When to consider speech therapy and other types of educational support

About a year ago my youngest daughter, who was holding a book, turned to me and said, “Mommy, it is really interesting — I can see this letter in my head, but I cannot manage to write it on a piece of paper”. I was intrigued, and like a good French person, went straight to my doctor who gave me a prescription for an orthophoniste (speech therapist). Turns out, she did indeed have an audio-visual issue and has been having regular sessions ever since, which has improved her reading and writing immensely.

Now here is the interesting thing: I think about 25% of my daughter’s class here in Paris have been referred to speech therapists. They deal with everything from speech impediments, to reading, writing and maths issues. Because these types of therapies have been recognised by the French social system, they are treatable for free. In other European countries these types of problems are not recognised, so they are not treated in the same way.

The therapy is in the form of games, and other letter and word recognition-based techniques — basically training the part of the brain that is being placid (forgive me for my very layman terms of describing this). One of the exercises I find interesting is that the therapist often asks my daughter to close her eyes when she is not able to read a word and to visualise it and write it down with her eyes closed.

I find it fascinating as I don’t even know if my daughter would really have suffered if she had not received the therapy. After all, her school work was fine and her teachers had not recognised anything out of the ordinary. She is a much slower reader than her sister — but on the other hand, she is much better at maths. It has, though, made her into a much more confident reader and is also helping hugely with her spelling.

One of the great advantages is that because seeing a therapist over here is such a common thing, there is absolutely no stigma attached to it, neither for my daughter nor for her parents. I found the whole process more interesting than worrying, and am very happy seeing my daughter skip along to her weekly sessions. She normally gets a crepe to eat on the way back home, so possibly that is why she likes her sessions so much.

As often I find with parenting the lines are so very fluid — when do we just go with the flow and let our children be who they are and when do we intervene with therapies, exercises and training? I’d love to hear your thoughts.



Comments (8)

January 19, 2017

Emilie, You’ve hit the point for me with your thoughts! I have my son following speech therapist as well in Belgium, where I would say as well about 1/3 of his class is following one… It has helped him a lot but I think for me especially (as not a native dutch speaker) it is a bit outsourcing of parental help. I am however not convinced that 1/3 of the kids should in general be following a therapist. Seems like a set-up circle to create jobs 🙂 If so many kids need help, maybe there is a problem with the educational system in general??

January 19, 2017

I would imagine that not every child has a specific impediment on a medical level but that every child needs individualised attention and conventional class sizes make that difficult for the teacher to provide in sufficient quantity for all the children.

January 19, 2017

I am really in two minds about it. I am sure some people take advantage of the system. My daughter’s therapist said that some people were confusing her for a state run homework service. On the other hand I do think that a lot can be gained from someone helping train your brain, especially at a young age.

January 19, 2017

My son has had speech therapy since the age of two because he literally didn’t speak. It has been a very worrying journey not knowing if it was a delay or perhaps autism . He is nearly 4 now and doing well and we continue with speech therapies and he is in a school that is for children w developmental delays. I love seeing this on babyccino and would love some discussion on milestones, and other worrying things we face! Thank you

January 19, 2017

The United States is not known for its safety net and social services, particularly not my conservative state, but we do have something similar. In fact, our assistance is absolutely for free and can begin for young children and continue all the way through high school. I know many young children with speech or learning problems who have received help in preschool, and children in elementary school, middle, and high schools who have received IEPs, or Individualized Education Programs. What their IEP is depends on what the child needs. If English is a second language, the IEP is tailored to that. If the child has reading or other learning or speech problems, the IEP is tailored to that. It’s a great thing to have. (Although I have to say that when my pediatrician referred my 15 month old second child to services because he couldn’t walk yet, I was not amused. The organization laughed and said they wouldn’t even see a child until he was at least 18 months).

January 19, 2017

Hi, i am from Germany. My three daughters don’t speak the letters g and k. When they turned six years they have to go to a speech teacher, to lern it right. It is really important to give them time for learning, but if they need help its so helpful when they go to a speech teacher. In Germany you it is not so easy like in France.

January 20, 2017

Hi I am from Australia. Where these services are not recognised by the government and so we pay for everything. this puts a lot of pressure on the parents financially and is stressful in trying to help your child but also trying to keep a float. We have five children, the third child went to a speech therapist for most of her primary schooling as she has a hearing impairment (this is recognised by the government and all services are free such as hearing aids and testing and refits and servicing). Now my 10 year old is going to a speech therapist (for the last year) for her dyslexia issues (not recognised but the government) to help with learning letter sounds and blending. i am in awe of governments/countries that actually aid their citizens from an early age because it will help the country in the long run.

January 20, 2017

That’s not 100% true Hannah. You can receive eligibility for up to 5 speech therapy sessions a year if you see your GP and they refer you. You can also receive sessions under the public health system under certain circumstances. There are conditions that apply but it would be worth checking if you meet the conditions. Dyslexia is recognised by the government but you may not meet the conditions that allow for government support. The key is finding out your eligibility. But yes it is certainly not a carte blanche like in France.

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