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May Is Recognized as Better Hearing and Speech Month

Photo Provided Jackson works on completing sentences during speech therapy with Leigh Stephens, a speech-language pathologist, at Easterseals.

WHEELING — In September 2020, Easterseals began a monthly article series in the Life section of the Sunday News-Register to promote awareness and understanding of the work we do and the people we serve. We have featured information about our services in line with special awareness months, such as National Physical Therapy Month in October and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in March.

May is the final month of our series and highlights Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM). The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association sets aside this month to raise awareness about communication disorders and related treatment.

Easterseals has four speech-language pathologists, or speech therapists, on staff that serve the Wheeling, Parkersburg, and Steubenville areas. Currently, speech therapy is the most used outpatient service, and practitioners also treat children through schools and early intervention. A majority of Easterseals’ speech therapy clients are under age 18.

Speech-language pathologists diagnose and treat individuals who have difficulty communicating because of a speech, hearing, and/or language deficit or delay. Speech therapy may help to treat disorders related to articulation, fluency, receptive or expressive language, aphasia, apraxia, delayed language, or other diagnoses.

At Easterseals, a speech therapist will:

∫ Evaluate children’s strengths and challenges and provide services to enhance speech, language, and communication development.

∫ Offer access to a complete assistive technology and augmentative communication lab.

∫ Design total communication programs that encourage speech language development.

∫ Train parents and caregivers in activities and techniques to encourage communication outside of therapy sessions and through play-based interventions.

Depending on the child’s needs, goals in speech therapy may include increasing fluency, improving articulation, learning nonverbal skills such as signs or gestures, developing proper voice control, or learning to communicate using assistive technology.

Some of the developmental milestones related to speech include smiling in response to speech between three to six months, saying eight to 10 words by 15 months, and speaking in three- to five-word sentences by age three. If these milestones aren’t being met, follow the mantra of early intervention specialists: “Don’t wait; evaluate.”

Laura Chesonis-Spano brings her son, Jackson, to Easterseals for speech therapy and appreciates the care he receives, particularly from speech-language pathologist Leigh Stephens.

“We are truly grateful to Easterseals for providing us with a team to help Jackson be successful,” Chesonis-Spano shared. “We can’t thank Leigh enough for helping us get Jackson to where he is today with his speech and for listening to our concerns.”

Speech and language development begins at birth, so there are many opportunities for parents and caregivers to participate in this important developmental category.

Our speech therapists recommend incorporating the following communication tips into daily routines:

Guided Learning: This strategy is best for children who are not yet talking. It involves arranging the environment so that something challenging will attract your child’s attention. If your child is beginning to play routine games, like pushing cars back and forth, try other games using the same principles.

Expansion: Add words to what your child says. If your child says, “ball,” you can say, “roll ball” or “roll the ball to me.” This encourages your child to combine words.

Forgetfulness: After your child is used to a routine, purposely forget part of the routine. For example, hand your child a cup without pouring anything into it.

Giving Choices: When your child uses non-specific pointing to indicate that he/she wants something, give your child a choice between items. Try to get your child to use a word instead of pointing.

Modeling: Encourage your child to use words to talk about what he/she is doing by modeling. Show or say what you want your child to do before you expect him/her to do it.

Novelty: Introduce something new into the environment. For example, if you’re playing with kitchen items, add blocks or toy cars. See if your child notices the new or unexpected item. If not, draw attention to it as you point and name it.

Out of Reach: Put something you know your child will want out of reach or in a container your child cannot open. Putting the item out of reach creates a situation for your child to point to an item to indicate what he/she wants. Try to get your child to say or sign the name of the desired object.

Parallel Talk: Give a running commentary about your child’s actions. Describe what your child does, using language at the level you want your child to understand.

Parents or caregivers that have concerns about a child’s speech development can talk to their pediatrician about a referral to Easterseals.

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