I decided to begin this blog with some reflections on how this phrase has proven true time and time again in my own life as well as in the lives of the families that I work with. It seems that we are always battling time. If you are the parent of a child with a speech delay, it can feel like there are so many sounds to tackle. If you are the parent of a child with autism, it can feel like there are so many areas to develop, that a sense of urgency and panic can overwhelm you. If you are the parent of a child who is not yet talking or has limited language, it can feel uncertain as you constantly wonder whether you will ever be able to have a normal conversation. Even as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), I often feel overwhelmed. When a child sees me for the first time and is completely unintelligible, I see a clock ticking. Where do we begin? Can we make enough progress? Will this child be ready for kindergarten? How fast can we move? And the list goes on and on.
So, I am learning to put the brakes on. And I encourage the families that I work with to do the same. I have discovered that when you stop using some static timeline to which a child must adhere to, change will happen. This is the irony in what we do as SLPs. Too often, the faster we want change, the slower it happens. Yet, when we take the time to do a thorough assessment, make an accurate diagnosis, include parents/caregivers to create realistic goals, and trust that development will occur if we gently and strategically help it along its way, change does happen.
But this need for speed is all around us. It is our culture. We have been so focused on preparing children for the school system that we have forgotten that typical development presents us with a framework, steps to guide us along the right path. Children with speech/language delays need time to move and make change. And this is the beauty of what we do as SLPs. No, we do not follow a cookbook when treating a child with a speech or language disorder. It is dynamic – it is sometimes trial and error, but we always use the child’s current level of functioning as our guide and in the back of our minds we are combining theory, knowledge of typical development, evidence from research, and clinical judgment. At times, it is not easy – but it is worth it. There is nothing greater than seeing a child win the race.