& Does your child need Speech Therapy? ( at the end of the article below)
Highlight Note: "Parents and speech pathologists say that continual treatment, especially during the summer break, is important for many children who have speech disorders, as well as language problems in which they may have difficulties understanding others or sharing their thoughts and feelings."
Speech therapy: It’s important to keep kids talking
Speech therapist Kelly Thomasset works with Avery Rezendes, 2, on her speaking ability by using a combination of gestures and games to make the child overcome some of the difficulties they have when they say certain sounds.PETER PEREIRA/The Standard-Times
By Brian Fraga
July 27, 2010 12:00 AM
NEW BEDFORD — Last summer, 2-year-old Sydney Rezendes barely spoke a word, and would often cry because she was frustrated that she could not communicate her thoughts and feelings.
But during a recent therapy session with Julie Barcelos, a speech language pathologist at Speech and Language Therapy Services at 1167 Ashley Blvd., Sydney never stopped talking as she interacted with Barcelos, who used a gentle, soft-spoken approach and toys to elicit multi-word responses from her.
Sydney’s mother, Fern Rezendes, said her daughter, now 3, has made great strides in overcoming her language delay since working with a speech and language pathologist at her preschool in Campbell Elementary School.
"Sydney has really blossomed since she’s gone to preschool," Rezendes said.
But with summer vacation in full gear, and speech therapy not offered at the preschool, Rezendes wants Sydney to continue working with a therapist.
"I’m bringing Sydney here for the summer so she can maintain the progress that she’s made," said Rezendes, who has also been bringing her younger daughter, Avery, who has shown early signs of having a speech delay, to Barcelos’s practice.
Rezendes’ story highlights a fact that many local parents of preschool and grade-school-aged children seek out private therapy during the summer months, when not as many students have access to school-based speech and language services.
Parents and speech pathologists say that continual treatment, especially during the summer break, is important for many children who have speech disorders, as well as language problems in which they may have difficulties understanding others or sharing their thoughts and feelings.
"For the kids who have significant speech and language delays, it’s an opportunity to give them three months worth of therapy to help them catch up with their peers," said Barcelos, a 16-year licensed speech pathologist.
Barcelos said the local demand for children’s therapy has been such that she and her husband, Jorge Barcelos, have had to hire three additional therapists since they opened the practice in July 2008. They said they are looking to expand their business.
"We’ve grown because there is such a demand for these services," Julie Barcelos said.
Many public school departments offer extended-year special education services during the summer that include speech and language therapy, but only a small percentage of students qualify for those programs.
The summer services are offered to children who are deemed at high risk of regressing to a point that they would not be able to recoup their speech and language skills by the start of the next school year.
"The speech issues need to impact academics," said Heather Larkin, assistant superintendent of student services for the New Bedford Public Schools.
Larkin said 1,184 students in the district receive speech and language therapy during the academic year. They are recommended for those services by a team of parents, teachers, speech pathologists and administrators who formulate an Individualized Education Plan for the student.
But for the six-week summer program, space is limited, so only students who the IEP team — after reviewing extensive documentation — believes would be at great risk of regressing are admitted for extended year services.
Larkin said 143 students are receiving school-based speech and language therapy this summer in New Bedford.
Meanwhile, several speech professionals, as well as parents of students who either do not qualify or have access to school-based therapy during the summer, say it is important that those children continue their treatment.
"I feel very strongly that it is very important that there be continuity over the summer to assure it’s not just maintenance, but growth in the speech and language skills," said Dr. Diane R. Paul, the director of clinical issues in speech-language pathology for the Maryland-based American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
"Many of these students come back to school in the fall, re-enrolled (in speech and language therapy), so it’s my thinking that they would have benefited over the summer," Paul said.
Officials also say it is vital to keep improving children’s communications skills because those students are at risk of having academic difficulties, not to mention struggles with self-esteem and socializing with peers.
"Speech difficulties can damage confidence, self-worth and make kids introverted," said Robert Burns, a visiting speech professor at Bridgewater State College.
"A lot of parents who come here are really concerned about the progress their child makes. They want them to be on the level of other children their ages," said Barcelos, whose North End offices are filled with young children’s toys and games.
Tracey Beaudoin, of New Bedford, said her 9-year-old daughter Abigail, who she said is epileptic, dyslexic and has a learning disorder, did not qualify for speech and language therapy at the New Bedford Public Schools.
Abigail received speech and language tutoring this past year as a student at St. Francis Xavier School in Acushnet. During the summer, she is receiving therapy at Speech and Language Therapy Services.
"They’re helping her to read," Beaudoin said. "I love them. They’re great."
DOES YOUR CHILD NEED SPEECH THERAPY?
Julie Barcelos, a speech language pathologist at Speech and Language Therapy Services in New Bedford, offered these tips to parents:
6 to 8 months: child should go from beginning to make different sounds to increased babbling and imitating sounds
12 to 18 months: child should advance from imitating common words and using jargon to using 10 to 20 words, including names, along with combining a noun and verb, and using words to make wants known
2 to 3 years: child should advance from 2-3 word sentences to 3-4 words, have vocabulary grow from 300 to 1,000 words, use past tense and plurals, use words to make comments and express ideas, and produce the sounds "m, h, n, w, b and p"
4 to 6 years: child should advance to using 4-5 word sentences, begins to use complex sentences, vocabulary grows to 1,500 words and produces sounds ‘k, g, d, f, t, y’ and "ng" at age 6
7 to 8 years: child produces sounds "r, l, s, ch, sh, j" and "z, v" and voiced and unvoiced "th" by age 8
Other factors to consider
- Find out whether medical insurance programs cover private therapy
- Make sure a speech-language pathologist has a Certificate of Clinical Competency, which assures that the therapist has completed a masters-level program, passed a national exam, completed a 1-year internship and is current with continuing education requirements.
- The Web Site for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association — www.asha.org — has additional information to help parents gauge children’s need for therapy.
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