Speech therapy has generated a lot of mixed feelings for me. When Maddie had physical therapy for a year, there were specific exercises I could do. I could take photos and videos. It was abundantly clear that PT benefited her and she would not have gained the strength and muscle development without it.
Speech, on the other hand, is not so cut and dry. The strategies are less clear and our weekly sessions often feel like a waste of time. The kids are making progress, but I often wonder if they would be advancing on their own without the help of an SLP.
Our newest SLP started a month ago. I adored him, especially the way he interacted with the kids. As a father of a 2 year old boy and an infant, he was so natural with the kids. The initial visit was more of a getting to know you/fill out paperwork visit. The social worker was also there. I was so excited and optimistic about speech services.
The SLP cancelled the second week due to illness, which I in no way hold against him. The third week was our first true session. Once again, he was amazing with the kids. Unfortunately, I found him to be very patronizing and condescending towards me. He felt the need to "teach behavior management strategies" such as "redirection". (As if I haven't spent six years in college classes and five years in my own classroom.) After an hour of being spoken to like I was the two year old, I stopped him and explained that I was well aware of the strategies. I not so kindly reminded him that things are a lot different when you have two or more adults with three children vs one adult and four children. As soon as he left, I cried. He unintentionally made me feel uneducated and an inadequate mother, then I unintentionally made him uncomfortable.
Last week was a bit awkward. He told me that I "don't have to beat around the bush". He assured me he's only here to help but I have to let him know what would be the best use of his time. In physical therapy, the PT came up with the activities and exercises. In speech, it's been the other way around. He just shows up with no game plan, which added to the misunderstandings of our roles. I think initially, we were both waiting for the other person to do something, which resulted in all of us sitting on the floor playing trains for an hour and a half and him "teaching me strategies". It was a bit of an epiphany for me to realize I go about my day as normal and the SLP is a support to help me converse with the kids more effectively.
The biggest strategies I've learned and implemented thus far are:
1. Stop asking so many questions. This isn't natural conversation and it limits their responses. I don't need to interview the kids.
2. Talk in first person point of view with simple sentences.
3. Wait for the kids to respond. If it's unclear, try to interpret it and articulate what I think they're trying to say. If their response is clear, repeat it and expand their sentence.
How this has changed our conversations:
For example, when looking through a book, I used to say, "Can you find the apple? Where's the dog? Point to the cat." It was like I was constantly giving the kids a test, without modeling anything first. Now I say, "I see a red apple. I like to eat apples!" Then I wait for the child to point to the apple and listen to what s/he says. Generally, s/he points to the apple and names it. Then I can add more vocabulary and make connections by saying, "We picked apples at the farm."
Then I say, "I see a dog. The dog says 'woof woof''." And we continue with simple conversations. It's been an unnatural but meaningful shift for me to start talking as a peer rather than as a teacher. Talking like a two year old has actually helped each of them articulate their thoughts. Maddie is the most advanced and regularly uses sentences such as "I want eat." "I like color. I want my book!"
Another example: If Amelia says, "Baby eat.", then I say, "Baby eats from a bottle." She naturally responds, "Yeah. Baby's bottle."
Today was our best speech session yet. I think the SLP and I are finally comfortable together and have mutual respect for one another. I knew I needed some kind of planned activity so we weren't sitting on the floor with trains again. I'm working on a whole list of things I want to do that would be easier with two people. First on my list was to bake cookies.
The SLP was totally receptive and excited about baking cookies. We were a good team and let each toddler take turns pouring ingredients, stirring, and dropping spoonfuls of cookie dough. It was very natural and fun.
I took a picture since it was the trio's first time baking. I thought it was sweet that the SLP asked us to switch so I could be in the pictures.
The triplets did a great job and we used vocabulary such as "shake, pour, bowl, in, out, stir, cookie, hot, all done, wait, cool, eat" etc. Jackson used to have so much fun baking with me at this age, so I was glad to finally feel comfortable letting the trio experience one of my favorite hobbies. (It was definitely a two person job, though!)
I was pleasantly surprised that James was patient and willing to wait his turn. His eyes never left the bowl. His face lit up every time he had a turn.
We listened to Toddler Tunes on Pandora. A Sesame Street song came on called "C is for Cookie". We had a dance party, sing along, cookie tasting party going on all at once. It was perfect!
Our blissful moment ended with all three in tears when they weren't allowed to eat anymore cookies. (Even if I had given them 10 cookies each, they would have cried for more!) As the meltdowns began, the SLP said, "Well, I guess this is my cue to go." To be fair, it was time for him to go, but I sure could have used his inspiring "redirection strategy" at work then. It was just another reminder that everything's easier with two adults.
Next week is our monthly visit with the social worker. I'm curious to see what conversations take place then. For now, I'm happy with increased understanding and communication from the kids, as well as the potential for fun weekly crafts and baking.