Friday, April 3, 2015

The Speech Therapy

Last year in May, I shared that Naomi was a late talker and she was fairly behind on her language development. As such, paediatricians advised us to bring Naomi to speech therapy.

We had the appointment to see the speech therapist in November last year but somehow missed it. To my horror, it was rescheduled to some 4-5 months later. Seemingly, in the whole Negri Sembilan, there is only one place that has speech therapists, which is the government hospital in Seremban, and their speech therapists' schedules are insanely fully booked for months.

Fast forward, last Monday (March 30th), my husband and I brought Naomi to her first speech therapy session at the hospital. To be honest, I was very curious about Naomi's first speech therapy session and looked forward to it. After I registered Naomi's name at the counter, I paid RM 5 for her speech therapy session and was informed that the fee will be increased to RM 15 per session in April onwards. GST is obviously taking its toll in Malaysia.

My 2.5 y/o cutiepatootie.

When Naomi's turn was up, my husband, Naomi and I entered the speech therapy room. Naomi's speech therapist last week was a young woman and once we were seated, she briefly asked us some questions about Naomi's health history and developmental milestones. I told her that Naomi can say few words already but still mostly babbles. Naomi was then presented with a bead roller coaster toy and the therapist accompanied Naomi playing with it while loudly saying simple words, hoping that Naomi would imitate whatever words she said. The first conversation was more or less went like this, "Up! Up! Naomi, say up!" "Down, down. See, this bead is going down." "Green" "Red" "Yellow" and so on. What was Naomi's response to her? Long silence. Pure ignorance.

As the speech therapist was a total stranger to Naomi and my girl was not feeling well on Monday, most of the time, Naomi acted very shy, clingy and declined to play with the therapist. Sometimes she closed her eyes to her presence and surely, was not interested in imitating any of the words that the therapist said. With this kind of attitude, I was 100% very certain that Naomi earned quite a bit of negative marks on the therapist's assessment paper.

Moving on, the therapist told my husband and I to use the language that we use at home on daily basis. She asked my husband to translate the words she said to Naomi into Mandarin but I told her it's okay to use English terms because we teach Naomi to say words in English and sing English kiddie songs too. Further, the speech therapist recommended us to use just one language to Naomi to avoid confusion.

Very expressive little girl.

Few minutes and many toys later, Naomi was still not willing to utter some words that she already mastered in front of this therapist. Naomi already can say the word of "Duck" every time she sees yellow rubber ducks, bird, swan, chicken or basically any animal with beak but she purposely didn't want to say "Duck" when the speech therapist gave her some plastic duck toys to play with. Ding... ding... ding... Another negative mark just earned.

The therapist felt that Naomi's speech development was quite behind because by age 2, kids should be able to string two words together and by age 3, they should be capable of stringing three words together. Naomi now is 2.5 years old and her vocabulary at this moment is not even there yet to be able to string two words together.

Halfway through the session, Naomi got bored and wanted to leave the room. She began to make noises and asked us to get out of the room. When this happened, the therapist quickly presented Naomi with more toys to entice Naomi while saying few words to describe them. After this, the rest of the session became a consultation session between the therapist and the parents.

In a nutshell, I think Naomi's first speech therapy session was arguably fruitless because she came back from the therapy session with no speech improvement. Well, we can't expect to gain much from the first therapy visit, can we? However, I got the impression that this speech therapy session was intended more to us, the parents, to learn how we should teach and encourage Naomi to speak new words and implement this over and over again on daily basis. We were told to speak more to Naomi and repeatedly name and point the things that we see on daily life during bath time, eating, playing, driving, etc. until Naomi gets the hang of these words.

Thirty minutes later, the speech therapy session was concluded and we're asked to come again for Naomi's second session in November. I was quite flabbergasted when I learned this because I thought the speech therapy session would be scheduled more regularly or frequently like once a week or once a month perhaps, especially since the therapist considered Naomi's speech ability is weak. I was even more shocked when I was told that the therapist expects to see Naomi be able to string words together by November. Seriously, how to achieve this? LOL. I thought the purpose of this therapy was to assist Naomi to improve her speech in a more conducive way so her language development is back on track.

To summarize, I personally prefer the idea of sending Naomi to the nursery better than attending once in a blue moon speech therapy session as an avenue to improve her speech development. At least, in the nursery, Naomi is exposed to other children (some already can talk and are very chatty) and teachers who talk to her all day long and hopefully they would stimulate Naomi to talk soon.

Nonetheless, this whole speech therapy experience was overall still a good learning to us and I plan bring Naomi to attend her second speech therapy session in November, with significant progress I hope.

P/S: No camera or hand phone allowed during the therapy session, hence I can't share any visual image of the speech therapy session.


We decided not to pursue the second round of the speech therapy as Naomi already can talk just few months after she joined the play school.


  1. Hi Christine,

    Yes, I agree with you that speech therapy should ideally be more frequent. The once-in-a-blue-moon appointment at Govt hospital is understood, in view of the high number of patients but not that many therapist around. Enrolling in nursery is a good idea too, as well as considering private speech therapy. The directory of the Malaysian Association of Speech-Language & Hearing (MASH) comprises a list of speech therapists all over Malaysia, mostly in KL/Selangor, and one in Seremban:

    Here's sharing a little experience with one of my kids. My eldest son is a former premature baby (born at 29 weeks) and is generally ok, however he has speech delay.

    Currently 3 years old, he understands both Mandarin and English, but utters only a few words like pa pa, di di, ma ma, and xia yu. The rest are his own language not understood by anyone else. No combination of words. When he sings he hums the melody. Has not started pre-school now, planning to do so next year.

    He attended speech therapy once at Hospital Ampang (the Govt hospital where he's born) but was very unco-operative and not his usual self during the session. So apart from history taking, nothing else could be done on that day.

    The next appointment was scheduled in 1 month's time, but dishearteningly the appointment was postponed a few times - the common reason given was that the speech therapist was away for training. Resorting to private speech therapy instead, on grounds that (1) my son seems very anti-hospital but seems alright elsewhere, and (2) to have more regular sessions.

    Good wishes to you!

  2. Hi Cassandra,

    Thank you for sharing your experience in this matter.. but I don't think I will be coming to the 2nd therapy appointment for Naomi in November because her speech now has improved significantly after she went to Taska for few months. I guess being surrounded by other kids does help.

    Naomi is almost 3 y/o and now can say and communicate many words (some are not clear but we get the meaning) and sing some nursery songs too :)




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