A few months ago my wife and I decided my daughter needed private speech therapy.
She's been having a tough time with hearing and speech problems and previously had grommets fitted.
Now the hearing is all but sorted out, it's her speech that we need to concentrate on.
She's registered with the NHS for therapy but for a number of reasons we felt we had to supplement that.
Hiring a private therapist wasn't something we'd bargained for but it's been well worth the extra cost.
Here are some the reasons why it became essential to do it.
One thing I think children need when it comes to learning skills is consistency.
- Is it the same speech therapist each visit?
When we started visiting our local medical centre, the speech therapy sessions were given in blocks of six weeks.
Then there would be a break for a few weeks before these would resume again.
My daughter wouldn't always see the same therapist each time and that unsettled her.
One block there was also a trainee taking the session and my daughter didn't take to her.
It felt like the entire block of therapy was wasted.
- Is there continuity between each block of therapy?
Having six half hour sessions before taking a break for a few weeks felt quite disjointed.
Each new block didn't feel like it was consolidating the work that had been done in the previous six weeks.
So I struggled to see that any progress was being made and I could tell my daughter was feeling discouraged and frustrated.
Having a different speech therapist each time also didn't help as they didn't seem to know what had happened previously.
And I certainly don't want her to be in speech therapy for the next 10 years!
I couldn't speak well. I went to speech therapy for 10 years. And I was sort of frustrated in that sense.
Walter Dean Myers
- Do the therapy sessions follow the same pattern?
It's inevitable that seeing different speech therapists meant that each session was conducted slightly differently.
It meant that sometimes my daughter understood what was being asked of her and sometimes she didn't.
Causing confusion would often lead her to withdraw from the session and come over and sit on my knee.
With my daughter now having private speech therapy, consistency is the name of the game.
She meets with the same speech therapist each week and they target specific sounds each session until they're achieved.
My daughter has been able to build a relationship with the therapist and she knows how each session will work.
Having consistency in place has been the key for her to progress at a much faster pace than she ever was previously.
With infrequent therapy sessions, there's more of a chance of forgetting what you've learnt and not putting it into practice.
- How frequent are the blocks of speech therapy?
My experience of NHS speech therapy has been that you get a block of six weekly sessions and then your child goes back onto the waiting list.
Unless you remind the NHS after a few weeks, you don't hear from them again.
At one point we were constantly reminding them my daughter hadn't had a therapy block and it took 12 months to get things started up again.
It was at that point that we felt we had no choice but to look into private speech therapy.
- Does frequency matter?
When each session is only half an hour long and they happen weekly, it's important to have a block of more than six weeks.
I get that you need to give time for the therapy to sink in and for natural learning to happen.
But having a six week block twice a year won't help any child with speech difficulties in my opinion.
That's what we were up against with the NHS.
Paying for private speech therapy may not be for everyone but it gives you much more control over what's going on.
We had an initial eight week block and then a break to consolidate but only for a month or so.
Then it was straight back again for another block; rinse and repeat.
From feeling like it was going to take years for my daughter's speech issues to be corrected, now it seems like we're much closer to the end game.
If we'd relied purely on the NHS, we'd be so much further behind.
Having the right environment for concentration is essential to facilitate learning and further progress.
- No distractions
Being the one who stays at home, I'm usually best placed to take my daughter to NHS speech therapy sessions.
But I'm also one great big distraction which my daughter takes full advantage of.
After about 20 minutes you can tell she's flagging and has had enough.
She'll come over and want to sit on my knee or want me to give her a cuddle.
Similarly if there's anything in the room she could possibly find more interesting than speech therapy she'll try.
Having any kind of distraction means that if the speech therapist doesn't keep her on task, my daughter will get bored and give up.
- Consistent work space
When we go for a NHS speech therapy session, we're never in the same room twice.
There's no familiarity of surroundings.
Sometimes the room's so big, it feels odd with just a little table and chairs in it.
Then another time you feel like you've been shoe-horned into the space in a much smaller room.
I think having a level of familiarity would help with my daughter's concentration.
With private speech therapy, my daughter has her sessions at school.
She's in the learning environment already and it feels like another school lesson to her.
I'm also not there as a distraction to her and that means she has nowhere to hide!
She has the sessions in the same room each week and she's familiar with the surroundings.
It's astonishing the progress she's been able to make when the environment for learning is right.
- Written feedback
Attending the speech therapy sessions means I get to see first hand how my daughter is getting on.
But I also think I don't see the whole picture because I'm there as a distraction.
It would be useful to have written feedback from the therapist every few months but with the NHS that's never been forthcoming.
I don't get much feedback after each session verbally because the therapist is pushed for time and needs to get on with her next session.
As part of the price we pay for private speech therapy we get regular written updates from her therapist.
The therapist will also often attend meetings at my daughter's school as part of regular case conferences to discuss progress.
Whilst the reports can sometimes be quite technical in nature, I feel they're essential for us to understand what's happening.
At the moment we still use the NHS speech therapist as well as the private one.
My daughter sees the ear, nose and throat surgeon to monitor her hearing and the remaining grommet in one of her ears.
The surgeon felt it was important to keep the NHS speech therapy going to keep them in the loop.
I suspect when my daughter's hearing no longer needs regular monitoring that we may stop using the NHS speech therapy service.
Are You Using Private Speech Therapy For Any Of Your Kids?
Do any of your kids see a speech therapist? What's been your experience with them so far?
Are you using a private speech therapist too? Or is your NHS service better than the one we've experienced?
Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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