Childrearing

Speech Therapy Has Changed My Daughter’s Life For The Better

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 At that first appointment, Alicia had improved enough to start adding vowels to her initial sounds. Two weeks later, she started practicing single-syllable worlds beginning with “s.” The progress is slow, but steady, and while she gets bored and frustrated with the practice sometimes, I am already noticing a difference in the clarity of her speech.

 The speech therapy clearly came at a good time – she’s also going through a big vocabulary increase, so language is obviously at the top of her mind right now – but to me, there’s more to it than that. Working with Erin, along with the exercises we do at home, has taught Alicia that you can practice talking. Increasingly, she notices, and sometimes even corrects, her own “s” and “f” sounds – recently, for the first time, she counted my fingers with a clear and triumphant “F-our, f-ive!” at the end. And other sounds, ones that we haven’t started working on yet, are clearing up too.

But what I’m noticing more is a change to her willingness to speak. Suddenly, much more of her speech is directed at other people – me, her brother, even people we meet at the store. She was always willing to talk when prompted, but now she’s speaking on her own. It’s like she’s suddenly come to a realization: I can get better if I practice. If I talk to people, they want to talk back to me. And when I can make myself understood, I can share my thoughts and ideas with other people.

 After her second appointment, we went to a large playground near our house, where a family with a little girl about twice Alicia’s age was already playing. The two girls gravitated to one another, and the other girl and Alicia went off to play. And ten minutes later, I heard the most startling and wonderful thing: a seven-year-old voice calling out, “Alicia! Alicia? Where are you?”

She had just met my daughter, and I had never told her Alicia’s name. My little girl, for the first time, had introduced herself. I’m not a hugely emotional person, but I will cheerfully admit that I had a lump in my throat. Who would have guessed that just a few minutes a day, plus the realization that speech, like anything else, can be practiced, would have made such a change so fast?

Two years from now, I’m betting no one will guess that Alicia went to speech therapy for a while. And maybe, without the therapy, these changes would have come anyway – when she starts preschool in a few weeks, she’ll have lots of encouragement to clear up her speech even more. In fact, I’m sure the day will come far sooner than I’m expecting where I’m wishing she would want to STOP talking. But that moment on the playground, and others that have shown my daughter’s dawning realization that expressing herself is well worth a little effort, have told me all I need to know about speech therapy: we made the right call.

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