What does Speech therapy look like for toddlers?

Children between the ages of 1 and 3 might be referred for a speech and language evaluation by a child’s pediatrician for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, feeding or swallowing difficulties or delayed milestones in speech and/or language. After a formal evaluation by a speech-language pathologist, a child might qualify for speech and language services (also referred to simply as “speech therapy”) based on information gathered from standardized testing measures or criterion referenced measures, parent interview as well as direct observation of the child’s play skills, communication skills, language skills, and/or feeding skills. If a speech-language pathologist (also referred to simply as “speech therapist”) determines a child might qualify for speech therapy, a plan of care is developed which includes goals for the child to reach based on family’s priorities as well as the child’s current skill level. Once enrolled in speech therapy, a speech therapist works closely with families as well as directly with the child to meet feeding or communication goals. For toddlers, speech therapy is typically centered around working with families and caregivers. Therapy can take place in the home environment utilizing a parent coaching model, in a daycare setting, or in an outpatient clinic. In the home environment (either in-person or over virtual platform), a parent coaching model can be used. Coaching refers to an adult learning model where the therapist helps the caregiver learn and reflect on strategies to support their child during everyday routines. In this model, the therapist can provide information in ways that are the most helpful and supportive to a particular family. An example could include a therapist helping a family identify opportunities during a breakfast routine to help their child request for ‘more.’ In an outpatient clinic or daycare setting, speech therapy typically utilizes play-based interventions or activities surrounding everyday routines to model, teach, and encourage target behaviors. Therapists work closely with caregivers who are with the child most often to provide education and strategies to utilize to help support progress. An example could include a therapist modeling strategies for increasing opportunities to encourage pointing during play such as putting play toys up high or putting play toys inside of plastic bags. Regardless of the setting, speech therapy with toddlers typically involves therapists working closely with caregivers, providing education, and modeling strategies during routines or activities that are motivating to a child. Sources: http://www.eiexcellence.org/evidence-based-practices/coaching-interaction-style/

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