Can we talk about special needs for a moment? I’ve been attempting to avoid an official diagnosis for my daughter, but at this point I’m realizing it’s doing more harm than good.
I want to speak my truth about my parenting experience without overstepping on my children’s privacy. So for the sake of their own digital footprint, I’ll just go with “Harper” for my first born and “Peyton” for my second born.
When Harper started to talk, I noticed that she struggled with annunciating her words and would only be understood fully by family and friends only 50% of the time. She would often slur her words and mispronounce words like “juice,” “stairs,” etc. More often than not, I found myself being her interpreter because as her mom, I could understand even the smallest gibberish and murmurs.
I had family members suggesting I begin speech therapy early on, but I was reluctant because of all the ideologies and myths the world put in my mind: being labeled, being bullied amongst peers, learning about an official diagnosis that I wasn’t mentally prepared for and the biggest one that she would eventually grow out of it; I was wrong, about all of it.
Now that Harper is school-aged, she receives 9-week updates of her academic progress and the pressure of not seeing satisfaction or progress in reading and writing really pained me. I was forced to see the correlation between having a speech impediment and her inability to correctly sound out words. This clear connection affected her in spelling, reading, and writing.
As much as I was thinking the speech impairment would correct itself as she got older, intervention and adequate support turned out to be best.
Where to start? Getting an official diagnosis.
Confidence is a really big indicator that there’s a mental block going on with the child. For Harper, though she’s a social butterfly with her friends, she was hesitant to raise her hand to read aloud for the class and would attempt to avoid small group reading lessons.
Because her sister Peyton was the complete opposite, Harper voiced her opinion about wanting to be better with reading and identified on her own that she has trouble pronouncing some words and correctly sounding out words in her books.
This shook me. In that moment I realized my child needs my help and I’ve been prolonging getting her the support she needs and she WANTS to it.
Beginning the official diagnosis after identifying the challenge.
We were fortunate enough to attend a school that offers on-site testing for special needs and has on-campus speech pathologists should the child qualify based on testing results.
This made receiving the diagnosis and finding a solution much easier.
Once I was willing to accept that my child needing support was greater than my uneducated assumptions around having a special need, we were able to move forward and begin working toward the best part: getting help.
Testing, Talking and Taking Action.
Since receiving an official report and identifying exactly which sounds and word structures were most difficult, we constructed a plan for at home and at school.
We set a date for speech therapy to begin, and we incorporated it into her current school schedule so that it wouldn’t interfere with family time and after school activities.
Since beginning, Harper talks frequently about how happy she is that she’s getting help and how much she loves going to speech therapy.
She looks forward to speech therapy days and always have the happiest report afterschool about her progress and all that she’s learned. Her teacher has weekly reports of her confidence soaring in class and her excitement to read aloud and work in small groups, a huge change from before therapy started.
How having a diagnosis benefits you and the child?
Speech Therapy has done more for my family beyond speech correction.
My daughter has greater confidence within herself, increased trust within me and her dad, and feels like she can talk with her teacher about any additional challenges she’s facing.
This open line of communication has been excellent in allowing all of us to come up with the best plan to reach the next level of progress. So far, I am beyond satisfied with my decision to get further testing and I know Harper is as well.
Our after-diagnosis support and maintaining communication with instructors.
In this process, the school really provided us with all the support we needed. They created the curriculum, set aside a personalized schedule that allowed for Harper to learn in a fun, small-group setting and then they return back to class for large group.
We’ve found that speech therapy taking the place of art or music class works better than skipping gym, because physical fitness is still very important.
Because we’ve allotted a 50-minute session for one day a week, Harper’s regular school schedule isn’t really compromised and she doesn’t feel singled out because of the small-group option.
We’ve done an excellent job at creating a 9-week check in schedule so the instructors and speech pathologist (therapist) contacts us with updates.
If you’re in a position where you’ve been noticing delays or challenges with your child’s studies or academic performance, I highly recommend ditching the fear and seeking an official diagnosis. The results have been excellent for us.