Wednesday, April 21, 2010

TOS Review: Super Star Speech

Virtually of my children has had some form of therapy. Seriously. Is it just me? Am I hyper-aware of things that aren't really issues, and therefore inclined to pursue outside intervention when it's not really warranted? Or do I somehow have a family full of misfits that require help in a dozen little areas of their lives?

Jo had Vision Therapy.

Atticus had Occupational Therapy.

Logan had Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and oh, yes ... he still has bi-annual consultations with a Physical Therapist.

Oliver has Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy.

Which means that so far, only Bee (who could need some form of therapy, for all we know at this point), Manolin (our miracle, meth-exposed, physically abused little man who miraculously is perfect), and Seven (who is still baking and could need goodness only knows what) have dodged the therapeutic bullet.

4:3. What a ratio, huh?

I guess I could spend a whole lot of time pondering the whys and hows of our family's adventures in all things therapy. But what it has boiled down to, for me at least, is this: I haven't regretted a single intervention or evaluation. YES--they take time. YES--they cost money. But YES--they have given me valuable knowledge on how to assist my children in gaining the coping skills they need to get by in life.

Well, all except that one therapist.

The one who absolutely refused to make "home therapy" a top priority. The one who couldn't see the value in me being a part of the team. The one who basically ignored the fact that while she saw my son for one hour a week, I was with him the other 167 hours that made up his Sunday through Saturday.

That therapist? I couldn't wait to get rid of. But the rest of them knew something that she didn't--

What you do at home is far more valuable than what goes on in a therapy setting.

No, it's true. Let me repeat it, because you're probably not believing it yet:

What you do at home is far more valuable than what goes on in a therapy setting.

In other words, the therapist that you employ--be it for VT, ST, OT, PT, whatever--is simply a trainer. And in reality, the person he or she should be most interested in training is you, the parent. Why? Because you have far more time to invest in making sure that goals are met, that exercises are completed, and that skills are being utilized.

Now please don't think I'm saying that professional therapists are useless. They are not. They are a vital part of the team; the one with the most experience in the field who can put the information and the skill set into your hands, while having a warm, loving relationship with your child. We've had a couple of those therapists--the ones who become part of your family--and wow! When therapy goes well, it is a total blessing! But there's another, vital component to that team I mentioned. It's you. You are the one who bears the burden of really making sure that the therapy gets off the ground. That it's more than a 60 minute play time. That it works.

When I was researching Sensory Processing Disorder back when Atticus was a preschooler, I found loads of information that helped me to truly team with his therapist and make the plan for my boy go as smoothly as possible. With Jo's vision issues, the bulk of her therapy was home based, allowing me to take the reins. Logan's PT is so amazing that she gives me exercises for and textbooks on his condition (an issue with the tendons in his legs) and keeps in touch via monthly email and visits twice a year. But you know what issue had been the hardest to support at home? Speech.

We first went the speech therapy route with Logan. A late talker, it was evident early on that he had epic difficulties enunciating. Certain sounds never developed at all, while others were nearly missing. Since he was still so young, I delved into internet research, hoping to unearth some preventive measures that could help those skills emerge. Know what I found? Advice on how to schedule an evaluation with a therapist.

So I did. And after he was screened, he was enrolled in speech. And from there, he went every week, coming home with a packet of two or three little activities that were meant to work mouth muscles and help him fetter out sounds. I did the activities with him diligently. Blow through a straw? Sure. Hold a corn chip between his front teeth and try to break it? Check. But that was it. No one could offer me much more than a pat and the assurances that he was working with a great therapist who would no doubt solve the problem posthaste.

Which, of course, she didn't. Because one hour a week won't solve anything, folks.

Fast forward to Oli's speech experiences. Nearly identical. The amount of home support suggested was so small that I began to wonder if I was completely alone. Had my previous experiences of having home therapy schedules and working through activities and exercises just made my expectations skewed? Or was I missing some vital piece to the puzzle?

Turns out, there was a puzzle piece that I was missing. I just didn't know it yet. Cue Super Star Speech.

Super Star Speech was written by Deborah Lott, a homeschooling mom who happens to have a Master's in Speech pathology. Designed to be used with children ages 3 and up, it is literaly perfect for homeschooling moms as it was written directly to us! Mrs. Lott knows her audience, writes simply but with detail, and puts some amazing tools into the hands of worried parents.

Presented in a series of three books, Super Star Speech focuses on articulation--the way sounds are made. Tests for home evaluation (which I can tell you are virtually identical to the ones that both Logan and Oli had done by licensed therapists in a large, respected therapy center near Seattle), lesson plans, picture cards, games, and drills are all a part of this complete and well-thought-out program.

