Programs provide speech therapy for toddlers and elementary school students, often with one-on-one attention
A group of toddlers sits in a circle, singing and passing around maroon and gold pom poms. When the they come around to a shy 2-year-old, everyone sings, “Who are we rooting for?”
He shouts, “Max!” and beams a wide smile as they cheer.
The enthusiasm is in contrast to when he began coming to these sessions a few months ago. Back then, Max’s mother, Kelly Whalen, said she had to sit with him until he worked up the nerve to join the rest of the bunch.
Part of Max’s problem socializing, Whalen said, was difficulty speaking, and the twice weekly song time is part of an ASU program involving grad students who give youngsters one-on-one attention to help them work through speech problems.
"Early intervention is key to giving children with speech language delays the best chance to become effective communicators," said Pediatric Communications Clinics (PCC) director and clinical supervisor Dawn Greer. "The earlier children are identified and receive services, the better."
The PCC at ASU provides speech therapy for toddlers and preschoolers through the university’s Department of Speech and Hearing Science. Most recently, it was joined by the After School Articulation and Phonology Program, which in the fall began offering similar services for kids from kindergarten through fifth grade.
"The PCC is a great resource for young children with speech sound disorders, but we wanted to reach families with older children as well, so we developed” the program, which goes by ASAP, said Kelly Ingram, whose ASU Speech and Language Clinic administers both ASAP and PCC.
Each program was designed to fill a void: PCC focuses on early intervention to facilitate children’s communication, language, articulation, motor and social skills — before they begin traditional schooling. ASAP, meanwhile, steps in to bolster in-school speech therapy.
Ingram explained that while in-school speech therapy is a good start, there can be downsides: Children are often pulled out of regular classes and end up missing lessons; The caseloads of in-school speech therapists are often very large, which means kids aren’t getting a lot of individual attention; And the criteria for a child to qualify for speech therapy is based on age, meaning in some cases, children aren’t receiving therapy until the problem has worsened.
“Even if they’re only here for an hour and 15 minutes every week, they’re still getting a lot of practice,” ASAP clinical faculty supervisor Cathy Bacon said. “Probably more than they’re getting all week long in the schools. ASAP provides intense, individualized instruction at a low cost.”