I have the coolest job in the world…but, of course, I’m biased.
My name is Alex and I am a pediatric speech-language pathologist. When I began my collegiate career at the University of Connecticut (Go Huskies!), I was focused on a career in medicine. That all changed the day my roommate told me about the “Intro to Communication Disorders” course that she was taking. I was immediately fascinated by the subject and signed up for the same course the following semester. The rest, as they say, was history.
Since I joined the profession in 2015, I have worked in sensory gyms, daycares, elementary schools and middle schools, but I’ve found speech therapy that takes place at home to be the most rewarding for me as it allows for the highest level of caregiver involvement. In my experience, teamwork really does make the dream work. My goal is to support children and families by providing intervention that is evidence-based, fun and replicable. This means that families are able to easily incorporate the same strategies that were used during therapy into their daily routines, using the materials that they already have at home. It means that parents don’t need to carve out another window of time each day to dedicate to speech and language outside of our scheduled session (unless they want to!). It also means that children get more practice and more chances to be successful. It’s a win-win!
Here are a few of my favorite tips that you can use anywhere:
Keep it simple: Providing a model that matches a child’s current level of development is a great way to provide more opportunities for them to imitate and practice new language. If the child is working to say and understand 1-2 words at a time, that’s how I aim to communicate with them! Instead of saying, “Okay, now it’s time to clean up the books!” I might say, “All done. Clean up!”
Be the narrator, not the interviewer: We love to ask kids questions! “What are you doing?” “Are those your blocks?” “Can you share them with Mommy?” “Are you building a tower?” Instead of asking the questions, try providing the answers by narrating what’s happening. “You are building.” “Wow, blocks!” “Great building!” In this way, we add language to their activity without adding any pressure to respond.
Give yourself some grace: We use language for so many different purposes. We greet others. We make requests. We tell stories. We share feelings. Not every moment has to be a dedicated teaching moment in which you are perfectly employing every strategy demonstrated in speech therapy. Spend some time modeling those simple sounds and phrases and allow yourself to also spend time modeling all of the other unique and beautiful ways that we communicate.
I have witnessed so many firsts. First waves, first words, first successful communication exchanges. The feeling of helping a child voice their needs, thoughts and emotions and helping families feel like they can better understand or connect with their baby is truly indescribable and motivates me to jump out of bed each morning for work. See, I told you! It’s pretty cool.
I am so grateful that so many extra lucky families have invited me to join their teams and for Jess and Taryn from Extra Lucky Moms for giving me an opportunity to connect with even more. Keep an eye out on the Extra Lucky Moms Instagram for more tips and tricks for language development and for more information, you can find me at @msalexsays or www.awertheimslp.com.