Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Unintelligible

We're just back from Lauren's speech evaluation for articulation and intelligibility. It was a long evaluation for a tired little girl with a cold, to say nothing of her mother. Over 2 hours. The speech therapist evaluating Lauren was a really nice woman who also has a (grown) daughter named Lauren Elizabeth. I think that helped us.

As expected, Lauren wasn't much of a chatterbox when we got there. She was shy (and not just a little bit cranky, having fallen asleep in the car on the drive over. Poor kid.) But the various toys in the room caught her attention and then acted as a catalyst for some initial conversation. I had to sign a few forms and chatted with the evaluator about my concerns about Lauren. Then when Lauren started opening up some the evaluator would take notes - lots of notes - about what she was hearing Lauren say. And what she understood her to say vs. what stumped her. Most stuff stumped her. It was very hard for her to understand Lauren and often she would look to me for interpretation. I wasn't sure whether to be happy about this (better chances for qualifying!) or sad (Lauren really IS hard to understand).

When it came time to perform the official "test" Lauren sat on my lap. She was shown various pictures and asked to tell the evaluator what they were. What she saw. Describe stuff. Pictures such as a house with a tree next to it. "What's that? A tree? Good. Tell me what color it is. Would you say it's tall or short? Do you like trees?" etc. There were pictures of animals and everyday objects. Things a 3 year old child should be able to identify. A picture of a child yawning while standing next to a bed, for example. "What's happening in this picture? What do you do to get ready for bed?" Closed-ended questions mixed with open-ended questions. When it came to the picture of a watch the evaluator had Lauren repeat the word many times. And each time she said it slightly differently.

Lauren is not consistent with her speech.

She has some strange vowel sounds, she makes sound substitutions (common) and has varying stresses (emphasis on different syllables than you'd expect). She's a head-scratcher.

When the evaluator left the room to score the test we hung out and played with a stuffed Barney. The lady came back miffed that Lauren passed the test because she felt that Lauren isn't as "good" in person as she reflects on paper. Who knew? My daughter is the weird kid who does BETTER on tests than in real life. Isn't is more common to hear of the kid who excels in all areas but freezes up on tests? Not Lauren. So the evaluator borrowed parts of a different test in hopes of Lauren doing worse. And she did, but not bad enough. So another speech therapist was brought in to listen to Lauren.

She was confounded by Lauren as well. She agreed that Lauren's case is pretty complex. It's not motor-based since apparently kids who have motor delays/troubles drop off bigger chunks of words than she does. They think her problem is phonetic-based. They tossed around a bunch of terms I was unfamiliar with (dipthong? Sounds like a new form of undergarment to me but apparently has something to do with vowels. Hmmmm....) The 2nd evaluator agreed that Lauren would benefit from therapy despite not reflecting it on her tests. You really do need to listen to her speak, free-form, to understand the challenge. Or not understand her, in this case. It has to do with sentances, I guess. When asked to say a single word, she can do it well-enough. But when you put a string of semi-ok words together, it all sounds bad. The not-horrible individual words compound and become unintelligible together.

So they're going to recommend she receive services for speech. Yay! This is what I was hoping for. Getting her qualified for services from the county/state instead of having to go the private route and paying out of pocket. Which is expensive and would be hard for us to do. We would, of course, but it would pinch an already tight budget. So getting help for her this way is a much better option for us. The next step is to have a meeting to lay out a plan of action for her treatment. Normally, I'm told, the kids are asked to not attend this meeting. But in Lauren's case, my daughter who's interesting speech had two trained speech therapists slightly mystified and scratching their heads, they told me to bring her along so the person in charge of setting up the plan for her can actually hear her first-hand, not read about her from a sterile report.

Lauren is not a stereotypical kid when it comes to her speech. She's sort of all over the map. Some words she says clearly one time, then garbled the next. She changes her pronounciation as she goes. She's not clearly presenting with one issue, but a mixture of stuff. I'm confident that with some professional help she'll be speaking clearly by the time she's 4. I'm just so glad we're getting help for her because I felt so impotent in trying to help her myself.

We're now wading into the deep end of the speech therapy pool. Sink or swim time.

Comments:
She'll swim, I'm sure of it!
 
MP,
I came upon you site when I was researching speech therapy for kids. I am also in the portland area and, upon reading back a bit, found you are too. I don't know how old yr daughter is, and I know that you said you are thrilled to go the county rte, but there is this god-like (but humble and lovely) speech therapist in nw portland (25th and lovejoy) named dr glenn weybright who is astoundingly good. He is very well known, too, as he was sort of a pioneer of thisandthat speech related.
I just wanted to make sure you have his name in case you decide to go another route. And, yes, he costs. It's 48$ a session. We are on a really tight budget, as well, but just decided to go for it (there was a long wait list for the early dev. thing that helped meke the decision)
Good luck, wherever you go. And, don't worry; speech therapy REALLY works (and, thus, helps the dispositions of some sometimes very disageeable preschoolers. It's great for them to be understood and gives parents a great excuse for their bad behavior! ie "my child is really nice, she just couldn't communicate and so HAD to bite your kid!"
 
Peter will be three in another month and I'm curious to hear what the family practice doc thinks at his 3 year check up. I can't figure out if his speech is normal or not. I'm worried that he'll clam up and not talk at all to the doc he rarely sees, though. He still misses a lot of consonants completely and has what seems to me to be strange substitutions (like 'eye' for 'ed'). I'm with you on hoping that if he does need it, we can have a professional help right away.

I'll be curious to hear how it goes for you.
 
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