Let’s be honest, COVID presents many different obstacles for many different people. My biggest obstacle as a speech language pathologist in the public schools is masks. Masks present a barrier to what I need to see the most — children’s mouths. Not to call out masks because they are meant to keep us all well, which is of the utmost importance; nevertheless, they create an unfortunate barrier for me to be able to provide my students feedback.
With the ever changing climate in education, kids with special educational needs are more at risk of falling behind than ever before. What can we do better to help these kiddos and therapists who have this hurdle to overcome during the pandemic? Unfortunately, there are no easy, clear cut answers, but there are some small things parents can do to give the extra boost a child needs when services aren’t being provided in the most ideal way.
Though they tend to fog up, these are great to have for those minutes spent in speech therapy. I myself have one to use when with students, but most often, my students are using the regular cloth masks. Think about providing your child a clear window mask to use for speech therapy, if possible. Send it in their backpack each day for use during their speech session.
Does your child have particularly difficult speech to interpret? Or possibly a social language disorder in which masks impede social decoding? Masks can muffle sound, which can further obstruct a child’s articulation and ability to communicate clearly. Others, such as those with Autism, may miss social cues they typically pick up on by observing the mouths of others. Ask your child’s therapist about visuals or other supports to implement in the classroom or other places where others are wearing masks.
Practice at home
This is likely the most important one you can carry out. You’re busy. I hear you. Speech doesn’t have to be a sit down, hour long session. Do it during your daily routines as you talk with your child, working on their goals they have in speech. Search YouTube and Speech therapy websites for ideas, or ask your child’s SLP about materials and ideas to try at home. Also, check your app store for free and low cost speech therapy apps. Look for ones that target what they are working on.
If your child is on a remote, hybrid, or virtual model, try to participate in a few sessions to get an idea of how to help at home. Make sure your student is logging into each of their assigned speech sessions. Speech can often get forgotten amongst general education class work.
Find a learning space or place where your child can really listen and focus. This, of course, goes with all distance learning. It is important for the child to hear what is being said and for the therapist to be able to hear them as well.
Is your child receiving speech services? I’m sorry mama if so. I know you’re frustrated with the limitations due to COVID protocols. I assure you, we SLPs are researching, tweaking, and re-tweaking to provide the best therapy during these difficult times. Progress might take a bit longer than usual this year. Keep your head up. We will all get through this!