How to Choose a Great Speech Therapist: Four Questions You Should Ask
Children are happier, safer and have fewer meltdowns when they know how to express their needs and listen to others. Speech therapists play an important role in helping children with autism develop effective communication skills, so finding the right one for your child is important. In addition to verifying a speech therapist's experience and credentials during the interview process, asking the following four questions can help ensure that you choose the right therapist for your child.
When choosing a speech therapist, ask the therapist the following two questions:
Question 1: How do you plan to include me as the parent, in therapy sessions?
In order to gain new skills, children with autism typically need repeated and ongoing practice:
- throughout the day
- across multiple environments (school, home, grocery store, park, grandma's house)
- with many people (classmates, siblings, neighbors, teachers, grandparents)
- over extended periods of time
Therefore, a good therapist will teach you how to encourage and reinforce your child's language throughout the day, across many environments and with many people until your child masters those skills.
Question 2: What skills do you focus on in therapy sessions?
Some therapists only do flashcard drills where the child is expected to label items. Often, children with autism already have built-in labeling skills (they can identify or they can quickly learn to identify for example "the color blue", "a cat", "the house").
What they typically need are specific language skills so they can interact more effectively with others. Skills to improve interaction may include the ability to request, express feelings, and hold reciprocal (back and forth) conversations.
At the basic level this includes getting needs met by learning to ask for things (a drink, food, bathroom) and learning how to make choices (juice or water). For children who are developing more complex skills some speech therapists will have social groups where two or more children can practice taking turns, asking questions, changing the subject and staying on-task.
There are many reasons your child may have difficulty speaking. It is important to find a therapist who is trained in the techniques that address your child's specific issues. Speech therapists can specialize in everything from difficulty swallowing to central auditory processing disorders, or pronunciation.
When choosing a speech therapist, ask yourself the following questions:
Question 3: Does the therapist listen to my concerns and respond to them effectively?
A good therapist has the skills to help your child improve their communication skills but you are the expert on your child. Your child's speech therapist should listen to you and address any concerns you have.
Question 4: Does my child like the therapist?
Therapy is work, but it should also be fun and your child should view their therapist in a positive light. Children with autism are notorious for having unusual and specific preferences and dislikes. Even the best therapist will not be effective if your child does not feel comfortable with them. Before you hire a therapist, introduce them to your child to ensure there is a good fit.