Sunday, October 7, 2012

Speech Therapy, or Homework for Parents!

NB has been seeing the Speech Therapist.  This has led to several people (including professionals involved with his case) asking me how the sessions are going, or when he's having some more sessions.  They obviously don't know, as I didn't, that speech therapy is basically about having an assessment and then giving the parent/carer a load of homework!

I'm not trying to criticise the Speech Therapist - she was excellent.  She had a wonderful rapport with NB and, during our three assessment sessions, gave him her full attention and really took the time to find out what he can do.

Unfortunately for me, it seems that after the assessment takes place, goals are set, a massive pile of leaflets is given to the parent/carer, and then you are basically sent away to do your homework for three months!

The purpose of the homework seems to be to completely transform the way we speak in the home.  For instance, I've been told that I ask NB too many questions.  Apparently this is A Bad Thing because it makes him feel like he's being tested and might put him under pressure to say things which could cause him to feel uncomfortable about speaking.  I should only ask questions that I genuinely want to know the answer to, and give him plenty of time to respond.

She was right about the questions.  In fact, when I stopped and thought about it, I realised that practically everything I say to NB takes the form of a question.

"Where's your train?  Is it on the table?  Do you want it?  Are you playing with your train?"  And so on, and so on.  And not only would I construct entire conversations out of questions, I would ask the questions with little or no expectation of a response, so our conversations were completely one-sided.

I'm going to blame my habit of asking questions on too long spent as a teacher.  In the classroom you're perpetually asking questions, and you hardly ever really need to know the answer.  In fact, you almost always already know the answer to the questions you're asking.  If you don't you probably haven't prepared your lesson properly!  Of course, even in the classroom, it's better to ask questions for other reasons than just getting students to demonstrate their grasp of basic facts - to encourage higher order thinking skills, debate, investigation, for instance - but all too often, we resort to a barrage of questions as our main attempt at 'interactivity'!

Of course, once you are told you have a bad habit that you didn't know about before, it is suddenly all you can think about!  For a couple of weeks I became completely unable to speak like a normal person.  I would start saying something, realise it was a question and then try to change it half-way through.  This sort of thing doesn't lead to natural conversation!

And adapting to the way I am supposed to speak to encourage NB's language development has been even more tricky.  Instead of asking questions, I am supposed to offer commentary on what he is doing.  For instance,  "Your train is on the table.  You're pushing the train. Push!  Push!  Push the train!"

Yeah, you're right, it makes me sound like an idiot!

But, it takes the pressure off him, allows him to hear short conversational phrases and individual words repeatedly (repetition is the key!) and, most importantly, it appears to be working!

We are due for review in about seven weeks, and I'm under pressure.  Since it's up to me to do the homework, then it really does feel as though I'll be the one under scrutiny at our next session.  I'd better get those leaflets memorised!

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