BetterSpeech with Lenora Edwards (Episode 284)
As we roll into a new year, I'm hanging with a bunch of little cousins who are in heaven visiting with each other. I've watched all six of them learn our language in their own way, some needing a bit more support than others.
This episode I interviewed Lenora Edwards of BetterSpeech.com to get her take on what is helpful and what we can do to best support each other as we learn to better communicate - in a multitude of ways.
Lenora Edwards is a ASHA Board Certified Speech Language Pathologist and Chief Knowledge Officer with Better Speech.
Since obtaining her CCC’s in 2010, she has worked with individuals of all ages from little ones who are learning to understand and express themselves to adults who want to improve their speaking skills and become a more fluent and effective communicator.
Better Speech is an online speech therapy company that has been providing professional, affordable and convenient speech therapy services for more than a decade. All the Speech Language Pathologists with Better Speech are Board Certified and State Licensed with more than 10 years experience each which allows them to provide outstanding online speech therapy services nationwide and internationally. At BetterSpeech.com, we are experts at helping people communicate in the most efficient and affordable way possible!
Hacking to an "easier" option
First, I was surprised to learn what all BetterSpeech can support. Lenora shared how she's worked with newborns in the NICU with feeding tubes, and helping with swallowing and chewing issues, as well as peopled with alzheimer's, dementia, and even COVID "brain fog." I have often thought speech therapy was simply that - just with your speech.
However, Lenora says they cover "everything from the neck up". Considering support that covers all things related to food, speech as well as processing can be covered, it definitely seems you can connect the dots on all kinds of communication and connection just through this one company.
And, being an online company, I have to say, I do greatly appreciate the ease of having online access. When you can bring support into your own home, you aren't disrupting their daily schedule as much.
When you need to go out and navigate a therapy session, you're coordinating a lot - with getting there and navigating the people to make it work out, in addition to it often being just the speech therapist and the person they are working with.
When you hop online, you stay in the comfort of your own environment with minimal disruption, and, caretakers can listen in and be involved. Then they can explain what they are doing and why they are doing, and it allows the caretaker to continue with the functional tools to support them the rest of the day outside of that one hour or so of therapy. It allows therapists to explain in real-time what they are doing, and why it matters.
In addition to the fact that caregivers can be way more involved, this sends a pretty amazing message to those getting therapy as well - they are being cared for and supported in the home by those who are eager to learn with them.
Oh the options
It's not just about getting the right support for your kids. It's looking at how to make it as overly inclusive in their lives as we can. For us, when our daughter Ellie was struggling with severe stuttering, we looked at an overall shift in our lifestyle. Yes, it was extreme, however Ellie's stuttering was only one part of the equation - her stuttering was just one more indicator for us that our whole lives needed to slow down a bit.
The more fun we can make it, the more impactful it is - the brain can make faster changes.
There is a different chemical response in us when we're experiencing something we view as drudgery or a negative chore versus it being fun. BetterSpeech adds a lot of the game component to therapy to encourage play and fun along the way of learning better communication tools.
So look for a variety of ways to find support. It's a-okay to get therapy, and something like BetterSpeech is a fantastic resource for it that incorporates a lot of fun. Be open to what opportunities are in your everyday life - to slow down the agenda and the speed to sit and engage with someone with the patience for them to speak at their own pace as they learn. Look for fun games - both online and in real life - that can support the tools they are working on to better their communication.
Here is the full video interview with Lenora Edwards:
Signs Support Can Help
Lenora talks about how we're born with the ability to process language, but our brains need to be equipped with the actual language in order to work it out. As soon as you find out you're pregnant...start talking.Yes, even in the womb they are learning and processing new words so they can better develop their own speaking language as they develop.
The more words we input into our children's heads, the more ability they have to process them into understanding.
A general rule of thumb is generally a word at one year, two words at two years, and three word formations (or beyond) at three. I personally was a child who didn't utter a word until three. And yet my daughters were speaking in full sentences by 2.
So remember, this is a general idea, yet your child is not horribly delayed (or insanely gifted) if they speak sooner or later. There are many other things impacting when our children speak. My brother tended to speak for me, so I felt little need to add anything else. Being an unschooling family means we're all about helping them go at their own pace...as long as they are moving forward.
