Early intervention + coronavirus: What to do when your child’s speech delay services are interrupted

Worried about losing ground with a speech delay? Trust yourself, follow your child's lead, and keep a record.

coronavirus and speech delay

With new restrictions in place due to the coronavirus outbreak, parents and caregivers of babies and toddlers ages 0–3 who were receiving early intervention services for speech delay by a speech-language pathologist (SLP) may be concerned about their child's progress during this time.

If your family's early intervention services have been interrupted by the pandemic, you can still work with your child's speech in whatever way is best for your family right now.

Here's what the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) recommends for families during this time:

Communicate with your service coordinator.
Check in to see if early intervention services can continue virtually for the time being. If so, ask what technology you'll need and what paperwork you'll need to fill out. See if your SLP will be available by phone or email to answer questions and offer suggestions, even if formal sessions aren't taking place (note that some SLPs may be restricted from doing this, even if they'd like to help in this way).

Ask if changes to your child's Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) are needed—and, if so, how you can work with the rest of the IFSP team to make those changes. Let them know the best way to provide you with information (phone, email, video, resource links—whatever is most helpful for you).

Trust yourself.
You know your child best and love your child the most, and your child trusts you more than anyone else. Follow your instincts on what your child needs and which aspects of daily activities and routines are most conducive to their progress—and to overall speech and language development.

Remember your parent training.
Consider the speech strategies and interactions you already know work well and what you are doing to foster communication development. Write them down. If you need more guidance, see if you and your SLP can develop a plan together.

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Let real life be the guide.
Young children learn best in the context of real-life activities and with the people who are most important to them. Weave communication interactions and goals into everyday routines and activities such as mealtime, bath time, changing time, playtime and household chores.

Follow your child's lead.
Respond to your child's interests and communication attempts, including coos, gestures and words. Build on their strengths.

Keep a log.
Write down successes, challenges and questions to share with your SLP. Record the activities you'd like feedback on or the ones you want to highlight since your last session. Note whether any of the original priorities or goals you shared have shifted or changed.

Use credible resources.
Rely on trustworthy resources for supporting speech, language and social communication development. Familiarize yourself with developmental milestones by age, and track your child's progress. Ask your SLP for suggestions, and visit www.asha.org/public to get information for families.

Remember engaging in early intervention services is a choice. This uncertain time has brought additional work and home responsibilities for all parents. It's okay to say that you need to cancel services if virtual or other modified services are not a good fit for your family. Talk with your SLP or service coordinator about adapting service delivery so it better fits your situation.

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