A 'talk' with a Speech Pathologist (Part 2)-A A +A
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
FOR parents of children diagnosed with intellectual disability such as autism spectrum disorder or Down syndrome, it is common that a referral to a speech pathologist is among the list of "what-to-do-next."
During our time, we did not bother to ask why and all we cared for was to have our eldest son who was then three years old undergo speech therapy. It was a blessing that we met Ms. Davilin DG Quilantang, the Speech Pathologist. Teacher Dav said there were two other speech therapists before her in Davao City but I think she was the pioneer in having focus on children with autism, among her other patients.
How important is it to have speech therapy? Teacher Dav says that the ability to communicate is paramount to social interaction and acceptance. "Speech therapy helps an individual develop the ability to understand and use language to the greatest extent possible. Other benefits of speech therapy include: improved swallowing function and safety, improved self-esteem, better quality of life and increased independence."
What is the method of evaluation and how long is it done? For Teacher Dav, assessment usually takes about an hour or more. "During the initial part of the meeting, best efforts are made to develop rapport with the child so that he/she will feel comfortable and will perform best. The assessment process involves clinical observations of the child and an interview with the parents. An observational assessment of how a child plays is also conducted. It is because the developmental patterns of language and play are parallel and that language impairment may be related to deficits in symbolic play. The evaluation also involves an assessment of the child's understanding and use of language through standardized testing which is play-based for younger kids.Assessment of speech, voice, hearing and fluency is also done. For adults, clinical observation of the patient and interview of family members or caregiver are also done as well as assessment of language/cognitive-communication, motor speech and voice.
At the end of evaluation, Teacher Dav provides an in-depth feedback on the child's or adult client's performance on the given tests. "If there are difficulties or impairments noted, I discuss its nature and extent and the possible courses of intervention. Should the parents decide to avail of speech therapy for the child, the frequency, length of session, therapy goals and their expected participation to the program will be tackled. Meanwhile, parents or caregivers are given guidelines and instructions which they can implement when they get home."
The evaluation procedure is not that simple when it comes to using several assessment tools in evaluating specific areas of consideration. Aside from using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), Teacher Dav uses Preschool Language Scale, Mecham's, the Help test, Western Aphasia Battery (for adults) in assessing language; Khan-Lewis Phonological Analysis for evaluating articulation; Voice Assessment protocol for Children and Adults; Dysphagia Evaluation Protocol for assessing problems in swallowing; and Oral Peripheral Examination.
Hence, competence is much expected from a speech pathologist. Teacher Dav, however, clarified that there is no board examination for speech pathologists in the Philippines.
What are the challenges of being a speech pathologist/therapist? "Since there is a dearth of speech therapists in Davao City, patient load is heavy. Not that I am complaining but I always pray that there will be more speech therapists who will practice here so that more kids or adults will be served.It is always a challenge to keep the parents and caregivers involved throughout the duration of the therapy program. Success of the intervention depends a lot on how the suggested techniques are consistently being carried out at home and in other settings.
Teacher Dav has a special message for parents of children with special needs. "The world of special needs is challenging and can be emotionally stressful and confusing for parents of newly diagnosed children. To get a good head start, acceptance and understanding are needed. I suggest that we get ourselves educated. Read about your child's condition and do not hesitate to ask your doctor, therapists or teachers. The more you understand your child’s condition, the better you can help him/her. It is also important that we get ourselves involved in our child’s intervention programs. A skill learned in therapy or in school will only take root when applied at home and in other settings."
"Be your child's advocate. There is no one else in this world who loves and knows your child more than you do."
(Jane Ann S. Gonzales is a mother of a youth with autism. She is an advocate/core member of the Autism Society Philippines and Directress of the Independent Living Learning Centre (ILLC) Davao, a centre for teenagers and adults with special needs. For comments or questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on September 18, 2013.