Being declared an non essential service resulted in the closure of all in-person services in mid-March. So many children in speech and language therapy thrive on consistent treatment programs which build upon success from week to week. Very young children, who have recently started in therapy, need a frequent routine to make this new adult in their life, the speech language pathologist, someone who they recognize, trust and bond with over time. The familiarity with the speech language pathologist and their office, allows children to focus on the task at hand and not be overwhelmed by the uniqueness and newness of the situation.
Parents try their best to work with their children with home programs that have been taylored to their child’s specific needs. Some kids are great with working with mom and dad; however, many are not. Let’s be realistic. You are their mom. You are their dad. You are not the teacher. After completing my teacher’s qualifications in 1989, one day I was sitting in car waiting for the school bus with my oldest daughter who was then beginning Grade 1. Being a December birthday, she was young in the class. She was obviously worried about Grade 1 and I asked her what was bothering her. She said, “I’m scared of school. I don’t know how to read.” I had already been working as a speech language pathologist for 8 years with the last 4 being spent in the school board working with students who were finding reading and writing a huge challenge. Add to that my recent qualifications to teach K-Grade 6. So I said to her, “Maybe I can help you with reading.” With her 5 year old wisdom she just looked at me and said, “Your not a teacher. You’re my mom.” So I had been told. You wear the mom hat and stop thinking that you do these other things with me. This is what parents are dealing with and most likely none of them have any training in child development and learning. This part of the story does have a happy ending as this daughter I speak of is now a professor at Durham College and is also working at UOIT. Obviously, she learned to read quite nicely without my assistance. (Just to be clear I did many years of oral language games with her that made her an excellent reader and it was all in game format. By Christmas of Grade 1, her teacher Mr. Scott commented that Dawn could read almost anything. I responded that I knew she could sound out/decode anything as I heard her reading grafitti in the washroom stall at the Oshawa Centre.)
So how do we keep our kids going and follow the physical distancing rules…..teletherapy. We have found that we have been able to do initial consults with parents and their child through the internet. It’s been interesting as it has given us perspective on a child’s communication skills without being in the room as an additional variable. Observing them in their natural environment is not something that we have been typically able to do. Furthermore, for some of the older children with social skills difficulties, teletherapy has allowed them to develop their communication skills through a medium that is going to become more and more the way of the future. It has also allowed another individual outside of the immediate family to remain in contact with them, as many of them have very few friends and limited social interactions.
If you are struggling as a parent to come up with ideas that are age and grade appropriate for your child or have any concerns regarding oral or written communication, please feel free to contact us for a virtual consult.