This week KidSPOT would like to introduce families to our Speech Language Department and our Speech Language Pathologists (SLP).
Speech and language therapy addresses difficulties with communication and swallowing. This includes speech sounds, language, cognition, resonance, fluency and hearing. At KidSPOT, we serve children ages 0-18 who have delays in communication. This may include children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, phonological disorder (speech sounds) and delayed language. However, a diagnosis is not needed to receive speech therapy.
The SLPs at KidSPOT use a child-led model during therapy. This means that the therapists provide an environment in which the child is able to choose an activity that supports his/her goals. We believe that play skills are the foundation of language and support play in all ages. This also makes speech and language therapy fun. We also use therapy swings, trampolines, tunnels and other physical activities to keep the child engaged.
The most important aspect of our treatment is creating communication goals that are functional by focusing on each child's strengths to build a meaningful and individualized program. We value parents' involvement in this process and work closely with families to continue speech therapy techniques in the home.
At KidSPOT, we also offer social skills groups for ages 5-12. We have had a boys group and girls group for grades 3-5 and mixed gender groups for younger grades. We also offer playgroups for ages 5 and younger. These focus on play skills to build the foundation for language and social skills.
Speech and language therapy at KidSPOT is full of engaging, hands-on activities that promote speech and language skills in children. We encourage parents to be involved and join their child in the journey.
The KidSPOT Speech Language Team
Laura has worked as an SLP for 12 years and through her experience, has specialized in pragmatic language (social skills), articulation, and phonological disorders in children.
“I always knew I wanted to be an educator. After college I shadowed an SLP and then knew that was what I wanted to do. I am amazed at how children learn!”
Laura recounts a story of a client, a young boy, who had no communication skills, including pointing and gesturing. “It was challenging to get him to attend to any activity. Each week I followed his lead and gave him meaningful words and pictures. Flash forward two years... he is now taking turns with me during play and is speaking in phrases!”
Stories like this encourage Laura to keep going and to keep in mind that each child learns differently and to go with what that child is naturally interested in, instead of what the developmental charts say to follow.
“For me, it's important to include humor in the speech and language journey with each child. Children want to connect with others and laughter is a wonderful way to connect. Don't be afraid to be silly! I encourage getting on the child's level (literally and figuratively) and have fun with him/her. This will foster natural language and your child will be more willing to participate in activities.”
Kristin has worked for KidSPOT for the last year and enjoys the team atmosphere that KidSPOT encourages.
“It’s easy to find good personalities in our professions and you can always find skilled clinicians, but to have the match up of strong clinical expertise within an engaged and supportive environment is a special experience that makes KidSPOT unique. Whether it is the space we
use, our clinical groups, materials needed, or the consultation with other disciplines, the team here is supported to think creatively with families in order to get individual needs met.”
Kristin began as an SLP 14 years ago. Her inspiration for exploring the field came from two separate influences. Her father is a neuropsychologist, so she always felt drawn towards a career in the medical profession and rehabilitation. After shadowing an SLP as an undergraduate, she had made her choice.
“I’m a people person, I’m fascinated with communication development and working
closely with families.”
Kristin’s fascination with communication development has led her to focus on early communication development in ages birth-3 year old children, oral motor disorders, and language delays in elementary age children. She has recently added Executive Functioning skills as another area of focus and is offering a clinical program at KidSPOT to support developing these skills in children.
“I think of myself much more as an “communication coach” these days,” Kristin says as she recounts a story that changed her perspective as a SLP.
“I still remember my very first early intervention client that I saw at his home. I was with
this little boy in his ‘real life environment’, not a little room in a clinic. It completely
opened my eyes up to functional communication and the role of we have as service
providers to consider our client’s day to day when we develop our plans of care. While I can’t
see all my clients at home or outside the clinic, I am always thinking about the time
they are outside of our treatment room.”
In order to make that time outside the treatment room more successful, Kristin encourages parents to ask lots of questions and to sit in on at least the last ten minutes of your child’s session. This short amount of time will allow parents to implement what is being modeled in therapy sessions.
Kristin also feels it is important to communicate with parents that:
“Communication therapy through pretend play is vital work for our young clients. Meeting a child where they are developmentally and creating back-and-forth interactions in an intentional and
playful manner increases a child’s brain development and language skills. Sometimes this manner of therapeutic delivery looks unstructured to parents but engaged play gets to the underpinnings of communication, language, and results. A child can express a wide range of emotions and connect ideas through play.”
