Why Start So Early?
The answer to why it's important to include speech/language therapy in preschool education is both interesting and complex. Reasons vary from basic assistance with language and pronunciation skills to more urgent problems like stuttering, hearing impairment, swallowing disorders, or lack of appropriate communication for a child's age level.
Proper assessment is key followed by the initiation of a specifically tailored program designed by the speech pathologist. If there is one common component in the treatment of vocal disorders, most professionals readily agree that it's one word--practice. Dr. Elaine Schneider, a California licensed and certified speech and language pathologist, has worked with the early intervention population since 1983. This award-winning author, educator, and founder of an early intervention company called Baby Steps, says, "Without a doubt, speech pathology definitely works!" She emphasizes that regardless of her working environment with the preschool child, parental involvement is an absolute must to obtain the best, long-lasting results.
Her four-step program consists of four pillars of CARE, including consistency, appreciation, responsiveness, and empathy. These methods "push" a child without going beyond the child's zone of proximal development, and, according to Dr. Schneider, the adults are then moved into the next zone toward success. Babies and toddlers cue parents daily in unique ways, and teaching parents to recognize these cues is imperative. She likes to include the parent or caregiver in her sessions with each child so techniques can be carried over through practice after the therapy time is over.
She further shares the importance of "touch" in working with toddlers on her website www.touchtimeinternational.com. "Using touch as the first language of communication gets us down to the child's level," she adds. And from there the preschooler is on the way to achieving at his or her expected levels. "Massaging Your Baby, The Joy of Touch Time," by Dr. Schneider, gives more insight into improving communication between you and your little one.
The role of the speech/language pathologist in preschool is truly paving the way for all children needing an extra boost in verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Parents and caregivers need to make it a priority to research all available preschool services and then reinforce program activities at home!