Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Frustrations With Speech Therapy

I have been wanting to do a post on The Boy's speech therapy for a while now. I have hesitated because I am having a hard time putting my thoughts into words. I don't want to come off as ungrateful or as offensive, so I have just not written it at all. And I do think that this is something that needs to be discussed, so I am just going to come out with it.

His new speech therapy through the school district sucks.

There. I said it. It is horrible. The level of care is pitiful. The difference between the services he receives from his private therapy (that I pay top dollar for) and his therapy through the school district is similar to the difference between shopping at Walmart and Nordstrom. (No offense meant to either company). My son is in a room with three other preschoolers for a half an hour a week. There is absolutely no time for any one-on-one interaction. What the teacher does is he takes out a picture book and the kids go through the book and pronounce the pictures that they see. If they say it wrong, he corrects them and has them try it again and then moves on to the next kid. I could do that at home with him!

When he started the therapist (we'll call him Mr. H) said that according to his paperwork we just needed to work on pronunciation. I told him that was his issue initially but recently he had been having fluency (stuttering) issues. At this point we are most concerned about that. He acknowledged that something was written on the notes about that. He said he assumed it would fix itself because it usually does for kids his age but that he would take a look at the situation.

After the second class he said to me, "I heard him stutter about 4 times. He said things like, 'I I I I I had cereal for breakfast.' I counted on my fingers and told him, 'You know [Boy], you don't need to say "I" five times in a row. How about trying the sentence again and just say it one time?' He tried it again and did it better. I don't know what method you are using at home but maybe you should try this."

So let me get this straight...your method of dealing with my son's stuttering issue is just to tell him not to do it! Why didn't I think of that? Hey, I hear you're stuttering, how about if you just don't do it? Great... Not only that but he said all of this right in front of The Boy. I am VERY conscious of the fact that he hears and understands everything. With his private therapist we basically type up notes to give back and forth to each other so that we aren't talking in front of The Boy. The last thing I want is for my son to think that he has a problem. I don't want him to feel like I am judging the way he talks or how he says things. So because of that we always refer to his stuttering as a "fluency issue" and we never blatantly demonstrate it in front of him and then talk about how he has done it wrong. When we walked away from therapy that day, and after that particular conversation, The Boy said to me, "Mommy does Mr. H think dat I talk wrong?" "Am I doing it wrong?"

No my precious. Mr H. is just A TOOL!!! How dare he make my son feel less than adequate?

Okay, do you see why I was hesitating to post about this? Obviously I feel very strongly about this and I don't want to come off as some asshole. I understand that this poor therapist would probably rather be in a class with ONE kid and be able to give them all the attention they need. It isn't his fault that the school district has no money and are giving him more kids than he knows he can handle. He does the best that he can with what he is given. I truly believe this. I do not fault this particular speech therapist at all. But as his mom I have to look at this situation and weigh how much this is actually helping him versus whether or not this situation is making him feel worse about himself and therefore hindering him.

Last year he was at a different school but his therapist at the time said that for this year he was going to be transferred to his "home school," aka the school around the corner from our house. When Mr. H called to set everything up he told me that he wouldn't be at his home school but instead would be at a different elementary school that is about 20 minutes away. This particular therapist does teach out of The Boy's "home school" but apparently the preschoolers have to be at this other school. So for a half an hour of [quality] therapy we are spending close to an hour and a half with the entire process. To get both The Boy and The Girl up and ready to be out of the house at 8:00am for this is tough.

I just wrote an entire paragraph and deleted it. Before saying something I felt like I needed to PROVE that overall I am not a judgy person. I have had my share of prejudices in my life and therefore try very hard not to be prejudice toward others. But another frustrating thing about this is that my son is the only one in the class who has English as his first language. I am all for all different types of people and races coming together. I love the melting pot we call California. I love that my son goes to a Montessori Preschool and is surrounded by different races and languages all the time. But when he comes out and tells me that the other kids talked about him in "words I don't use" (a different language), I have to draw the line. I sit in the teachers lounge during his speech therapy and my experience is that the three other moms all sit together at a table and speak in their native language and never even THINK to include me in the conversation. I sit alone at a table with The Girl for the half hour while we wait. And I am fine with this. I am a big girl. I can handle it. But The Boy? He is feeling ostracized in his little class of four kids. And no kid should have to feel ostracized at this point in their education. And did I mention what I had to do to actually get him to qualify for these golden services through the school district?

This entire process makes me want to cry. Honestly it does. I just want my son to have the best chance at life. I don't want him to get to kindergarten and come home after his first day in tears because the other kids made fun of him for how he talks. I am so frustrated that here in California we pay arguably top dollar for our homes and then have to deal with sending our children to one of the worst rated school systems in the country. I don't know how I am expected to shell out the money needed to pay for my mortgage and live here and then on top of that shell out money to some private school in order for my child to get a decent education. And for the record, I am NOT into sending him to private school. I want to believe in our public school system. I want to support it. I want to send my children there. But I also want to feel like they are getting a decent shot at the education in front of them. If this is any indication then we have a long, tough road ahead.

Disclaimer: This was a tough entry to write and I sincerely hope I did not offend anyone who is reading it. This is MY experience with my son and our own frustrations within that situation. I am not bashing anyone who works hard in the public school system. I am simply expressing my frustration at a system that is clearly lacking due to no fault of the people working inside of it.


Danielle said...

When I was younger (and still today though it is better) I had speech troubles (stutter mostly and also some learning disabilities). My parents didn't see it as a problem (or figured it was one that I would just out grow on my own) and even if they did see it as a problem they did not have the money to pay for a private therapist. I received speech therapy through public school. It was just as you describe. However I was school age (4th-6th grade) and was taken twice a week from regular class to join the "retards" (there were special needs students in the class but as a whole we were seen as different and highly poked fun of) for however long it was (seemed like an eternity but was probably only 30min). It was a horrible experience and one my parents did not address with me directly. To this day certain word situation will pop up and in my head I'll immediately flashback to that class and the trianglar book on the table top and try to remember the word as it was taught to me and I will feel stupid and inferior all over again. I hate to speak so plainly about this because as a parent myself and knowing you not only by reading your blog but in real life I feel I know just what you must be feeling and the struggle your heart and pocket book are feeling. I basically wanted to say as someone who's been through what your child is experiencing I commend you for all that you're doing to help him through it and early on so that when he reaches grade school he might not need to face it as I did in such a horrible and brutal (kids can be cruel)way. Keep your head up :)

For the Long Haul said...

Thank you for the insight Danielle. This is just the type of situation that I am trying to avoid. I am so sorry you went through this. It is hard enough to be a kid...but to have to fight through things like this make it even tougher. Thanks for your personal story and for giving me a pep talk in the fact that at least I am TRYING to do everything I can. I just sometimes feel like I am not succeeding very well. Thanks again!

taranicole <"3 )~ said...

As a speech therapist in the public schools (in California) I can say that that is NOT the way therapy should be done... especially not stuttering therapy. Check out the "Stuttering Foundation of America" website (http://www.stutteringhelp.org/). They have a lot of information about what suttering therapy SHOULD look like -- and how the child NOT knowing/recognizing it can help with quicker progress in therapy!

gwendomama said...

no no no. that is unacceptable. ask for an IEP review right away and request a new teacher.