For several of us who have been in the field of speech and language pathology for a long time, (10 or more years), it feels very reassuring that, currently, there is a greater emphasis on taking an action in providing intervention access to infants and toddlers who are in need of specialized services.
This month I am taking the opportunity to describe a program for children ages 18 months to 3 years who have a variety of speech and language challenges and who come from primarily Spanish-speaking homes. I work at a clinic that has three sites in various areas of the Bay Area of California including San José, Fremont, and Los Altos.
The clinic (Center for Speech, Language and Occupational Therapy or CSLOT) where I manage the programs has two sites offering services in Spanish to these young children (San José and Los Altos). The children are referred to us from the Regional Centers in the area. In each site, we have two groups of 5 to 7 children who attend the program twice a week for two hours and fifteen minutes each time.
The ratio of adults to children is 1:2. We have a set schedule that consists of circle time, free play, gross motor activities, snack, and fine motor activities. All personnel interact in Spanish with the children. Parents participate in their children’s activities directly or watch them through a two-way mirror. While the parents interact with their children we model best approaches in reinforcing language development.
To enhance communication we use speech in addition to some sign language and icons. During circle time we sing Spanish songs and reinforce concepts through sounds and gestures. This is also a time where I often read picture books in Spanish and where children are asked to participate by imitating gestures, sounds, words and also learn to turn pages in a book. Several of the books are the type where children can touch and feel specific parts of a picture (ears of a bear, tail of a horse). The gross and fine motor activities are lead by an occupational therapist who works directly with the groups and leaves specific follow-up ideas for the staff when she is not working with them directly.
During snack time the children have icons for the various snacks and they obtain what they wish by handing the food they wish. As they become more verbal, they may say what they want. Parents are encouraged to bring lists of most common labels and activities that the children are engaged during a typical day.
I spend most of my time overseeing the activities and interacting with the parents in small groups or in large groups depending on the day. In addition, I provide individual speech and language therapy to two of the children who need more direct services.
Please let us hear from you who are working with Early Intervention Programs. I will compile your feedback in my next column. Please let me hear from you.!!