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If your child has a speech disorder, you may feel isolated at first. Speech is one of the most basic means of human communication. Speech disorders come in many different forms and have a wide variety of causes; in some cases, there is a clear tie between a condition like autism and a speech disorder, while in other cases the connection is unclear. Whether your child is struggling with a stammer or aphasia, it can be incredibly worrying for a parent to watch them attempt to communicate and fail to do so.

Fortunately, you are not alone. It’s estimated that over 5% of all children joining grade schools suffer from noticeable speech disorders. However, though your child may not be alone, you understandably will want to make communication as easy for them as possible, which is why it’s often recommended that children experiencing speech disorders go into speech therapy. While we may not think of speech correction therapy as physical therapy, it in fact is, as many of the symptoms that cause speech disorders are just as physical as they are mental. But your child won’t get the full benefits of speech therapy without a good therapist. With that being said, let’s look into some of the qualities you should seek in a pediatric occupational therapist or speech therapist.

1. Adaptability

Every child is different, and a speech therapist won’t be very helpful if they treat all the children that they work with in the same way. Children need to be approached as individuals. Some kids with speech delays or other types of speech disorders are incredibly confident, while others feel insecure because of their speech disorders. You’ll also need them to be able to appeal to your child’s interests in particular; different techniques will motivate different children. Speech therapists also need to be accessible. Though you won’t need them around the clock, every child has a specific schedule, and if a speech therapist isn’t adaptable to yours, you may not be the right fit for each other.

2. Listening Skills

Clearly, listening is an important part of therapy for speech disorders, and a great speech therapist is going to be a great listener for your child. But they need to listen to all of your family. If you notice things that concern you, like a backslide in progress or your child being hesitant to try new things, the speech therapist needs to be able to understand this. You all need to act as a team to help your child, and the better the speech therapist is when communicating with everyone on your child’s team, the better the results will be in the long term.

3. Up To Date Knowledge

Speech therapy has come a long way in the years since it was originally identified as a form of physical therapy. Initially, some speech therapists treated children with speech disorders on a much more cognitive level, with many failing to realize that there were physical aspects to therapy techniques that are just as important. While most modern speech therapists will be up to date in terms of the techniques they use, you still should do your research and question them about those techniques. Additionally, you should look for a speech therapist who is always ready to learn more and attend courses on speech sound correction, as well as attend conferences where they can learn about new research and practices. It’s okay for a therapist to make mistakes, but if they make them repeatedly or don’t learn from those mistakes, that’s where you have a problem.

Choosing a speech therapist is surprisingly personal. The one you work with needs to get along with you and your child, and furthermore be ready to listen to both of you. But ultimately, the most important thing is that your speech therapist cares and advocates for your child. Your child should be placed above all else.