Speech Therapy and Why I Hope You Don’t Make the Mistake I Did

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It was just after Iyla’s third birthday. She seemed to be on track, at least according to the pediatrician’s checklist.   She could follow instructions, name most familiar things, knew her first name, spoke in sentences and could carry a conversation, though she was hard to understand most of the time. We enrolled her in preschool that year and she was a little social butterfly.

Then one day, I walked into the preschool and I was stopped by the Director and pulled into her office. She sat me down and told me that Iyla’s teacher noticed that she’d been having issues with her communication skills. They wanted me to consider signing her up for a speech therapy program. I don’t know why, but I immediately felt defensive. Sure, there were moments when we couldn’t understand what she was saying, but every child is like that when they are small. She would outgrow it, we just had to give her time.

When I picked her up from school a few weeks later, her teacher stopped me on the way out. She asked if I had considered contacting the speech program. She shared moments where Iyla had trouble saying what she needed to say and was often straining to get the words out, which would cause her to stutter. She said that she told her to slow down and stopped her when she started stuttering.

I went home and spoke to a friend, who is a speech pathologist. She immediately sent me links to local speech therapy programs and suggested that I ask the teacher not to point it out. By making a big deal of it and calling Iyla’s attention to it, that could make it worse. The following day, my husband spoke to her teacher about it and we dropped the subject. I started to notice her stuttering at home, but I didn’t want to admit to anyone that something might be wrong. So I thought if I just ignored it, it would go away as quickly as it started. Not my proudest moment as a Mom, but a moment that is important to acknowledge.

It was toward the end of the school year when the preschool Director again pulled me into her office, but this time, she included Iyla’s teacher and one of the VPK teachers in the conversation. Iyla’s stuttering was happening more often and they encouraged me not to wait any longer. It had already been nearly 6 months. I went home that day and filled out the online form to see if Iyla would qualify for the county’s speech program.

It was a couple of months before we finally got a phone call. I realized that my waiting so long could have made it harder for them to correct this. That’s when my guilt set in. They wouldn’t be able to schedule an interview until the beginning of the school year (more waiting), but she said that this was common in kids with older siblings because they are often trying to talk over their brother or sister and may feel rushed to get their words out. When they are this young, it’s not as easy to do and that can cause the stutter. She told me to talk to Lucia (who was 7 at the time) and explain that when Iyla speaks, that she should allow her to finish her sentence without trying to talk over her. Lucia was great about it. As great as a 7 year old could be, but it didn’t seem to stop the stuttering, which at this point became more and more hard to ignore.

They scheduled a meeting at one of our local elementary schools where they interviewed us and observed Iyla and her speech issues. Even with no other children in the room, she struggled to get a sentence out without stuttering. Her forehead would scrunch up, as though she was straining to speak. I had to look away. I didn’t want her to see the tears in my eyes. I felt like this was my fault. I should have applied for the program right away. I should have gotten her the help she needed. I had one job and at that point, I felt like I had failed miserably.

When we got the letter stating that she had been accepted into the program, I felt a sigh of relief, but couldn’t get over my lingering guilt. I went into the school that day and sat down with the Director to let her know the good news. I told her that I was worried that I waited too long, but she assured me that it was fixable and that I had nothing to worry about.

For that entire year, Iyla was bused from her VPK class to an elementary school, once a week, for her speech therapy classes. They worked with her for an hour each day and sent her home with homework so she could practice speaking slowly and annunciating. By the end of the year, the stutter was gone. She was speaking clearly and with no issues. It was emotional for her and the therapy teachers on her last day. They had become so close and since she was planning on going to a different elementary school, they wouldn’t see each other again.

She continued speech therapy classes through Kindergarten, since she was still having issues with a few sounds. This time she was able to take them at her own school. I started to see an improvement almost immediately. Her speech went from barely understandable to beautiful and fluid. The change was night and day. Today, at 10 years old, if you met her, you wouldn’t even know that she ever had any speech issues.

Honestly, I wasn’t planning to share this, but I realized that if I struggled with this situation, there must be other parents out there that are going through the same. We all let our pride get in the way sometimes, but when it comes to our children, we have to learn to push it aside.

If you notice your child is struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Early intervention is key in these situations. According to ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association), you can find your community’s early intervention office by:

  • asking your child’s pediatrician, child care provider, or teacher for a referral;
  • calling your state department of health or education;
  • reaching out to the Parent Training and Information Center in your state;
  • contacting the pediatrics department of a local hospital; or
  • visiting the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center’s state-by-state contacts page.

I felt like I had failed my daughter by not paying attention to the signs. Here's why it's so important to seek early intervention for speech therapy.

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Hello There!

I'm so honored that you've found us! I'm Heather, a Mom of 3 who blogs about parenting, food, occasional travel and how I overcame my daily struggle with anxiety. I miss sleeping and rely on coffee and laughter to get me through the day. I hope you enjoy and visit often!

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  1. Speech therapy has a deep impact on child’s future life. This is very informative post to highlight few important things.

  2. I appreciate your honesty and sharing your experience. I think so many parents go through these struggles and this post will certainly provide guidance for those who are conflicted. I’m so happy to hear that she’s making progress!

