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How can I find a good Speech Therapist for my child?

A Mum caught me as she left school with her nursery child, who was chasing around the playground with his sister, and asked me if I know about Speech Therapy – and we got talking.

She told me her son was slow in talking and she herself finds it hard to understand him, so the child’s teacher had suggested she take him to a Speech Therapist.

It is immediately obvious that there is more to his problem than talking. But often, people think that if the talking is sorted out, the other problems will be too.

Her little son reminded me of an over-active Johnny Doepp, with a cute face and a total unwillingness to obey. I told him he could not take my phone, which he was determinedly grabbing from me – nor would he listen to his Mother, who was telling him to take her phone instead!

She had found a Speech Therapist, who was near her home, and whose price was within her means. The Therapist sees her child once weekly, but she is not sure about what the therapy is, and does not know how to help him outside of those weekly sessions.

I asked her, what did the Therapist do with her child? Was there an assessment? Then advice, recommendations? A programme of therapy? She looked blankly at me. ‘He just goes every week, she gives him words to practice’ she said.

So I suggested she ask the Therapist for an Assessment Report.

The Speech Therapy Report, which was only one and a half spaced out pages long, read:

Vegetative functions are fine but unclear speech was observed in the child’, and a list of tests done, with no results shown, then the advice:

‘Stick on to English as the language of communication. The very minimal delay that is present will be worked on along with articulation therapy. The teachers in school can help out the child by using the same pattern of therapy that is carried out during the sessions.

What pattern? Does she plan to tell the Teachers what to do?

No wonder the poor Mum is confused about what exactly her child is getting!

When I rang and asked the ‘Therapist’ for more information, she told me that she has done all that is necessary, and can only give information to the parent, and the child is making good progress, so ask the parent to show the work she is doing with him!

Sometimes, the cost of a service and its quality just do not match. You might think that you get what you pay for. But here in the middle east, even if you pay quite a high rate, you may not get the therapy that is actually what you need for your child.

Here are a few pointers to help you choose a speech therapist who is qualified and knows what she is doing. (usually ‘she’, though there are good male therapists too)

  1. Check the qualifications of the Therapist: does she have a degree, or more usually nowadays, Masters, in Speech and Language Pathology? From which University? A degree in linguistics, psychology, or related subjects is not enough to qualify her as a speech therapist. If she only has a diploma, and has only studied in a country like Pakistan or India, it is possible that her training will not be good enough to give your child the help he or she needs.

  2. Ask people you know and trust for advice about which Therapist to consult with. Your School should also be able to give good advice about this.

  3. Check out the website of the Therapist and / or the Centre in which she works. There should be information there about the qualifications of the staff and the types of Assessment and Therapy being offered.

  4. Is she a member of a Government - recognised Speech and Language organisation in her own country? Can you check the validity of her official registration? (For example, though I am not registered to practice Speech Therapy here in Dubai, I can show my registration in UK with the HCPC and this can be checked)

  5. Here in UAE she should be registered with the DoH to practice as a Speech Therapist, and she will be able to show her registration.

  6. Does she have relevant experience in working with children? Some therapists mainly work with adults, and will not be able to give you the in-depth help you need for your child. If, for example, you know your child has a diagnosed condition such as Autism, seek a therapist who shows Autism as one of her specialisms.

Speech Therapists may practice privately or in a Clinic, as part of a multi-disciplinary team.

Once you have decided that the Speech Therapist you have chosen is a legitimately qualified therapist, then in your first meeting, or on the phone before making an appointment, you should ask the following questions, and expect some answers like those I have suggested, before committing to any assessment or therapy:

Questions and Acceptable Answers

What sort of assessments will you do with my child?

It depends upon what I see is his / her problem. I will use a standardised test if it is appropriate.

If your child is small, I may use informal tests and observation, to measure against my knowledge of how a child develops communication skills.

I may ask for you to get other assessments done too, such as a hearing test, or educational psychology assessment.

Can I be present for the assessment?

Usually, the answer should be yes, especially for a young child.

Occasionally, the therapist may find the child does not respond well with Mother present, but that is usually after assessment has been tried with her present.

Sometimes Mum gives too many answers for her child, or prompts / pushes her child to answer, which invalidates the assessment.

Can I be present in therapy sessions?

The answer should be ‘YES! I expect you to sit with your child for therapy. How else will you know how to help him at home?

Speech Therapy once a week for an hour will not help your child at all unless he / she practices all through the week!’

Will you give me practice to do with my child at home?

Yes, I expect you to do practice every day at home, and to help your child in general ways too, with her/his communication. I may also advise you about which language you should speak with your child, to help him / her best.

Will you liaise with my child’s school to inform them and give them advice about how to help my child?

Definitely. Please give me the name and contact details of the SEND (Special Educational Needs Department) person I should speak to.

Is it ok if I come into school to talk with your child’s teacher and the SEND department?

Will you give me a full report of what you find?

Will it have recommendations and ideas for me to use to help my child?

Yes, of course. My report will tell you what I assessed, what assessment tools I used, and what the results are.

I will then tell you in what areas your child needs help or therapy. I will recommend ways in which that help should be given.

Please do let me know if you need more ideas about this – and if you have found good therapists or ways to check out who is good!

Happy Hunting!

Margi Kulsoom

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