Leanne Sherred wants to reassure busy parents that the conversations we have with our children throughout the course of a day–even while negotiating meals and bedtime–are incredibly powerful for speech and language development.
“You can put language across every area of the day,” she says. “All those routines that are already going to happen in a very busy, crazy, hectic day–you’re still going to get up in the morning, eat breakfast, brush your teeth–all of those are opportunities for interacting with your kiddo, modeling language.”
It can be hard to recognize the silver lining of so much time together at home, but it’s presenting a unique opportunity for parental involvement.
“A lot of times when kids get speech therapy from school, parents barely have any idea what’s being worked on, or how it’s being addressed,” she says.
As the president and founder of Expressable, Leanne flipped the old model of speech therapy on its head. Instead of parents sitting in the waiting room while their kids meet with their therapist once a week, she and her husband launched a virtual option for families to participate together from home.
“One of my professors at Northwestern who taught early intervention made sure that if we walked away from our graduate career with anything in our minds it was that parent engagement is one of–if not the–most powerful tools that we have as clinicians,” she says.
Working directly with families is what led Leanne to choose speech therapy as a profession instead of becoming a dialect coach, after a childhood of easily picking up voices and accents.
“This realm where you’re having a huge impact on the lives of individuals and the lives of families spoke to me,” she says.
Even in this incredibly stressful season of parenthood, our children are changing and growing right before us. To the untrained eye, it can be hard to understand what’s going on behind the scenes to make all these milestones possible.
“As a therapist, I like to really think about the small wins,” she says, noting all of the skills that have to be in place before a word is even spoken. “They had to pay attention to you. They have to have memory for that. They have to have joint attention. They have to be turn-taking to an extent.”
It’s a reminder that all of this time we’re spending with our kids adds up. We may get frustrated, we may lose our patience, but the progress is there when we pause to recognize it.
“There’s nothing I love more than helping a parent use a strategy,” she says. “Then the kid says a word, or maybe for the first time ever puts two words together,” she says.
“It is really powerful for the parents to be the ones who made the success happen.”