybe even winning a prize at the end.

With this being the case, you have a tough job on your hands. You need to find balance. You are the middle-man between your child's work as a speech therapy student, but also respecting their childhood and them as human beings. The best way to the latter is to acknowledge their feelings or emotions at minimum. As grown-ups, it's easy to forget that kids have feelings about even attending speech. There's the overwhelming reports and errands swamping your schedule, so it's natural to drown in the hustle and bustle.

Coming from my experience though, even just taking a second to ask how your child "feels" about something, will equip them with respect. As if they are a respected person first and a speech therapy student second. 

Recently, my mom and I finalized our presentation for the CASANA Conference in July. We quickly discovered we each had different relationships with speech therapy. My parents had their constant interactions with IEPs, status reports, speech therapists, and teachers discussing my intelligibility and pronunciation. They were constantly Meanwhile, my relationship with therapy involved an hour or more a week with some older lady making me play a game, while saying words into a tape recorder.

Clearly, my mom and I had different perspectives about the whole ordeal. So different, in fact, that my mom claimed, "We just never thought about your feelings and opinions about speech therapy. We were always worried about the status reports."

In part, us doing this presentation together has allowed us to understand the other's perspectives. It also has helped me in figuring out what to blog about and what parents SHOULD know about their kids.

It's simple-feelings matter.

Acknowledging feelings is important even if it's a minuscule sentiment from a five year old. Even if you talk to a nonverbal child and say, "Did you have fun?" and tickle them for a response.

As often as a child may attend speech therapy, they are still a child first.