When we first met Rachel Kirson we immediately connected with her warmth, deep understanding of the whole child and commitment to helping children develop speech and language through play. We've shared some of your most asked speech and language questions with Rachel to provide you with her insight about supporting your child's language.
As a Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and Mother of a toddler (Mother should always start with a capital M, because it’s a job title, am I right?), parents often reach out seeking advice on all things play, language development, and toy selection. Thankfully, our friends at Rose & Rex have listened to your questions!
How can play support language development?
Would a surgeon operate without learning basic biology or chemistry? Of course not. Higher level skills require the mastery of basic skills, known as prerequisites. Play is an essential prerequisite for language development. We can’t expect our children to go from docile newborns to chatty threenagers. In fact, they need the opportunity to explore, create, observe, and connect with the world – PLAY!
Are there specific building blocks, or foundational skills, that children need to have in order to effectively communicate?
There’s an abundance of visuals out there, but I’ve taken the liberty of creating one that clearly and accurately depicts the building blocks of communication development. Skills on the bottom must be mastered before higher level skills can be learned.
What are your favorite fun, organic ways to support speech and language development?
This is a tough one as there are so many! I’ll start by saying there’s nothing more valuable than quality face-to-face interaction with your child. From playing peek-a-boo, to talking about the colorful spring flowers and chirping birds as you go for a stroll outside, or the savory chicken and rice he/she is enjoying for dinner– these are all valuable social interactions that give your child an opportunity to learn in his/her natural environment. Playing, learning, bonding, all wrapped up in a bow!
Follow your child’s lead! Think back to your school-age days when you were forced to learn Trigonometry. Wow – what fun. The point is, many state approved curriculum lessons lie ahead once our children enter Kindergarten.
Let’s remember that their first few years on this Earth are solely meant for exploration, discovery, imagination, and connecting with the world! So, follow their lead. Whether your child loves trains, letters, stuffed animals or blocks – embrace it. You can learn language using any item, it’s all about interest and motivation.
And last but surely not least, provide your child with new experiences. I’m not suggesting scheduling field trips Monday through Friday, but allow them to meet new people, explore new items, and adapt to new environments. Simply going to the playground and letting her follow other children around. Change the hanging toys on the mobile so he’s always looking at something new. Coordinate a Mommy & Child playdate with your neighbor who you always mean to introduce yourself to. Check out local blogs and family magazines to find free activities and events happening near you. Take him to a restaurant, on a plane, and to the beach. Think about all the language she will learn as you share these experiences together.
What steps should you take if you think your child is having an issue with speech?
If you suspect your child has having speech and language difficulties, or any developmental difficulties for that matter, there is help. I strongly urge you not to wait, as the earlier a delay is identified, the sooner progress can be made!
In terms of evaluation and treatment, you have three options.
1.) Every child is entitled to a FREE evaluation from the state (speech-language, occupational, physical, psychological). Depending on your child’s age, you will contact the following agencies/committees listed below.
- Ages 0-3: Early Intervention – Contact an Early Intervention agency near you. You can ask other moms in your area, search on google, or consult your pediatrician for a recommendation. If your child qualifies for services, he/she can receive therapy within the home, daycare, school, or center-based clinic.
- Ages 3-5: Committee of Preschool Special Education (CPSE) – Contact your local district administrator and request a full evaluation. If your child qualifies for services, he/she can receive therapy within the home, daycare, school, or center-based clinic.
- Ages 5+: Committee of Special Education (CSE) – Your child is now in Kindergarten. If he/she received services through CPSE, and continues to qualify, the services will be transferred over. If you’re child hasn’t received services before, contact the school’s Child Study Team or District Administrator.
2.) Health Insurance: Contact your health insurance provider to find out your benefits. Everyone’s plan is different, so be sure to ask what is needed for coverage (referral, diagnosis, # of sessions/year, etc). If you have coverage, request a list of participating therapists and/or clinics in your area.
3.) Private Speech-Language Pathologist: Ask your fellow Mamas, school teachers, or Pediatrician for a recommendation, or feel free to reach out to me! Depending on the practitioner, evaluations and sessions can be held in an office, home, or school setting. While these sessions are more costly, they are often more time efficient, flexible, and specialized in a specific area of speech-language pathology. More often than not, children do not qualify for state services, and/or your health insurance does not provide adequate coverage. Also, busy families and working parents may only have specific times available for therapy. Hiring a Private Practitioner is your solution! If cost is an issue, ask for a package rate. And remember, therapy isn’t forever.
Stay tuned for part 2 of our interview with Rachel (hint: toys are involved)!
Stay in touch with Rachel at www.rachelkirsonslp.com and on Instagram @rachelkirsonslp