The Essential Role Of The Speech Therapist In Early Care

The essential role of the Speech Therapist in Early Care

For those cases in which a young child has a developmental disorder or is at risk of suffering from one, Early Care intervention can be of great help. This involves a set of optimizing and compensatory interventions aimed at facilitating their maturation in all areas, with the aim of reaching the highest level of social integration and personal development. These actions require an interdisciplinary approach, which implies the joint work of professionals from different disciplines, such as paediatricians, neurologists, psychologists, psychiatrists or pedagogues.

One of the professionals who plays an essential role in Early Care is the speech therapist. In this article we will see what its function is in these intervention teams and how it can be of great help both for children who have some type of deficit or disability and for their families.

What is the speech therapist function in Early Care?

The speech therapist is a professional who is trained to address difficulties in communication, speech, language, emerging literacy, and swallowing or feeding. Its relevance for integrating Early Care interventions lies in the fact that, first of all, language is fundamental for all aspects of human functioning, since we need to have the ability to bond with others when living in society. The development of communication skills begins from birth and therefore, families with babies or children up to 36 months who suffer from a disability (or are at risk of suffering from it) require the attention of a professional such as a speech therapist capable of enhancing the child’s development, aiming to resolve the difficulties that may arise for both him and his family.

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The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has established a series of responsibilities and competencies that speech therapists should aim for in relation to Early Care; always based on the most recent scientific evidence and taking into consideration both the particularities of each child or family as well as the concerns and priorities they face. In general terms, the speech therapist must be able to form collaborative links with families so that interventions are focused on them, they must provide parents with education and resources to expand their ability to improve the potential of their children; as well as making clinical decisions recognizing the cultural and linguistic characteristics of the context in which the child is immersed. On the other hand, the speech therapist has specific functions in Early Care. Let’s see what they are briefly.

1. Prevention

The speech therapist in Early Care must have the ability to identify and choose certain prevention actions according to the child and family based on scientific evidence. That is, prevention—like all actions undertaken by the speech therapist in Early Care—cannot be carried out separately from the context that encompasses the situation. Therefore, she must also be able to adapt prevention activities according to the cultural and linguistic characteristics of the child and their environment.

2. Detection, evaluation and diagnosis of needs

Regarding this element, the speech therapist must have knowledge about the importance of early detection since an intervention at this stage will result in positive results regarding development. Therefore, his role is to have knowledge about the methods and standardized tests that are used for a particular population, that of children from zero to three years old.

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3. Planning, implementation and monitoring of the intervention

The speech therapist has the function of planning, implementing and monitoring the interventions carried out in the field of communication and speech. However, he must also have the ability to establish criteria to make referrals to professionals from other areas for those problems that exceed his own discipline. It is vital at this stage that the speech therapist can include family education within the planning and implementation of the intervention ; Therefore, you must also evaluate the capabilities of the family and the main caregiver to successfully support the development of their children through the routines or activities that will be proposed to them.

4. Advice and education of team members, including other professionals and families

As we said before, the role of the speech therapist also aims at effective communication with the family and other members of the work team. This will facilitate the resolution of problems that may arise when developing and implementing the interventions. In addition, interventions may involve specific strategies for which the speech therapist is trained, so their role is to teach the families, caregivers or professionals involved how to act according to the intervention that is carried out.

5. Coordination of services

Regarding the coordination of services, the speech therapist must be able to participate as a whole in the transition planning to other educational services. In this way, various types of transitions can occur, such as from a home-focused program to a center-focused program once the Early Care stage is completed; from the hospital to the Early Care program in your community; from early intervention to an early childhood education service or school, among others.

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6. Defense and promotion of Early Care

Ultimately, the speech therapist has the role of enacting the needs of children with communication difficulties and their families. To do this, you need to know how much your own assumptions or attitudes, both personal and cultural, can affect practices with children with disabilities and their families. Consequently, the speech therapist is capable of making decisions that aim to develop policies that bring to light the importance of Early Care; or, failing that, to social awareness and the dissemination of knowledge about these practices.