  3. Thank you for sharing this experience! I’ll be sure to pass this along to my relatives with infants!

  4. My daughter uses Early Intervention and will until she is 3. Something wonderful that our tax dollars pay for. I am forever grateful.

  5. Thanks for sharing your experience. I found it can be hard in the moment to act on something without feeling defensive, and have also felt the guilt after . It’s so great to hear the progress she made and I know this will be a great read for other parents!

  6. As an educator, I appreciate all of these tips. I agree, early intervention is key.

  7. We are going through something similar to this right now. Asking for help is not always easy, but it’s worth it. This is such valuable information for parents.

  8. I totally get it the worry when you feel that something isn’t right with your child. I’m sure I have felt that way about my daughter more than once. That’s great you did finally listen and put your daughter in a good situation now with a great chance to succeed.

  9. Thank you for sharing your story. I was in speech therapy for 10 years, and it was a life saver. Now people always tell me I have a good speaking voice and they have no idea how much I struggled. (My parents waited too, and I turned out perfectly fine and now speak as part of my job, so drop that mama Guilt you’re doing great!!)

  10. I enrolled my daughter in speech therapy earlier this year and there was great improvement in her speech as well.

  11. I think it’s so awesome that you shared this. I’m a stutterer and have been stuttering since was about your daughter’s age (I’m 40 now!). Be proud of yourself for getting her help. My parents got me help…but not until I was in middle school! I don’t fault them…things were different back then…but I’m sure if I had gotten help earlier I would have had an easier time all around!

  12. Before I switched majors I took many speech classes and it opened my eyes to the signs to look for for speech therapy in kids. It’s really important to keep up with how many words a child is able to speak in different age brackets. This was an awesome post and awareness!

  13. Speech therapy can be so beneficial for kids that are struggling and its amazing how fast progress they make with a bit of extra support. Glad your little one got the help she needed

  14. Intervention as early as possible is super important. But you are human, and you are a mom. It’s sometimes really really hard to making objective decisions when it comes to the kids. We all make mistakes, the important thing is that you corrected it quickly!

  15. My daughter did speech theraphy when she was 4 years old for a year and that really helped improve her language skills, so glad your daughter is doing well now

  16. Oh Heather, this is amazing and what I personally find great is that you re sharing your story for others to learn. Kudos to you! Sharing it on my network.

  17. My close friend is a speech therapist and I know from her how hard it is. You did great! The achievement is fantastic and it is very important to talk about it too

  18. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m sure there’s someone out there it will help. My daughter had to go through similar therapy but when she was very young due to her heart condition. Glad everything’s good with your daughter now.

  19. This is a great read. Important to point out the things we falter on to make us better and those around us.

  20. Happy to know she is all better now. It is important for us to be aware and know our options. Thank you for sharing!

  21. Nnniiiccceeeee…I am so glad Iyla pulled through on that one! It’s quite the mountain to climb.

  22. I can relate and understand your situation. My niece has the same issue but with different case, that is the difficulty in expressing herself. The speech therapy has been continous for over a year now, wherein it should have been earlier.

    Glad your daughter is doing well,
    All the best

  23. Thanks for sharing with us about your experience. It’s so important to be there for our kids, sooner or later!

  24. Thank you for sharing your story. My brother had to go to speech therapy when we were in elementary school due to a stutter as well.

  25. I think it’s important to seek help early. Rather be vigilant and catch things instead of to miss them is the philosophy I go by so thank you for sharing.

  26. Such a powerful post! So good to know it before it happens to you. I was really worried about my child when he could not speak in full sentences for a long time.

  27. I think every parent with young children should read this. Many parents feel like if they hear that their child has a speech problem that there’s something wrong with them, and that’s not always the case.

  28. My aunt went through a similar story to yours, and in the end, speech therapy was the absolute best path for my little cousin. He grew out of a very strong stutter and although his speech is not quite like the rest of ours, he is able to express himself to be understood.

  29. your daughter is very cute. i did speech therapy as a young kid in elementary school both at school and a company in town. it was very helpful for me too. thanks for sharing.

  30. I’m happy you decided to act out on her issue and that she’s better now.

  31. I have my thoughts and opinions on the matter, which I’ll keep private. I do feel that if a teacher informs a child’s parent(s) that their child has a possible speech issue, they need to take action.

    1. Post

      Yes, but we don’t always act immediately in all situations, because we all have moments where we falter. That’s why I’m sharing my experience.

  32. I don’t have any kids but recently relied on speech therapists for my dad (who passed recently too) after his stroke. They’re amazing people.

  33. Every mom needs to read this! It is so true! Don’t be ashamed, don’t be defensive! If you have any doubts, why not seek out services so that your kid doesn’t have any issues when they are older and more aware. I had 2 of my 3 in early intervention simply because it was free and they qualified. Why the heck not!

    Good for you mama!

  34. I had two children with speech problems. One because of her hearing issues and another because. of week mouth muscles. These kids are now adults and are doing fine

  35. I think that’s a normal defense mechanism, like our kids can’t possibly have a speech issue. If we step back and realize that the teachers only want to help your child, that’s the first step. Your post was very informative.

  36. They say that early intervention really helps. I know that when you talk to your kids, it’s much better. They can relate more.