Some Things to Consider if You or Your Significant Other is Hesitant for Your Child to Receive Speech-language Therapy at School

If you have not yet participated in any meetings with your child’s school regarding speech-language evaluation and therapy, please read How to be Prepared if Your Child’s School Wants to do a Speech-language Evaluation

Good afternoon, all. Speech-language pathologist/momma here. I felt my heart rate increase as I typed the title above. I have not personally been in the “should our child do speech-language therapy at school” boat, but as a parent, there are naturally some things my husband and I have not agreed on when it comes to decisions that impact our children. I have, however, conducted several meetings in which one parent wants their child to receive speech-language therapy at school, while the other parent does not. It usually boils down to three reasons: the “no school speech therapy” parent is concerned their child will be labeled as “different” or “special needs,” worried their older child be embarrassed to be pulled from class, or they are worried their child’s grades will suffer from being pulled from class. I’m by no means a family counselor, but I can tell you what I think and suggest from a speech-language pathologist’s point of view. I’m going to be very direct in this post, not as a means to offend or change parents’ decision, but as a healthcare professional serving in a school system, it is my responsibility to directly address the advantages and disadvantages in order to help parents make an informed decision. Before I go on, I want to point out that if you ultimately decide as a couple to not let your child participate in speech-language therapy at school, you are NOT bad parents.

The Ugly and Not So Ugly Truths in Regards to Your Concerns and Facts You Need to Consider

Possible Reason #1: Afraid your child will be labeled as “different” or “special needs.”

The Ugly Truth for Reason #1

Our egotistical, sometimes innocently ignorant, world likes to label other people. No matter if it’s labeling someone as special needs or labeling someone as lazy because they work from home or saying someone is lazy because they are overweight. Labeling people sometimes boils down to people ASSUMING things and you know what they say when you assume something, but anyway…

schitts creek oh snap GIF by CBC

What You Need to Consider if This Is Your Concern

Some children spontaneously correct their own speech errors over time and learn how to say them correctly, without any therapy. Some children do improve their language skills by observing others or what they learn in the classroom without any therapy. Language, however, is not so cut and dry as speech. There is, however, no way to guarantee that your child or anyone else’s will do that. If you would like to see the differences between speech and language, please go to How To Improve Your Child’s Speech at Home Using A Structured Approach, scroll down a little bit, and read the text in italics. If your child’s speech is sometimes difficult to understand by others, people are going to notice regardless of whether or not they receive speech therapy services at school. If your child has processing concerns (one facet of language), for example, people are eventually going to notice that as well, regardless of whether or not they are attending speech-language therapy at school.

The “Not So Ugly” Truth for Reason #1

Based on my experience and the experiences of my students (keep in mind this can not be generalized to everyone because it is just mine and my students’ experiences), here’s what I have seen so far in regards to other’s labeling those who attend speech-language therapy at school:

For the younger elementary students…Yes, the other children will notice if your child gets to leave the room. Yes, they may ask your child where they are going and why. And YES, the other kids will wish they were going too!! When you have younger ones, they are excited to leave the room, get some extra special attention during school hours, and the other kids are curious and want to go too. 

Possible Reason #2: Afraid your child, particularly if they are older, will be embarrassed to attend speech-language therapy. Working with older students are trickier and have to be handled with more fragility.

The Ugly Truth for Reason #2

Based on my personal experience and that of my students (again, this is just our personal experiences and can not be stated as fact for everyone)….

Yes, the other students will notice if your child gets to leave the room.. Yes, they may ask your child where they are going and why. Yes, your child may become embarrassed because children are naturally more self-conscious at that age.

What You Need to Consider if This Is Your Concern

As stated earlier, if your child has a speech or language impairment, other people are going to notice, whether or not they attend speech-language therapy at school. If your child is older, however, and has not starting improving their speech or language on their own, the possibility of that improvement happening decreases with age. The older an individual begins therapy, the more difficult it is for them to learn a new skill. NOT impossible, but harder. We’re all like that. Think of it this way. If you’ve had 1 or 2 years to practice saying a sound the wrong way (speech) or thinking a certain way (language) it will be easier to break that mold, as compared to having practiced that for 5 years; the longer you do something the longer it takes to change your ability to do it a new way.

Solutions for the Ugly Truth in Reason #2

Unfortunately, there is no 100% guarantee that the speech-language pathologist can change your child’s opinions of attending speech-language. However, the speech-language pathologist and your child CAN develop a plan TOGETHER to reduce the risk of embarrassment. I’ve had success with the following solutions. One solution is your child’s teacher asking your child to “run an errand” during their designated therapy times. Another solution is the SLP scheduling your child’s therapy begin and end times at a time that does NOT coincide with other students’ class transition times. Something else that has helped in my experience is having the student set a weekly or monthly goal for what they are going to accomplish in therapy, as well as me showing them what has to be accomplished overall in order for them to be truly ready to exit speech-language therapy services. You and your child can do this at home as well. When students take an active role in determining their own speech-language therapy fate, it lights a fire under them.

