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Mar 24, 2011

Healthy Living gets speech therapy

When speech problems are diagnosed early, therapy can result in the near normal development of the child. There are many factors that contribute to the disorder and there are signs that parents can detect when a child is having problems with learning to speak.  Notably when speech problems surface early, it can also be an indicator for autism. The only Speech & language pathologist in Belize is a peace corp volunteer working at St Peters Anglican in Orange Walk Town. She discusses her approach.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

The skills to communicate with each other are formed during our first years of life. However, some children experience delays in the development in their speech this can be a sign of a speech or language disorder. A Speech & Language pathologist, Colleen Richards, who is living and working in Belize helps us to understand more about the foundation of speech development.

Colleen Richards, Speech Therapist & Peace Corp Volunteer

Colleen Richards

“A little baby when it’s born bonds with its mom and dad and its listening and interacting with them and learning and babbling and at about a year of age starts saying its first words. And then continues to grow and develop and in about fifteen months maybe we’ll have fifteen words and he’ll be able to answer questions like “where’s mama” and he’ll be able to point and things like that.”

As the child gets older, they’ll build their vocabulary and increase the number of words they put together to build sentences. But why do some children miss their milestones? And what causes the development of speech problems? The causes, Colleen explains, may vary.

Colleen Richards

“We don’t know why some kids have speech problems. Some things that we do know could be hearing loss and it doesn’t have to always be a permanent hearing loss but if a child has a lot of ear infection or colds growing up their hearing could not be quite right so they’re not hearing the speech of others and so they are not learning them correctly. Hearing loss can be one. Some kids can have a physiological problem like a cleft palette.  Sometimes they’re something called the praxia where the muscles for speech are not strong enough and so that can cause a speech problem and of course there’s also other disorders like autism where we know speech and language can be a side effect of that.”

As a part of her work as a peace corp volunteer in Belize, Colleen is stationed in Orange walk at St Peter’s Anglican she spends one part of her week conducting training with teachers on how to work with kids with special needs and  also works with preschoolers who have speech difficulties. We joined her as she was  working with one such student, Kamar Baeza. According to his teacher, Minerva Carballo, Kamar’s speech problem was recognizable form his first day of school.

Minerva Carballo, Principal/Teacher, St Francis Preschool

Minerva Carballo

“As Kamar came to the school we noticed, its two children actually; we couldn’t understand what he was saying. He started with “tee tee” “tee tee” telling teacher and we noticed. He can’t tell us the letter “t’ the letter “p” and different letters. We see his little lips and he says other letter for that. But as soon as we get them from day one we can focus and see that they have a problem. Kamar simply has, well he was unintelligible when I first met him. I couldn’t understand anything that he said. He had a lot of substitutions. You probably saw me working with the ‘f” he couldn’t he would say “p” for “f”. So ‘four’ and ‘five’ would be ‘pour’ and ‘pive.’”

While, the cause for Kamar’s speech delay may be unknown, Colleen says a problem like his has a great chance for improvement. This is mostly because of early intervention.

Colleen Richards

“There are disorders like articulation where the child makes substitutes, emits ending sounds or substitutes beginning sounds. Those are fairly easy to correct and the child might outgrow but with the help of a speech pathologist he will outgrow it even faster the speech will be normal.”

For Minerva, who’s been a preschool teacher for the past thirty-six years. Children with speech problems enter the school system regularly. In the past, they did their best to offer help to them during classes but now they have welcomed the assistance of a specialist like Colleen.

Minerva Carballo
“The Speech therapist is giving Kamar and Jaime Lyn. They are doing very good better than if we were giving because she has the experience and she’s also helping the teachers to help the kids. So we are learning from her.  “What’s the difference that you have seen in the children that Coleen has been helping?” Oh they are doing very good. He can already say teacher he can say the teachers name even the mommy is so happy that he is learning all the different words.”

Colleen has already completed one year of her volunteer service and hopes the training she’s conducted with local counterparts will help other children in the future who are detected early with speech problems.

Colleen Richards

“Any chance that you can. Talk with your kids. Model good behavior. Read to your children that’s probably one of the best things you can do. Kids cannot get enough reading. If you do have a concern and you have worked with your child for a while. I would say seek out your doctor and see what he has to say and then NARCIE is the branch of the Ministry of Education that works that have all different kinds of special needs and that’s where I would go.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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1 Response for “Healthy Living gets speech therapy”

  1. Rebeca woods says:

    I am a speech pathologist and want to work there. Who can I contact?

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