Speech therapy for an older child can be very difficult. Age appropriate and respectful activities are hard to find when your child is approaching the teen years.
The first time my youngest son completed a speech and language assessment, he was four years old.
I brought him in on the recommendation of his preschool teacher.
At the end of testing, the Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) actually patted my hand as she said, “He’s fine. He’s young and still has a lot of developing to do. If he still seems unintelligible to others at age six, we can reassess him then. I think you worry too much.”
I left feeling relieved and a bit silly.
Two years later, we were back in another speech assessment. Same set-up, same games, same result.
“He’s only six. He still has time. He is perfectly capable of forming the sounds. Don’t worry. He’s fine.”
Again, I left feeling like I’d just wasted money and must just be a worry wart.
Speech Assessments And Older Children
At no point, during my youngest son’s early and even mid-childhood years, did he officially qualify for speech services. And yet, on a regular basis, people struggled to understand him.
Every year, our pediatrician would write us a referral for a speech assessment, based on her observations. Every year, we would complete it and then hear that he was doing just fine.
By the time my son was eight, however, understanding him was increasingly difficult for anyone other than me and our family.
I realized how much his speech had regressed when his gymnastics instructor asked his name on the first day of class. The coach was not able to understand what my son said to him, no matter how many times he tried.
My sweet boy wasn’t able to communicate his own name.
Fear of being misunderstood began to keep my son from wanting to take classes outside our home, from playing with friends, and from being out and about without me to interpret.
Speech Therapy For An Older Child
When he was assessed again, my son was almost nine years old and beginning to show symptoms of a variety of disorders.
The difference was significant.
The SLP was stunned that he had never received treatment. I tried to explain how much better it had been before, how the other therapists had not recommended speech therapy, and how much our lives had changed in such a short period of time.
She nodded and then recommended twice weekly appointments. My son was actually excited for his first appointment. He wanted to be understood. He wanted to be heard.
It was a disaster.
Most of the therapy was done based on his speech delay and reading ability – not his age. Childish pictures and games. Sentences about being in circle time. Being spoken to like a four-year-old.
After a few appointments, it became clear that we needed to make a change.
After more appointments at other clinics, it became a trend.
Moreover, as we tried to find a speech therapy solution that worked, my son’s anxiety increased and his speech worsened. He hated going so much that he would claw his own arms and bang his head on the car door to try and convince me to let him skip the appointment.
Finally, after months of paying for session after session, with very little progress, I gave up. “There are only so many interventions one little boy can take,” I thought. I was worried, but I decided to give the poor kid a break and try to find every day, more age appropriate solutions on my own.
For reference, my son’s struggles are in articulation (particularly ‘r’ and ‘l’ reversals) and overall slower language processing.
This is what has worked best for him.
Ideas For Speech Therapy With An Older Child:
Because my son always prefers moving to sitting still, I try to incorporate movement into any mundane exercise. For example, rather than using typical flashcards, I often write various sounds or practice words into hopscotch squares with sidewalk chalk. As he jumps, he says the word. If he struggles, he stays on the square and repeats it with me before jumping to the next.
I have also been known to place different sound cards all around the trampoline and ask him to jump back and forth between the ‘r’ and the ‘l’ until he is comfortable making the two distinct sounds.
Speech to Text Messages
I LOVE the new speech to text functionality on the latest smart phones. If I want my son to practice a sentence, I will ask him to speak it into a text message to me. Auto-correct often shows him any articulation errors (think ‘lice’ for ‘rice’) without me having to stop and correct.
I also encourage him to do the same when searching YouTube or Amazon. He uses the speech to text function and can easily see if his speech was intelligible.
Interesting, Age Appropriate Read Alouds
As you may already know, my son is way into Harry Potter this year.
Listening to the audio book has allowed us to practice some of the wonderful, strange names, words and wizard spells out-loud together (think ‘Expelliarmus‘ – the disarming spell with both an ‘r’ and ‘l’ sound).
Word Of The Day
Because his older brother has a new SAT word or two to learn each week, my youngest son has easily adjusted to having a word of his own. Rather than the word being based on vocabulary building, it contains speech sounds that are a struggle. We both compete to use the word as much as possible throughout the day in various capacities. I model the correct pronunciation and he gains real-life practice.
Speech Therapy And Older Children: Helpful Resources
Websites for Speech Therapy at Home:
Apps for Speech Therapy at Home:
Articulation Station- by Little Bee Speech
Auditory Workout-by Virtual Speech Center Inc.
Articulation Vacation- by Virtual Speech Center Inc.
Looking back, I can see that every single professional we worked with was doing the absolute best they possibly could. My son’s speech development was odd, but not developmentally delayed until many of his other diagnoses surfaced. By then, he was in between the typical courses of treatment – not a child, but not yet ready for adult therapy either. He just doesn’t quite fit in any of the professional settings we have available to us.
Speech therapy for an older child is hard to find.
I want to encourage you that if you find yourself in a situation that does not allow for formal speech therapy, it is possible and sometimes even preferable, to complete speech therapy at home. (I think this is particularly true for an older child.)
It has been my experience that speech exercises can easily be combined with other learning, and seamlessly incorporated into daily life.