So….this post may be controversial but I decided it needed to be written anyway.
I’m just going to say it….I wish we could get rid of diagnoses all together! So many parents email me concerned and scared about their child’s diagnosis, scores on a standardized test, age equivalents (which are junk anyway), etc…
It breaks my heart as well as frustrates me! So much time and energy is wasted on stressing over test scores and labels.
The field of Speech Language Pathology is a medical, science based field. Therefore, medical diagnoses are necessary for many reasons including insurance coverage, qualification for services in schools, understanding the root of the problem, use of evidence based treatment plans such as therapy or medicine.
Sounds good, right? Well....not completely. There are a few problems!
Well, I believe the main problem with speech therapy diagnosis is the internet. There is a lot of good information out there but there is also A LOT OF MISINFORMATION on the internet. Even the good information can be interpreted poorly by someone who hasn't been formally educated in the field. Plus, the personal stress of having a child with ANY TYPE OF DIFFICULTY makes it even harder to process information.
Most importantly, NO TWO CHILDREN ARE ALIKE. I’m just going to repeat that NO TWO CHILDREN ARE ALIKE. Let that idea sink in for a second. Therefore, if two children have the same diagnosis, it doesn’t mean that they will have the same therapy prescribed, the same outcome, the same needs, the same strengths, and/or the same rate of progress.
This is the same for every medical diagnosis...no two people with high blood pressure are going to look the same or have the same outcome. One person may have to take medicine where another person may have to make lifestyle changes. The prognoses are different based on various factors such as medical history, family history, etc...
This principle applies to speech and language diagnoses as well. NO TWO CHILDREN are going to be prescribed the exact same therapy, have the exact same outcome from such therapy, and/or need the same type of treatment.
Therefore, a label DOES NOT DEFINE A CHILD'S POTENTIAL! A label does not define a child's abilities, goals, relationships, and/or life. A label is only a starting point and not even a good one at that!
Truly, a child’s diagnosis doesn’t carry much weight when designing a treatment plan. Instead, I focus on areas of need (articulation, listening, speaking, vocabulary, narrative structure, social skills, maintaining topic of conversations, expressing basic needs, etc…), areas of strength, learning styles, client goals, age, and motivation levels.
Results of standardized tests point to areas of need and areas of strength. Observations, trial of therapy techniques, evaluation of progress (dynamic assessment), home support, and clinical experiences lead to a personalized treatment plans. This is what really matters, NOT a diagnosis.
Well….yes, you do need one. While a diagnosis DOES NOT limit your child, it is necessary for funding in most cases and speeds up the process in finding the right professionals to help and support your child.
Many parents say "the initial evaluation was horrible," "my child was nervous," and/or "the report is wrong!" Well....that all may be true but it doesn't really matter. Professionals understand the limitations of an evaluation. It is an unnatural slice in time in an unnatural environment.
A therapist is always assessing your child during therapy and this is called dynamic assessment. Every therapy session is an evaluation of progress, response to treatment plan, progress made, helpful strategies, etc...
The results of the dynamic assessment is what guides weekly therapy and new goals and strategies. Therefore, don't even stress about an initial evaluation. It doesn't hold much weight as your child progress through therapy!
Personally, I know how SLOW the process can be to get a child evaluated and then only to be disappointed by the lack of options or lack of treatment covered by insurance or offered by schools. This is FRUSTRATING for both parents and professionals...believe me!
Many factors such as funding, therapists availability, insurance coverage, and red tape can make this process horrible. While there are many advocates helping to improve this process, there are things that you can start today!
Here at Speech Therapy Talk, we have speech (articulation) and language resources for parents that can be implemented today. Many strategies, tips, tricks, and games are good practice for everyone and ALL resources are evidence based. I promise that!
If you want practical and easy ways to help improve your child's language abilities. We have LOADS of that! Check out some of our help guides
An FANTASTIC eBook that both parents and professionals can use to work on improving speech abilities for all age groups for all goals.
Read more here: Articulation Materials & Guide
If you have concerns about your child, browse our free speech and language screening materials for more information.
If you have concerns about your child, seek out medical advice from your pediatrician, speech language pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, etc…
Once you get a diagnosis, explore different options of treatment. Focus on your child’s strengths and areas of need/goals/progress.
For example, if your child has an expressive language delay and the standardized test says he speaks at 12 month level but he is 3 years old, DON’T focus on that!! Focus on building on the vocabulary that he already has with use of pictures, language elicitation strategies, signs, and/or whatever is recommended by licensed professionals.
Celebrate progress and accomplishment of small goals.
DON’T google the diagnosis and panic!
DON'T compare your child to other children who have or don’t have the same diagnosis.
SUPPORT other parents by listening and celebrating their children’s accomplishments
ENJOY your child. HAVE FUN and PLAY! Every child is different and each of us struggle with something. Speech and language delays are bit more obvious since we must communicate all day long, but everyone is struggling with something.