Possible Reason #3: Afraid your child’s grades will suffer if they are pulled from class to attend speech-language therapy.

The Ugly Truth for Reason #3

Yes, there is a risk your child’s grades could be impacted if they are pulled from class. Speaking for myself and other speech-language pathologists, we really do try to pull students from classes that are LEAST likely to impact their grades. Such as during snack time, for example, or from a class that they are not tested on at the end of the year (I hated saying that, because all classes are important, but some do carry more weight than others in a certain sense). We can’t ALWAYS do that, however. Every state has laws saying how many students a speech-language pathologist can have on their caseload. In Kentucky, it is 65. Some states have a higher cap than that. Many speech-language pathologists travel from school to school within their district and have to run a very tight schedule and just do their best as far as when they pull them.

Another Ugly Truth and What You Need to Consider if This is Your Concern

Your child’s grades may suffer if they do NOT attend speech-language therapy. Let’s start with just straight speech. For example. let’s say your child says “T” instead of “K,” (i.e. says “tat” instead of “cat”), or “W” instead of “R” (i.e. says “wing” instead of “ring”), this can and often does bleed over into their reading and spelling. They will think that “K” is supposed to make the “T” sound because that’s how they hear it when they say it out loud to themselves. They’ll become confused if they read, “The “tat” sat down.” Another example concerning “R” is, “I gave her a ‘wing’.”  On their spelling test, the teacher may say, “Spell ‘ring.'” Your child may start sounding out to themselves, like he/she had been taught, but when your child says out loud to themselves, they hear, “Wing” and that’s what they write down on their test.

Now some examples for language. If your child has been identified with a language delay or impairment, there are a number of things this could entail. Every child is different, so this is going to mean something different for each child. Let’s say your child has been diagnosed with a language delay because they have trouble with memory (retaining information) and following directions. They are going to have a hard time learning new skills if they have difficulty remembering what they were taught the day before or what they practiced on their homework the night before. For example, if they learned the sounds of some alphabet letters the day before and the next day the teacher starts teaching the students how to blend those sounds into words, your child is going to have a hard time. If your child has trouble following directions, which can also be related to memory and/or attention span, they’re going to get lost when the teacher asks them to “go to page 33 in your science book, do questions 1-5, and bring it back tomorrow.”

Overall Considerations

We speech-language pathologists can not guarantee that your child’s speech or language delay or impairment will be “cured” within a few months, or even a year, after beginning speech-language therapy. Every child is different. The severity of their delay or impairment, their motivation, how long their delay or impairment has been present before beginning therapy, the nature of the delay or disorder, other diagnoses in the case of some children, family support, and the child’s awareness of their delay or disability are all factors, along with several others, that play a role in how quickly your child will begin showing improvement. We can, however, guarantee that therapy can be individualized to your child and their strengths and weaknesses in order to give them the best opportunity to succeed. We can also guarantee that we will applaud their successes and help them push through their “can’t do it yet, but eventually will be able to” moments they experience in therapy.

If You Ultimately Decide to NOT Have Your Child Participate In Speech-language Therapy at School

If you do have concerns about your child’s speech and/or language skills, but do not want them to receive therapy at school, there is also outpatient speech-language therapy. If you do change your mind down the road about receiving speech-language therapy at school, just contact your school’s SLP and meeting can be scheduled. I can’t say this is the case in every case, but oftentimes, your child will still qualify for speech-language therapy services at school. No matter where your child receive speech-language therapy or whether they receive therapy at all, it is always important to continue to help your child improve their speech and language skills at home. Time spent participating in school-based or outpatient therapy services is important, but when parents work towards improving their child’s skills at home, progress is generally much faster. For example, if your child only practiced reading at school, they will eventually learn how to read, but it will take a much longer time as opposed to if they practice reading at home too. See the links below regarding ways you can help improve your child’s speech and language at home.

How to Improve Your Child’s Speech at Home Using Everyday Activities
Everyday Activities to do at Home to Help Your Child Start Talking
How to Expand Your Child’s Vocabulary to Improve Their Communication
How to Teach Your Nonverbal Child to Communicate Without Using Words
Part 1 of The Basic Language Concepts Your Child Needs and How to Teach Them at Home
Part 2 of the Basic Language Concepts Your Child Needs and How to Teach Them at Home
How to Improve Your Child’s Attention Span
How to Help Your Child Talk More
How to Improve Your Child’s Ability to Answer and Ask Questions

In summary, the students at school become a lot like our own children. We become protective, and only want the best for them. As long as they are getting what they need to help them be successful and confident, I don’t care what shape or form that help comes in.

Did you find something in this article that personally spoke to you? Have any questions or concerns? Opinions? Leave in the comments below!

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