Helping kids express themselves: speech therapy

Have you ever felt how choosing the right words for expressing ourselves is important? Ever struggled between speaking the truth or saying the right thing?  Isn’t it all about being able to convey what we really mean?

We are born with different characteristics. Our communication skills commence developing even as a newborn. From crying, babbling, and using body language as a child to raising our voice, and positioning ourselves in our relationships as a grown-up, we’re in the endless loop of improving our social skills.

A child who is limited to communication must receive speech therapy to learn to communicate their daily and basic needs. Speech therapy can and does help with diverse skills pertaining to communication, both oral and written.

Part of the COAF Village programs since 2012, our Speech Therapy service includes children, aged 3-10, from 10 communities of Armavir, Aragatsotn, and Shirak provinces. We work both on speech difficulty prevention and correction based on a systematic and evidence-based approach. Throughout 8 years, more than 1200 children were able to overcome their speech difficulties. Those with more serious mental disorders, such as autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, etc. receive the therapy continuously. We proudly claim an 83.6% success rate in a year.

Let’s make it crystal clear. It’s not only about the speech. It’s about a whole new lifestyle youngsters are gifted thanks to overcoming their speech difficulties. “Families often tend to “hide” children with social issues in their homes. Years ago, our beneficiaries were refusing to participate in the program, not fully comprehending its essence. Nowadays, the parents and grandparents are the ones who go after every opportunity, that is, a program, a seminar, and an activity offered to develop their kids’ social skills,” explains Marusya Bazinyan, the Speech Therapy Coordinator at COAF.

During the program, children also visit the Yerevan Zoo, the CITYZEN entertainment center assimilating a city of professions, and different museums located in Yerevan. For 90% of them, it is their first visit to the capital, a new discovery outside their communities.

These days, as the quarantine continues for more than a month, even our speech therapists work with our beneficiaries online. Though the majority have the means to get in touch on the net, dozens don’t have a gadget or Internet access. At the same time, children with hyperactivity disorders are advised to limit interactions with technology. As time is a fundamental factor in speech therapy, our specialists find a way of providing services to them as well. They’re either talking to them or their family members on the phone or sending programmatic materials through their neighbors who have the required equipment.

The wrong pronunciation of a single speech sound affects a child’s self-esteem and social interaction, limiting the ability to communicate, which, in turn,  affects the overall quality of life. Speech impediments can be very isolating if we let them be. However, in most cases, the problems are solvable. These skills do not always develop easily for children along the way. It takes months, even years, and dedication of highly-skilled speech therapists and family members to achieve a 100% positive result. Parents of succeeded kids become advocates for other families. They share their big and small “victories” with each other inspiring others to believe in their child’s potential too.

Every child who overcomes a speech difficulty and becomes more self-confident is one of our “victories” we strongly cherish too.

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