My 3.5 year old son gets anxious at speech therapy

by Mari
(Eastern Europe)

I have a 3.5 year old son who started talking late (borderline normal before 3) but is now right on track at home, talking nonstop in grammatically correct sentences like "I was showing my brother how the washing machine worked" or "I wish mommy was small too so she wouldn't reach the things that are on the table either" (in our native language). He's a bright inquisitive kid, really, but "the engineering kind", wants to know how everything works, etc. There are some articulation issues, though, and he stutters (not much anymore), hence the need for speech therapy.
He does just fine at daycare, does everything he's told etc, but it appears as if he wants to be invisible. Doesn't seem stressed at all, he really likes it there. So basically he's fine at home and at daycare, but not at evaluations. And it's scary, I don't recognise my own son. I suspect anxiety as DH and I both have close relatives that have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders as adults.


We've been seeing SLPs every 3 months for over a year for evaluations (which I HATE, because it's not helping anyone). #1 was perfectly happy talking to me only, and quickly shut the communication down when my son was starting to open up. So I thought maybe someone else would fit him better.
#2 was at daycare. Her first words were: "You do realise your son isn't normal, don't you?" , referring to pervasive developmental disorders and suggesting his development would regress at home. It was the first time she ever saw my son. I was upset and my son had his first "episode" - he shut down and started "drying" stacking cups, which looked rather compulsive.
I chose #3 very carefully and took time briefing her with what works best, etc. He needs to feel secure before opening up, needs a bit more time to form his answer at first but will warm up and answer quickly later on, and prefers interesting topics/activities (I feel ridiculous writing it as it seems so very natural even for toddlers without anxiety issues). Well, she did the exact opposite. Even I as a perfectly coping adult perceived the quizzing as an attack ("Where's the duck? What does the duck say? Does it say "moo"?" without pausing to hear the answer...) Again, he went blank, started putting his hands in his mouth and under my shirt, even flapping.

I'm not in denial, these "episodes" NEVER happen unless he's being forced to speak for more than 15 minutes (about things that he has no interest in whatsoever). I'd say he's reasonably compliant for his age, isn't scared to try new things, eats and wears anything...

So... What should I do? Obviously deal with my own emotions first, cooperate with daycare staff, help build my son's self confidence... Get a psychological/neurological evaluation? Try again and again and again until I find an SLP that actually listens?

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Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference. Follow Bridget at Facebook and Pinterest for more fun!

Author of  child language development eBook series