What if the best Speech Therapy was your Physiotherapy?

You may notice that all the blogs I am writing this month are loosely arranged around a theme of  “do your best, don’t beat yourself up”.  This is because this pretty much summarises how I encourage families to think about their child’s Speech Therapy.  I truly believe that beating yourself up is a waste of your precious emotional bandwidth, and it’s not the best way to get things done.

I also think this is a good theme for January, the time of year when you are supposed to be most motivated and coincidentally – a cosmic joke – the time of year you most fancy staying in your pyjamas in the house.

Obviously, I think Speech Therapy is important.  In fact it can be a transformative force in a child’s life.  But the fact is, especially when you have a child with complex medical, developmental or learning needs, it can be just another thing on your list.

So I hope this blog brings you good news when I tell you that there are many children that I work with where I advise families to focus on their Physiotherapy if they want to support a child’s feeding and communication.

Oral skills for feeding and for talking are fine motor skills, growing out of the underpinning gross motor skills such as head control and trunk control.  In addition, movement is an important foundation for:

  • Motivation (if you can move, you can explore, which gives you lots to talk about)
  • Body awareness – the use of your body sensations to understand where your body is in space.  An important underpinning skill for our sensory learners, for children with feeding aversions and for many children with Autism diagnoses.

We need the best skills in the body that we can if we want to support children’s communication.  So next time you are carrying out your child’s Physiotherapy, you might just have their communication work covered too.  And next time you see your Physiotherapist, ask them if you can see them with your Speech Therapist, so they can enhance each other’s work.

Angharad   key trans

 

If you would like support and information about your child’s communication and feeding, I would love to see you in my Facebook group for Families

In March we will be having a Physiotherapist come into the group to talk about the impact of low muscle tone (hypotonia) on children’s learning

 

What if you DON’T do the big heroic thing for your child’s communication development?

It is traditional at the beginning of the year to either set a big audacious goal, or to shrug and say you won’t be bothering (has anyone noticed that the world seems to have got together and decided to have a ‘word of the year’ instead of resolutions, when did that happen?  Was there a meeting?).

It can feel like either we need to make heroic life-changing efforts to affect change, or we should just accept things as they are, with nothing much in between.

No-one seems to know exactly who said it, but it is a truism that

most people overestimate what they can do in a year, and underestimate what they can do in ten years’. 

This is as true in working with your child with communication needs as in any other life area.

Some people respond to their child’s communication needs by buying into programmes that take hours every day to deliver.  This is fine, but I am a bit suspicious of approaches that promise huge results, but only work if you deliver them for 5 hours a day.  It has been my experience that these are unsustainable in terms of time and the impacts on family life.  When you are unable to maintain the efforts involved, then it can be easy to feel bad about this and feel like you have let your child down.  But this was not your fault, that programme was unfeasible by any reasonable measure!

More commonly, families get as much done as they can, as often as they can, quietly beating themselves up about not spending more time devoted to their child’s communication.

The fact is that small amounts of regular effort add up.  They might not add up in the big showy heroic ways that we might wish for, but they add up in the way that matters:  your child’s progress.  I often have the conversation that a child has made loads of progress, but a family can’t see it because it has happened so gradually.

The tiny things you do every day to support your child add up to real progress.  They even add up to progress when it looks like nothing is changing in your child.  I know that weeks and months can go by where you see no change, but every day you have spent even a little time prioritising a communication strategy or activity for your child, you have strengthened the foundations of their future progress.

So I hope 2020 is the year you do tiny things, as often as possible! (If I had to make this into a word of the year, I guess it would be ‘incremental’).  I happen to think turning up and trying your best is pretty heroic too.

Angharad

key trans

For pragmatic but effective ways to help your child with their communication, I’d love to see you in my Facebook group,‘Find the Key for Families’.  Practical information and advice from an experienced Speech and Language Therapist, and the support of other families who know what you are going through.