After I finished my master's degree in 1990 I practiced as a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist contractor in 4 states across the USA for 27 years.
I have helped people from infancy through 106 years old develop communication in a wide variety of public and private educational and healthcare institutions across the country and even owned my own multidisciplinary, multi-clinic early intervention company, so it is safe to say that I know a lot about how "traditional" speech therapy works.
Over the years, I watched the practice of speech-language pathology slowly evolve as professions do. Back in the 80's I learned an intuitive, play-based, developmental process (founded in the social need for exchanging of ideas aka. Chompsky). Now, the focus of speech language pathology for children has evolved into a system that is financially supported by over-diagnosis of autism, and it's ethics are based on "evidence-based data" instead of functional outcomes.
As systems evolved over the years and I was assigned to a new placement, I found myself being asked (in schools especially) to move away from the intuitive, social communication nature of my work and my "job" evolved into providing controlled "clinical" practice opportunities to imitate spoken speech and language models that I had to structure into repeated opportunities so I could get objective and measurable data. With this model, I achieved poorer outcomes with my clients and found myself spending more time crunching data and reporting about it in documentation and meetings than I was actually working with the people who needed me. Being completely transparent, I made up most of the data anyway because behind closed doors in Ms. Marci's speech room we were not very "clinical" we always “connected” and we always had FUN.
Eventually, I found that parent coaching in the early intervention home-based setting was the best way for me to avoid the data collection and meetings distractions. Not every parent was open to coaching, however, when I offered NON-clinical suggestions to enjoy everyday experiences while making them FUN and language-rich, and parents actually incorporated them, the progress was 5 times as fast as when I had to be responsible for all of the intervention. This realization, that parents are better at facilitating language naturally during everyday experiences, was the catalyst for me to start shifting my focus away from working with children directly, to teaching parents. I literally saw faster and more natural language emerge when I took LESS responsibility for the intervention and the outcome of the child's speech and focused on training the parents to become more effective developmental language facilitators.I use the term late-talking to refer to ALL children affected by speech and language issues
no matter what caused their speech delay in the first place. These kids, who are already communicating their wants, needs, and feelings nonverbally, are are not talking YET because nobody has shown them how to develop functional language properly. I learned through working with thousands of families that the problem is not the underlying diagnosis, but the habits and patterns of the interventionists and parents that actually perpetuates the speech delay. Therefore, I realized that the solution lies fundamentally with the parents because they make the decisions about all interventions for their child.
Parents already spend their lives intuitively guessing what their child's nonverbal communications mean. They have been doing it since their kids were born. As kids get older and are still not talking, most parents either decide themselves (or are flat-out told by therapists) to be more clinical in their approach with their kids to facilitate language in these moments. The strategies typically involve repeating words over and over to get the child to imitate and then bribe the child to say the word they have memorized in exchange for the object of their desire. This does teach kids to say words, (it's the foundation of traditional speech therapy) but parents don't realize that the words being said are only prompted behaviors. Parents who don't know this, celebrate these spoken behaviors, and want to hear more words of course. So often, they develop habits of asking a lot of questions and prompting kids all day long to say the words they have taught them. This helps parents feel better because they are hearing kids say more words, just as it helps therapist to collect better data.
What the interventionists and parents are not intuitively realizing (or caring about) is that this process becomes really annoying to kids! Think about it, no child likes to be asked to perform all day every day, especially in their home and even more so after the child has been in some kind of school or therapy for hours already. Late talkers KNOW their parents clearly understand their nonverbal communication because they have been training parents to understand them since birth. They also know that these prompts are just asking for some kind of extra behavior to get the things they want. That's why, after some time, kids either start to recognize and resist these promptings. This causes them to consciously avoid listening and talking with anybody who tries them. Or alternatively, they are ultimately trained into robotic imitative speech via submission to the memorization/behavior teaching method after the conditioning happens for many hours per day over months or years. Underlying anxiety develops in many late talkers, especially as a child becomes older and continues to be placed in these frustrating experiences. Some kids will fight against the training with aggression.