Mrs. Lott doesn't claim that her products will help every one. A disclaimer from her site offers this tidbit:

NOTE: If your child has many articulation errors, or another type of speech problem such as a language delay or stuttering, or if you are not able to commit to working with your child and his speech regularly at home, please seek the assistance of a speech-language pathologist. Likewise, if your child has a physical problem that affects his speech, such as a hearing impairment, cerebral palsy, or cleft palate, this book does not attempt to address those more complex issues.

I used a portion of one of the programs with Oli and can attest that while it would never come close to meeting his unique special needs, it certainly didn't hurt. The picture cards were fun and engaging, and he enjoyed the one-on-one time of making silly faces with mommy and repeating sounds. It was engrossing enough, apparently, that Atticus came over and tried to help out. The next day, he asked if he could "play that sound game" with Oli. I figured that was as good a use of his time as anything!

The biggest test of the program was using the targeted books to see if I could improve on any of Logan's "sloppy speech" patterns. While Logan is perfectly understandable at this point, he often reverts to a less enunciated speech pattern when he is tired or excited. I was able to use the cards and several games from Super Star Speech to zero in on two sounds in particular (R and S) that often give him trouble. Logan enjoyed the games, especially, and said that working with me in this way was actually a lot more fun that the actual therapy he'd had. Also, because I knew what we'd been working on, throughout the day I could "quiz" him on certain elements, and see if he was retaining what we'd worked on.

I was highly impressed with the quality of Super Star Speech. Having more than a passing familiarity with the professional tools being used in private therapy as well as public schools at this time, I can honestly say that what you're getting here is comparable. Each book retails at $18.95 for a spiral bound version, or can be purchased in ebook form for a 30% discount. Game packs are also available for an additional cost. The entire set, spiral bound, can be purchased for $38.95.

I can't tell you what a deal that is. Even if your child is already in professional therapy, spending less than $40 for the tools to make sure that you can successfully support that therapy at home is a drop in the bucket. Conversely, if you suspect that an articulation issue is brewing (ie, those "cute" speech patterns of preschool are still showing up in your 4, 6 or 8 year-old) then this may be a very inexpensive route to introducing some phonemic awareness, playing some neat games with a purpose, and stopping a real issue before it starts.

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this product for review purposes. Refer to my general disclaimer for more information on my policies regarding reviews.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing. I've been looking for something like this! My almost 10 year old *still* has trouble with R/L and we've never managed to get her into therapy. Do you think I'd need all three books or just the one?

Debbie said...

Thanks for your review! I love (and agree with) your emphasis that the work that goes on at home is even more important than what happens in the therapy session.

To the previous commenter...the R/L book is all you would need.

Deborah Lott

Charlotte in MN said...

Thank you for posting this. My SIL and I were just talking about her frustration with the speech therapy for her boys and her need to do more at home (without instruction). I will point her toward your review.

chuck said...

I found your blog through a friend who sent me a link to one of your posts as encouragement to me, a homeschooling mom of four little blessings (ages 6 and under). I have checked back often since.

First of all congrats on your pregnancy! I pray you and baby are doing well!

Therapy and sensory issues. Thank you for your post. My Hubby and I just started in-home parent-led therapy through a Christian organization of nuerodevelopmentalists for my son's sensory issues. I have a friend whose son made amazing gains through it so I am hopeful. You encouraged me through your post. :)

You amaze me, Mary Grace. How do you do it all? Four kids, home therapy, homeschooling, reworking our menu plans because of newfound food allergies and a desire to feed my family more whole foods, and I am struggling just to stay afloat. I can't seem to figure out how to juggle all of these things while keeping the house clean, laundry done, etc. I am not a natural home manager. So I wanted to ask you, do you have any tips? How do you manage so much and stay organized and get it all done? My mind and house are a bit chaotic and I know that a calm is possible cuz God is not a god of chaos! :)

Oh and by the way, did I see your comments in the new Sonlight catalog?

Blessings, Mary Grace. Keep using your gifts to minister tot he blogging world. :)

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Katie said...

I am also an SLP and a homeschooling mom. and two of my boys are severe special needs and both receive ST (not from me), OT and PT every week. SLPs, like myself, have to have a masters degree and have completed a clinical fellowship year under another therapist. This means they have minimum of 7 years training and education before they see their first patient or child on their own. I would hate to see that discounted due to the experiences you have had. I always make sure my clients have a strong home program and tell the moms that an hour of theray a week, in any discipline, will solve nothing, will fix nothing without a parents active daily input. therapy is a triagle with the parental involvement the base of that triangle, but programs should be done with an SLPs input and or guidance, especially if feeding or oral motor issues are involved. a good therapist will also tell you when it is good to try aug comm (alternative) commm sources if a child is really severe. and the right timing for those is critical. without a certified SLP, you dont have a triangle of support or therapuetic success you have a straight line. No one knows your child as you do, but nothing takes the place of real education and training in a medical field. you can find me at my blog