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Jul 23, 2015

Healthy Living Looks at Speech Therapy

In this segment of Healthy Living we discuss speech therapy. In Belize, the Inspiration Center offers these services to children with speech impediments to help them overcome the frustration of being unable to communicate. The therapy helps them to acquire the necessary skills to increase their oral and written language abilities. The Center has a new volunteer speech pathologist; she offers valuable insight on how to detect if your child needs therapy.


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

For parents, one of the most exciting moments in raising their children is hearing their first words. Typically children begin to talk – like say a few of their first words – at around one and continue to develop their speech as they get older. In some instances, children can experience speech delays. To help them catch up, speech therapy is required.


Marcela Lutthan

Marcela Lutthans, Speech Language Pathologist

“Speech therapy is where it could be adults or kids don’t have language yet or for some reason if the adult has a stroke, then we teach the adult to learn the language again. And for kids, it’s when the kids are maybe two or three years old and they are not talking yet and parents are concerned about their not starting to talk. We also work with children who go to school, maybe five six and they can’t pronounce the sounds correctly. We also look at different disabilities like down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and we help these children communicate better.”


Marcela Lutthans is a bilingual speech language pathologist. She recently moved to Belize to volunteer her services at the Inspiration Center. She is currently the only speech pathologist in country.


Marcela Lutthans

“We have children with cerebral palsy; that the most that I’ve seen…severe cerebral palsy where there is just no communication at all, no movement. I’ve seen autism, also very severe autism; down syndrome, I’ve seem that also. And then I have the typical child who can’t say his R’s or S’s. So I’ve seen just about everything. Parents are very good at telling that and they have something that is telling them that they are not talking. So I always tell my parents, always ask the pediatrician and always ask around professionals if the child should be talking or not. A child who is a year and is not talking is not something that we need to be concerned about, but if a child is two years and he is not talking at that age, that is something to be concerned about. I am an advocate for early intervention. Always try to get the child early because then it is easier for us as professionals to work with the delay. If we wait for the child to be three or four, now we have three or four years that we are delayed and we need to start at a later age.”


Unfortunately, the most common misconception about speech delays and disorders is that some parents convince themselves that their children will eventually grow out of it.


Marcela Lutthans

“I do struggle sometimes with people who believe that will time, they’ll get over it. Unfortunately we have seen and I have seen it in my profession, year after year, they do not get over that. And if they don’t seek the attention of the professional, then they will struggle—not only school, but throughout their lives—with social skills. And it will be difficult for them to make friends, for them later on in life to get a job and be able to speak correctly.”


For parents of children with special needs, like cerebral palsy or autism, having access to speech therapy now allows them to open the lines of communication with their children.


Marcela Lutthans

“We have children that because they have conditions—let’s say cerebral palsy and autism—they are not able to verbalize anything, but there are ways to help them to communicate through pictures, through signs, through different devices. So depending on what the child can do, we can teach the child to either sign more or eat and he or she is able to communicate that to the parent. The frustration decreases and there is communication between the two off them.”


There are many causes for delays or disorders in speech but parents can help with speech development by reading to their child. Another tip includes breaking a very common bad habit.


Marcela Lutthans

“We as mothers especially would like to use the baby talk with our babies. That is not something that I recommend because then they learn that. You need to call the object the way the object is or the verb or whatever it is. You don’t say to the child lets go night-night. No, we are going to go to sleep. You use the appropriate language so that the child listens and imitates. Children are like sponges so the way that you are going to speak; they are going to imitate you.”


You can contact the Inspiration center at 222-5986 for more information of their speech therapy services. 

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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