Jennifer D’Costa (Jenny)
Jenny is new to KidSPOT. She joined the team in June of 2018 after relocating to the area near KidSPOT from Denver.
So far, Jenny says that her favorite things about KidSPOT are the community between the clinicians, between the clinicians and the families, and the children she has had the opportunity to work with. “This community has been very inclusive and supportive.”
Jenny is working on her fifth year as an SLP after having worked in a clinic in Colorado Springs and then a school district in Denver.
She was inspired to become an SLP after her grandfather had a stroke when she was very young. She says since then she has always been inspired to help people communicate.
Like other therapists at KidSPOT, it was another SLP that helped Jenny choose speech pathology as a profession.
“I used to work at camps or volunteer at camps up in the mountains. I was really interested, at first, to go into Occupational Therapy. Then I was hanging out with a speech therapist, who was playing these games with these kids and she said, ‘I’m working on turn-taking and requesting and making comments.’ I was thinking, ‘This is a game. How do you work on all this?’ That was a very inspirational moment for me.”
Currently Jenny does not claim a focus or speciality. She is still exploring speech pathology and looking for an area to focus on. In the meantime, she enjoys developing communication systems with patients and working with emerging communicators.
Even though Jenny is still fairly new to the field she retells a story that has impacted the way she approaches therapy.
“The first year out of my graduate program I did a fellowship year, that’s like your learning year. I was working down in Colorado Springs and there was a family from a rural town in southern Colorado. This patient needed a bit more than speech therapy and I got to walk the family through the process. I myself did not know what the process was, nor all the options available. However, I was able to help this family find other resources and other ways to support their child by being a kind of point person for them. I was able to encourage them to advocate for their needs. I love working with the kids but it isn’t just the kids you are working with. You are working with the whole family. That was a pretty neat experience. When you are in school you think, ‘Okay, I’m in school to learn this.’ But there is so much out there and to go through the process with a family was a very good learning experience for me in terms of what else is out there.”
A question that she often receives from parents is a request for homework or for worksheets to assist the child at home. She agrees that there are times that those things are important but encourages parents to work on therapy goals through their natural family environment. When a family can work on these things during times that fit in to their natural schedule, not just the schedule of the child, their therapy goals are most likely to get accomplished.
This lesson was learned when a mother of a client pulled Jenny aside and told her that while the family was doing their best, they were not able to meet the demands of the therapy homework. Since then, Jenny has asked herself: “How can I tailor this specific thing that I think this child could be successful in at home? How can I encourage families to incorporate that thing into their natural life?” These questions help her be mindful of the balance needed for the family to be successful and for the child to progress.
Ellen is an SLP at the Boulder Valley School District and began working at KidSPOT for the 2018 summer. She has since agreed to stay on and help a few hours a week during the school year.
Part of the motivation for deciding to continue on at KidSPOT was, “the collaborative team including including OT and PT as well as the dedicated parents. It has been an open and caring environment where it is easy to problem solve.”
Ellen is beginning her third year as an SLP, a profession that she felt she would go into at an early age because it combined her interests in languages, child development, anatomy, psychology and learning. “I love that I get to help clients reach their communication goals.”
Something that makes Ellen a unique part of the team is that she is a bilingual Speech-Language Pathologist with emphasis on English-Language Learners, typically with a first language of Spanish.
Ellen encourages parents to share their stories, ask questions, and to express their concerns during the therapy process with their SLP. Often those stories serve to encourage the therapist as well. Ellen recounts such a story:
“I recently had a parent send me a recording of her child reading a story out loud for a project. She was so excited to share it because a year earlier he would rarely talk, and definitely would not have allowed his voice to be recorded. He was so embarrassed by how he sounded but then had made huge gains in his confidence when his speech improved. It's the little successes and seeing what impact the progress makes in clients' lives that really keeps me going.”
When working with families, Ellen refers to an experience that most impacted how she views her role as a therapist:
“Communication is so essential to be able to interact and connect with others, and can take multiple forms. When I was an SLP student I spent some time in a Head Start preschool program. This program was in a specific neighborhood in Chicago where most students spoke Spanish or Polish. Somehow, these kids found ways to talk, gesture and play together without speaking the same language. Those interactions have stuck with me as a powerful lesson in my role and the importance of communication and learning from the kids that I work with.”
These members of the KidSPOT team work together, with families, and with the children they serve to promote a fun and relaxing atmosphere for children to meet their speech-language goals. To talk to someone about KidSPOT Speech-Language services and programs for your child, send an email to Info@BoulderKidSPOT.com or call 303.604.6441.