A mom recently brought her child to me for a speech and language assessment and despite the fact that all his speech problems were ‘developmental” and likely to resolve without any intervention, her fear was that perhaps if she had done things differently, she wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place.
Another mom attributed her child’s difficulties to the fact that she hadn’t read enough to her child and yet another stated that perhaps she had neglected her child. He was a “laat-lammetjie” and had to fit in with much older siblings.
Nothing plagues mothers more than feelings of guilt about the things that they have or haven’t done for their children. Sometimes, telling someone not to feel guilty is futile but in all of the above instances, the feelings of guilt actually led them to seek help for the potential problem.
Speech and language difficulties can be caused by a number of different things, but if your child has one, it’s not your fault! That being said, there are a number of things that you can do to avoid exacerbating the problem
1. Educate yourself
Understanding normal developmental milestones will alert you to a potential problem.
Once you are aware of a potential problem, you will be able to source resources and interventions. Be aware that A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing; don’t half-educate yourself.
2. Don’t wait too long to seek help
Research has shown that the earlier a child receives therapy for a communication disorder, the more effective the therapy will be.
In saying this, not all communication problems can be identified when the child is 3 years old, but often parents don’t take action for a number of reasons:
When we anticipate parenthood, we picture ourselves holding a happy, healthy child who sleeps through the night at 6 weeks, is potty trained by 18 months, prefers healthy snacks to ice cream and sails through school making every sports team and receiving academic honors.
Picking up the phone to request a speech and language assessment is an admission that your real-life child is not perfect. Taking this step involves a grieving process for many parents, and denial is part of grief. It is normal and okay to feel this way.
b) Bad advice
Sometimes when parents begin to express concern about their child’s speech, there is an onslaught of questions, comments, and ill afforded advice from relatives, neighbors, and friends. I have even had the experience of well meaning doctors telling parents to “wait until the child goes to school before worrying.”
The “wait and see” approach because of people who say “don’t worry, little Johnny will talk in his own time” means that the crucial opportunity for early intervention may be missed.
Listening to advice from someone who is not trained to identify speech and language disorders is equivalent to taking your car to the petrol attendant for a service.
I have had so many parents tell me they don’t want their child to have therapy because they don’t want their child to be ‘labeled’ or singled out from other children. Unfortunately, more likely, is that if your child does NOT receive intervention, they will be ‘labeled’ by other children as “talking funny” or “being stupid” and a cycle of poor self esteem and language learning difficulties may result.
3. Be Active
If you child does have therapy, it is important that you play an active role in the therapy by reinforcing the skills addressed in therapy at home. One or two sessions of therapy a week is not a ‘quick fix.’
So perhaps feeling a little bit guilty might be a good thing because it’s a moral emotion associated with sympathy and a willingness to correct wrongs