Kids Who Need Speech Therapy In An (Almost) Post Pandemic World
In this first of a three part series of blog posts, we reached out to several of the speech therapists we have been privileged to work with, and asked them for some feedback to share with our families and supporters.
The first question we asked is, What effects have you seen on students since the impact of Covid-19?
It’s easy to tell which of our speech therapists work with younger versus older children, and you’ll also be able to tell who works in a school system, based on their answers. Something you’ll really notice though are that their answers have some very consistent themes.
For example, you will hear that more of the children are described as fragile or anxious. Several reasons can be found for this. One being how isolated many kids were from peers or other outsiders. The second being the state of fear that the news and other mass media sources thrived on and projected during much of the pandemic.
Another theme among the answers from our experts is the effect on parents, especially having to work from home and take care of their children, and all the in-home schooling.
What effects have you seen on students since the impact of Covid-19?
“One of the biggest “Covid effects” is the level of parent involvement in child-centered services. Parents expect to be included in therapy decision making, and in the details of therapy sessions. That being said, there has also been a HUGE decrease in parental awareness of their child in comparison with peers (not surprising, true?). This disparity in what a parent wants for their child despite the vast nature of the deficit compared with peers, and what can be accomplished in a set period of time creates much angst on the part of these very caring parents. One tact I’ve taken is to be VERY upfront with the length of time needed to address their child’s communication issues. Further, beyond a time estimate, giving parents a hierarchy (in everyday language, not SLP-speak) of skills acquisition and how they can assist with this at home EVERY DAY is essential to therapy success.” – Betsy Suzor MA CCC-SLP Bowling Green, Ohio
“The greatest effect of the pandemic is the isolation and limited ability to interact with others that we all experienced. I see the difficulty mostly in children, particularly the toddlers and preschool age children. These children didn’t have the opportunity to learn how to share with other children in their daycares or preschools. They didn’t learn how to take turns or wait their turn at the park. Difficulty is also seen in their fear in exploring new environments.” – Mindy Kirschner, MA CCC/SLP. Director, Speak Your Mind, LLC
“Many of my students are emotionally fragile. Those who were in elementary grades during the time of the pandemic seem to lack the educational readiness as well. There are issues with organizational skills, time management, and task completion. For these students, going back to basics and using repetition to keep items in order, writing lists/reminders, utilizing supports available to them (agenda books, online calendars, etc), and constant review have been helpful. For students who were older – (in late middle school or early high school) at the time of the pandemic, there are big issues with social engagement. Social media has been proven to negatively impact the mental health of children, and that was a main outlet for many during the pandemic. Now we focus a lot on perspective taking, managing emotional regulation, and conflict resolution. I’ve partnered with other service providers to accommodate as many students as possible and be as consistent as we can. We try to utilize the same vocabulary/terms and work with administration when disciplinary action is determined necessary.” – Lynette Dolente SLP
“There have been significant COVID Pandemic impacts on my students’ overall speech and language development. I have seen reduced vocabulary, lack of exposure to places and activities in the community (zoo, parks, stores, etc.), significant articulation and language deficits that had not previously been addressed prior to attending Kindergarten, difficulty with social interaction, difficulty transitioning to a formal classroom environment from being at home, and significant behavior concerns. I believe this to be related to preschool, daycare, or school closures, and social distancing measures that have prevented many children from receiving early intervention services, being exposed to early childhood programming, or prevented them from having typical interactions with peers of the same age or experiencing places out in the community. Due to an increase in speech/language impairments in young children, there has also been an increase in speech and language referrals to private clinics or hospitals that lead to lengthy wait lists (6+ months in my area). This is preventing many children from receiving services prior to attending Kindergarten. Often Kindergarten is their first time having received direct support in speech or language, having already missed a very critical period in their language development. The Pandemic also forced many families to stay at home. Many parents were also mandated to work from home while caring for their children. An impossible task that forced many to occupy their children with iPads or TV. This reduced the opportunities for meaningful interactions between parents and children as well as prevented meaningful interactions between children and other children of the same age. Recommendations to help facilitate language development would include: Engage with your child daily. Spend purposeful time during play modeling language and following your child’s lead. Use self-talk during anything that you are doing. Talk about the things you are doing during everyday routines. “Put in the carrots. Put in the celery. I am mixing the soup, etc.” Use parallel talk. Talk about what your child is doing as they are doing it. “You are going up the ladder!” Expand on what your child is saying. If they say, “Car,” you could say, “Red car! or “Go Car!” Other recommendations include reaching out to your child’s SLP if you have questions, concerns, or are looking for ideas to facilitate language development at home.” – Kristin Gehret, MA CCC-SLP