From the Mouths of Babes: 10 Things I've Learned From Our Clients and Speech Therapists

I’ve had the unique opportunity of working as the office manager and marketing director for Creative Speech Therapy NYC for almost two years. Creative Speech Therapy NYC is a private speech and feeding therapy clinic on the upper east side of Manhattan. There, the highly trained therapists strive to collaborate with parents and children’s teams to ensure the most holistic approach to therapy possible.

A job I fell into through nannying, I’ve basically been given a crash course on speech therapy, feeding therapy, and the dynamics of families whose children need those services. I feel so lucky to have absorbed so much incredible knowledge hearing therapy sessions in the room next to me and speaking with parents and families of clients. Here are 10 things I’ve learned and want to pass on:

1. A therapist trained in orofacial myology can work wonders
“Neuromuscular re-education” or “re-patterning” of the oral and facial muscles may include mouth, face and tongue exercises, and strategies to facilitate proper feeding, swallowing and oral rest tongue posture (Source). Meaning, they can help a child stop drooling, prevent dental problems, improve picky eating, and stop chronic mouth breathing. I highly recommend googling this topic because it is INCREDIBLE what speech therapists can prevent and fix when they’re specially trained in this area.

(See the below pictures for what can be done to correct issues like mouth breathing by a speech therapist trained in orofacial myology and what happens when its left untreated. Click on the pictures to learn more about the individual.)

2. Snoring is never normal
Snoring can happen to anyone now and then, but no one should snore chronically – this includes your kids. It’s often indicative of a serious health condition. It can also lead to poor sleep habits, behavioral issues, and poor diet. Speech therapists are a great resource in finding the cause and helping treat whatever may be going on. They also usually have relationships with ENTs, dentists, and other providers who can help and be referred to.

3. Picky eating is rarely a child trying to be difficult or stubborn
Most picky eating habits result from structural issues in the mouth like a child not being able to manipulate certain textures or a sensory aversion to a certain texture or taste. These poor chewing and swallowing skills or aversions often result in a child’s distrust of food. Feeling unsafe chewing/swallowing, gagging, being force fed, or feeling intense pressure to eat a certain thing or amount create picky eaters/problem feeders. Even if a child matures and develops the skills to manipulate a food later on, the picky eating can persevere as a result of past experiences. A feeding therapist (speech language pathologist) can help them both overcome their structural issues with physical exercises or overcome the psychology behind eating those “scary foods.” Therapists also coach the family on how to properly feed their child and what kind of environment to create. Kids don’t want to disappoint their parents, sometimes food is genuinely terrifying! Learn more about feeding therapy, here.

4. Stuttering is one small part of what speech therapists do
TV and movies had me believing that stuttering was 90% of what speech therapy covers. I’ve learned that stuttering/fluency is more of a specialty and not all therapists are focused on cases of stuttering. Articulation, language delays, social/pragmatic language, receptive and expressive language disorders, gestalt language learning, feeding therapy, oral motor re-education, and so much more take up a large amount of a speech therapist’s case load.

5. A diagnosis is meant to be helpful not a limitation
Pursuing a diagnosis is a personal decision and every family should do it in their own time. On that note, it has been a beautiful thing for me to see a diagnosis provide clarity and direction to helping children live fully and proudly. I’m not a parent and I can only assume that getting a diagnosis like autism or a learning disability for your child can be scary and overwhelming. Remember that a licensed provider’s assessment can simply help them understand why they act or communicate a certain way, it won’t change anything about who they are. It can be an empowering step to mark the beginning of them (and you) learning how to advocate for their needs, which will become increasingly more important in school and in their future career. 

6. Kids in NYC are the busiest people on the planet
I’m in constant disbelief of how these tiny humans have such packed calendars. Incredible that they get it all done.

7. Insurance will almost always deny you, but don’t give up
When it comes to private pay/out of network services, parents are willing to pay a bit more to get a higher quality of service. However, these high quality services should not only be for a small select crowd of people who can afford it. As I’ve worked with families trying to get these services reimbursed by their insurance, I’ve seen that with patience and determination, it is very possible to get something worked out with your insurance company. Sometimes it only takes speaking to the right helpful representative. Nothing is definite when it comes to insurance, but don’t lose hope and always remember to be your own greatest advocate.

8. A good therapist will be transparent and collaborative 
It takes a village to raise a child and so it goes with therapy. The best providers will want to refer you to other specialists to treat your child holistically (like an ENT or occupational therapist). They will want to communicate with you about your child’s progress and use transparent language to help you get accurate help. 

9. The key to progress is consistency
Daily practice and commitment, even for a short amount of time, cannot be understated. 

10. Autism really is a spectrum
Autism spectrum disorder is a fascinating and beautiful way that some people move through the world. It has been eye opening for me to see children come in with such different levels and techniques of communicating. Check out this cool article about one way people with autism acquire language.

Speech therapy is a vast field. It is unique in that it’s providers need to be skilled in both creative and data driven work. It’s science and its also personal intuition. I’m so grateful there are people who dedicate their lives to this vital skill and that I’ve been able to be a fly on the wall absorbing all their knowledge.

Written by: Jane Wright, Office Manager/Marketing

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