As a new school year begins most parents and students are excited to begin a new chapter. New grade, fresh supplies, school uniforms and let’s not forget the brand new shoes. I am an anxious mom this time of year because we have two speech-delayed children starting school. One starting kindergarten and one starting pre-k 3. Transitions from one school to the next or one grade to the next can be tricky for those with developmental delays. A new teacher, new classroom, and schedule can be triggering. But I do have so much excitement to begin another year of tremendous growth. So, how did this all start?
Early Intervention Is Key
When my firstborn was 15 months, our pediatrician asked about the number of words Grant could say. We were asked this question again at 18 months. Each time we learned that he was not meeting his speech milestones compared to other children. We completed autism screenings which all checked out fine but still, we wondered what was going on with his speech. “He’s just a boy. Boys are usually delayed.” “He will talk when he is ready.” “So and So didn’t speak until he was 4 and he turned out just fine.” These are things family and friends would tell me to assure me that all would be just fine if I just patiently waited. This wasn’t good enough for me and I didn’t feel like it was fair to Grant. I needed to get to the bottom of this.
Our first referral for speech therapy was a dead end unfortunately. We met with a therapist who told me within the first 5 minutes that she was “very concerned” about Grant’s speech delay and started speaking about the autism spectrum. I was completely overwhelmed. How in the world could she know this in 5 minutes? I left feeling so discouraged. I cried my eyes out. How did I not see this? I thought we were going to talk about speech therapy sessions, easy peasy. Then, of course, my mind ran wild. “What does this mean for his future?” “Will he ever speak?” We returned again for a few more speech sessions, and each time I was sick to my stomach as soon as I pulled into the parking lot. I felt absolutely no connection with this therapist. I felt like she was in the session but not INTO the session. It was a waste of time and energy.
Instead, I contacted a different speech group, Excellence in Speech Therapy. (ESP) We were assigned a therapist named Kelly. She came to our home to complete an evaluation and then came up with a schedule for speech therapy. This experience was entirely different. She engaged with Grant. She was positive. She was ready to get him talking and she seemed so determined to do so. Just listening to her talk, I could tell she was wise beyond her years. I found so much comfort in her and little did I know she would become such an instrumental part of my kids’ speech journey. We met with Kelly twice a week, and she even went to his daycare during the day to give him his sessions. She would send me pictures and we would celebrate all of his milestones. Grant absolutely loved her.
When Grant was approaching 3 years old, our daughter Hannah was about 18 months. To our surprise, Hannah was speech delayed as well. Thankfully I knew the drill this time and we began therapy sessions right away. This was a difficult time for me wondering what was going on with our children. Why is this happening? Not one but two? Even though I had so much anxiety, I was always able to count on Kelly to help me through the doubts in my head. She was truly my saving grace and she loved my kids.
Private Speech & EarlySteps
There are two ways to receive speech therapy: you can find private speech therapy through your health insurance, or you can apply to use EarlySteps. Private speech therapy is great. You can file speech therapy sessions through your insurance which makes things affordable. You can bring your child to therapy sessions or depending on who you choose, the therapist can come out to you or to your child’s daycare depending on the therapist’s schedule, etc. This is the route we chose for my son. It was so convenient that he was able to get therapy during his day while I was working.
For my daughter, we did things a little differently. We used EarlySteps which is also great. EarlySteps provides services to children from birth to 3 yrs old who have developmental delays. Our private therapist, Kelly, was also a provider for EarlySteps so we were able to continue working with her … it was fantastic! We had someone come to our home to complete an evaluation to see if Hannah qualified for the program which would allow her to have free speech sessions provided by the state. She did in fact qualify so we did this until she was 3, but then she aged out of the program so we had to move on.
Up Next … IEP
Individualized Education Program – this is used for children with autism or other learning or developmental disabilities. It serves to meet a child’s specific special education needs. I started this next phase for the preparation of my children starting school. This is how your child becomes qualified to continue having speech therapy in the school system. I was directed to Leblanc Special Services to begin evaluations. Both Grant and Hannah qualified for speech. Again, this is provided by the state so it is at no cost to us. My children now both attend a public school in Prairieville, one in Kindergarten and Pre-K-3. They will both receive speech therapy each week with a speech therapist who works at their school. I should mention that they provide services other than speech depending on the specific needs of each child. We also had to part ways with our dear Kelly. Such a bittersweet time because she became family and because of her, I have so much respect for her profession and could never thank her enough for all she has done.
Going to all the different evaluations and meetings is a lot of work and intimidating at times. But, I have seen how amazing my kids have progressed by us starting speech therapy sooner than later. It was scary, very scary. I didn’t know anyone going through this with their children. It also felt very isolating at times. I watched my kids struggle to communicate with family and friends. I also know that it can be hard for others to understand what we are going through. It’s possible I will never know why our kiddos are delayed in speech, but I do know that I am determined to see them through this and help other moms navigate through the process.
Favorite Speech Activities
Mr./Mrs. Potato Head – to identify body parts
Super Simple Songs – colors, shapes etc. – also available to watch on Amazon prime
Melissa and Doug – identify foods