What interventionists and parents do not realize is that Late talkers WANT to talk but the behavioral speech others are teaching does not help them. They are being asked to imitate and repeat words that someone else is telling them to say instead of teaching them the words THEY desperately want to learn! That's why I called my book "If it isn't FUN, it ISN'T fun - Teach Your Child to Talk Faster Than Speech Therapy".
Language facilitation is a developmental approach that provides the opportunity for children to learn the language that they are thinking about instead of the language that the facilitator wants to hear. Language facilitator parents learn to intuitively interpret a child's current nonverbal or limited verbal communication into the words the child wants and needs to share their important feelings and ideas with the world. Then, they provide the right kind of language models during functional situations so the child can learn not only to say the words they want but to use the language functionally later without being prompted to do so.What is an example of intuitive speech-language intervention?
I use intuitive video analysis, online video training, and coaching in online meetings to equip and empower parents to facilitate their child's evolution through the developmental language process. The process starts with me analyzing how the parent is currently providing speech and language models for the child. I identify any ineffective clinical habits that are blocking the child from wanting to spend time interacting with and listening to their parents. I also identify the moments when the child and parent are very closely "connected" in what I call a "language facilitation zone". I discuss my analysis with the parents and encourage them to understand how they are personally responsible for the current speech and language that their child is displaying.
Then I provide easy and fun natural language facilitation strategies to try that will target any challenging or inappropriate communication behaviors while providing overall developmental spoken language models for the child's messages. The strategies are designed as new habits for the parents to develop throughout their day as they interact with their child facilitating everything from self-care to safety to FUN which is a parents natural role.
How does Waves of Communication help children who are talking but not enough?
First, we need to address the problem that caused the child to start saying words and still not develop functional language. Late talkers who have limited language are usually taught by the imitating and memorization methods I described above. They learn some words and phrases in therapy as behaviors to get needs met from others and they learn other words and phrases from videos or tv because they like to hear them - and so they say them.
Late talkers have not decided to learn and use spoken language as their primary communication system to share their feelings and ideas. They simply have not learned how to "speak the language" they are being taught. Even if the late talking child is saying words to get things, most are still using the behaviors they know parents understand, especially when their message is important to them. This is true especially for the feelings that the late talking child doesn't know the words for, such as to tell you they are annoyed by you asking questions all day or that they want to "do it again". Kids will use the words they know repeatedly or inaccurately. They also may substitute movement behaviors like toe walking, flapping, or aggression to fill in the blanks between the words they know to make "sentences" and tell stories that are all designed to get others to understand their messages.
I teach parents to take advantage of the time that they are in the "language facilitation zone" with their late talker. This is when joint attention is achieved and the child is highly motivated to participate in the activity. I like to encourage parents to explore a child's superpowers (the things they love and are good at) and intuitively watch to learn the specifics about whatever the child is potentially thinking about and provide easy to process, age-appropriate, grammatically correct language models that the child wants to hear and is eager to learn. This is how kids who know and understand words learn to fill in the blanks with the missing words that they couldn't learn via memorization and learn the RIGHT way to use the words they know both functionally and accurately.
What happens in the brain is that over time, these language models are processed functionally as spoken language instead of memorized bits to label the things they have experienced. That is how a child's neurological auditory and language processing systems finally have a chance to develop and the child learns language developmentally.What really makes it different? Language Facilitation WORKS.
More than 100 parents in more than 20 countries with children who have diagnoses such as autism, brain abnormalities, genetic disorders, and even global apraxia have proven that they are the best language facilitators by finding their child's spoken language when even years of therapy did not. I believe that parents will help change the world of speech and language intervention because they have demonstrated clearly on my platform that they want to be empowered to help their children instead of labeled and controlled by the system.
The parents who have made this shift report far more benefit than hearing their child finally start talking. Their families are happier, their futures are brighter, and their success stories are bringing hope to other parents who are still struggling. My mission is to educate and equip parents and professionals all over the world to become language facilitators with my resources, so ALL late talking kids can learn to use the spoken language they need to share their wisdom with the world.
Parents can access my resources and get started today. My book "If it isn't FUN it ISN'T fun - Teach Your Child to Talk Faster Than Speech Therapy is available on Amazon, Kindle, and in an audiobook on Audible.My YouTube Channel Waves of Communication has more than 300 videos with information and strategies parents can try today