When you’re considering speech therapy for yourself or your child, you might not be quite sure what to expect. As with anything that’s unfamiliar, it’s natural to have a lot of questions. And your speech therapist should encourage you to go ahead and ask them!
Here are 5 of the most common questions that speech therapists hear, from what caused a child’s speech delay to how long speech therapy will take. We suspect at least a few of them will be ones you’ve wondered yourself.
1 “How does speech therapy actually work?”
You may not know much about the process of speech therapy. It’s important to know that speech therapy will start with a session called an evaluation. During the evaluation, the speech therapist will assess your or your child's communication strengths and weaknesses.
Based on the results of the evaluation, the speech therapist will create a list of personalized goals to target in speech therapy. These goals are measurable and specific. That way the speech therapist can constantly monitor how the person is progressing and when a goal may need to be adjusted.
Speech therapy will likely be recommended once or twice a week, depending on the person’s specific needs. In each session, the speech therapist will work with you on exercises that help improve your areas of communication weaknesses. When children are involved, these exercises often look a lot like playing–it’s how kiddos learn best and stay engaged in therapy!
The speech therapist will also give you recommendations for how to practice what you or your child is learning at home, between sessions. Practicing often is essential for continued progress!
2 “Did I do anything to cause my child’s speech problems?”
Children come to speech therapy for many different reasons, such as speech delay, problems pronouncing their speech sounds, or issues with language. Many parents and caregivers wonder if they caused their child’s communication problem, or if they could have done something to prevent it.
This is always a hard question for speech therapists to hear. It’s clear that it comes from a place of love and concern for the child. Caregivers can rest assured that there is likely nothing they did to directly cause a delay.
Rest assured that there is likely nothing you did to directly cause your child's delay.
There are certainly ways to promote appropriate speech and language development in your child. For example, children need to be talked to frequently, and they should hear good speech and language modeled for them.
If a child was never spoken to and didn’t have meaningful, consistent communication exchanges with caregivers, this would likely cause a speech or language delay. However, in an attentive home where children are engaged with and cared for, many of the interactions needed for communication development are already taking place.
If your child has a speech delay or other communication problem, once you learn new techniques in speech therapy, you can begin working toward progress together. You might think, “What if I’d used these techniques from the beginning?” or “What if I’d known what to do or gotten help sooner?” These are normal questions, but there’s no way to know what, if anything, may have been different in your child’s development. While children do need caregiver support and involvement as they grow and develop, they also meet developmental milestones on their own timeline. There is only so much that families can do. So don’t spend time worrying about the past. Think about all of the support you can give your child now!
3 “How long will speech therapy last?”
This is a common question for clients to ask. Speech therapists wish they could answer it, but the length of therapy is different for each unique person. Your speech therapist may be able to give you an estimate of how much time you’ll be in speech therapy, but it’s not a definite answer.
Many factors can contribute to how long a person needs to be in speech therapy. They include:
The severity of the communication issue
How long the person has had the problem
How consistently they’re able to attend sessions
How frequently they practice outside of speech therapy sessions
4 “How long does it take speech therapy to work?”
You may be wondering, How soon will I start seeing progress? This is another question that unfortunately doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. The type and severity of the communication issue can affect how quickly progress is seen. For some people it may be in the first couple weeks. For others it may take a few months.
One thing to keep in mind: Sometimes your speech therapist can see progress that you may not be seeing. Let’s use the example of a young child in speech therapy to learn how to talk. The parent may have a goal that their child will be able to say at least 10 words. However, the child hasn’t even said one word yet.
Sometimes your speech therapist can see progress that you may not be seeing.
Other signs may show that the child is working toward talking. Using gestures like pointing or signing, or becoming more verbal by making simple sounds, are signs that a child is taking steps toward using words. While a parent or caregiver may not notice these skills, the speech therapist can recognize them as progress in language development.
Don’t be shy about asking your speech therapist how you or your child is doing in speech therapy. You can even ask them to share with you some “wins” that they’re noticing.
5 “What can I do to finish speech therapy faster?”
When it comes to this question, you’re in the driver’s seat. A good part of your progress is actually up to you. That’s because the way to speed up speech therapy progress is to practice what you’re learning.
As important and beneficial as speech therapy is, practice has to happen outside of sessions in order for progress to continue. When you practice at home, this reinforces and helps you improve on what you’re learning. You show up at the next session ready to move forward, one step closer to your goals.
If your child is in speech therapy, research has been done that shows regular practice at home with a parent or caregiver is one of the best ways to see progress. But never fear: It’s easy to integrate speech practice into your child’s everyday life. You don’t need any special materials, and you don’t always have to set aside a separate time to practice. The main ingredients are simply you and your child–no matter where you are and what you’re doing! Check out this article for easy tips to fit speech practice into your daily routine.