So that brings us to a few warning signs that there may be something else beyond just them going at their own pace -
- By 2, not being able to follow a simple direction, like go get your shoes - maybe not understanding what to do, or what shoes are.
- By 2, not being able to respond to yes or no questions, or if they want more of something.
- Receptivity - if, after you've essentially inputted the information (ie you have spoken these same words over and over again in your home), they are unable to still understand what is spoken, there may be more of a barrier than simply not listening.
- Expressivity - even before they can talk, babies can communicate with us in their own way. Are they engaging - making eye contact, and responding to us like they are understanding anything?
It's okay to "just be safe"
Getting support doesn't mean you've just condemned your child to a label. It shows you're open to looking for a variety of ways to help them communicate. I'm not an advocate of "fixing" everything about our kids that might be slower or different than the norm. I am, however, an advocate of looking for any resources I can that would improve connection and learning for them.
I've personally gotten support by way of books, articles and conversations on autism, ADHD, dyslexia and anxiety - all that have greatly helped our family, while not having a diagnosis of any of these.
Lenora shared how BetterSpeech offers a free 15-minute speech consultation with a certified speech therapist - and she often hears, "I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something."
That is a perfectly valid reason to speak with someone or get some help. Sometimes we don't see what's right in front of us, and it's valuable to have others help see what blind spots there are.
Connection, not proximity
Instead of just looking for what is right in your hometown, the internet opens up a world of options for finding support. I love this about my coaching - I can support families from anywhere in the world, while they (and I) don't have to leave the comfort of our own homes. Minimal disruption, maximum support.
Instead of just finding who the closest resource is, find what is the best fit for you. Find what your child responds to best. Is it a course, game, 1-1 therapy, group therapy, etc? Look behind the miles to all that is opened up with the online world, to get the support you need any time you need it.
Use Tech to your advantage
Technology isn't going away - and you have every opportunity to make it work for you and offer some wonderfully functional support for what you are doing. Instead of making it the enemy where tech = mindless drivel, show them how to use it effectively.
If they ask you a question you're not sure of, look it up online together! Help them see how you discern what is valuable information and how to navigate it in a healthy way.
Children love to model - they will mirror what you're doing, so show them how tech can be used for good so they learn to model that.
Learning and play can co-exist.
It's worth the work
There are times we struggle with our own limitations because we don't want to hassle with the work it takes to find the right fit. Yes, it can be hard to find the person that really jives with your child or you - that not only gets you but speaks in a way that keeps you motivated and curious to continue the therapy and work. It's worth it to keep looking until you find it. Because once you find it, it's amazing what opens up when you're not accomodating for your limitations anymore.
And you won't know unless you try. Finding organizations like BetterSpeech helps to open the door to a variety of professionals all vetted in the same way - and makes it easy to "shop" for the best match for your family.
Look at what best works for your home and your child. Be proactive on how things will work to make it a priority. Be willing to go through a "beta" phase of learning together to find what works for each individual. It make take a few tries to get it right, and that's okay.
Functional Education is a concept that includes your whole life. We believe the world is our school and everyone is our teacher. And we believe strongly in delight-led learning. The more we can find the nuggets of curiosity and delight in any learning process, not only will we retain it faster, we'll remember it longer!
Tips for Communicating
While your kiddos may be working on their speech, it isn't always going to go smoothly. And it can be frustrating for them and for others when they aren't understood. Here are a few tips for others to get the best interaction:
- Get eye-to-eye with them. Being on the same level lessens the overwhelm/intimidation factor.
- Allow space for them to really get their thoughts out.
- Be willing to just talk about/narrate what you're doing, what they're playing with, etc.
- Be curious- follow their lead and let them guide the conversation in their own way without your pressure.
- Reduce the stress. Pull back, allow for pauses and silence.
Slow your roll. Take into account how your family is communicating with one another. Pay attention to what might be a struggle, and what you might do to support it. It may be simply allowing for more space in your life, and slowing the roll of the whole family energy, like it was for us. And it may be that a resource like BetterSpeech is a powerful way to get support right where you need it most - inside the home, on your schedule.
We celebrate the many walks and journeys of life we're all going down, knowing we're all figuring things out and learning as we go. Give space - and grace - for people to grow as they are most receptive to it. And let's all recognize that beautiful thing - the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Namaste