Transcript #58 – Lenora Edwards from BetterSpeech
Today we speak with Speech expert Lenora Edwards, the Chief Knowledge Office of BetterSpeech. BetterSpeech aims to make speech therapy more affordable and fun by utilizing speech pathologists online. Lenorah shares some of her knowledge on speech and childhood development with us, including:
The link between confidence and speaking well
What clues to look for if you think your child may need help with their speech development
The connection between receptive (listening) and expressive (speaking)
What you should be doing more to develop your kids’ communication skills
The role audiobooks can play in speech development
Enjoy this conversation!
Like this episode? You can check out more of our Dad Podcasts.
Will Braunstein, A Dad’s Path: Hello, and welcome to another episode of A Dad’s Path podcast. I’m Will Braunstein. Today, we’re here with Lenora Edwards, the Chief Knowledge Officer at Better Speech, that’s at betterspeech.com. Better Speech provides customized online speech therapy for kids and adults, and it’s all online, which as a busy parent is almost a necessity.
We’re going to talk about that a little bit, but as a quick interjection, our most popular podcasts we’ve done have been about topics that a lot of dads didn’t think they would necessarily resonate with them, so autism, adoption, strange children. Some dads go through that, but a lot of our listeners have not. This podcast is going to be similar. This is a podcast for parents who think their kids might have a speech deficit, who want to learn more, but it’s also for parents who have kids with insane vocabularies, who are really proud of where their kids are, and want to take it to the next level. We’re excited to dive in here and welcome Lenora.
Lenora Edwards, BetterSpeech: Hi, Will. Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. I’m so excited to be here.
Will: Awesome. Well, like I said, we’ll see by the end how you feel about it, but we’ll try, we’ll try. [laughs] In terms of speech therapy, it’s such a broad term. As a new parent, you’re trying to get your kids to make noises, you’re watching them learning to talk and things like that, and it seems like kids develop at different ages, so they learn to speak at different ages. How do you know as a parent that it’s time to intervene versus let your child develop naturally in terms of their speech and those sort of things?
Lenora: That’s a great question. Children do develop at completely different rates, and I love that there are guidelines out there. I find that the biggest age gap of variation is somewhere around two years old, because they’re learning so much but they’re also trying to sort through so much of the information that they already have, so there’s a lot. You might see that if you have two kids, you might see that your first child was talking up a storm at two years old, and you might see your other child not talking nearly as much. Those are clues usually.
You ask very specifically about the clues. Clues when they’re not talking, what else are they doing? Are they playing with their voice? Are they indicating to you that they want or need something? Let’s say you have a two-year-old son, this is your first two-year-old son, and you’re not too sure what you’re looking for. Absolutely look at the guidelines and see what are some of the things that I should be looking for.
Is my child making noise? Are they talking in their own way like, “Uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh.”? There’s a lot of variation. They’re stringing together vowels with consonants, whether it’s, “Bu bubba buddy da da da da.” They’re stringing together sounds, and that’s a great thing. They’re already indicating that they’re verbal. They’re already showing you that they’re having that vocal play. Great things.
Are they following directions? If you say, “Go find your teddy bear.” Can he go find his teddy bear, or put this on the table? “Can you take that off?”, or, “Take your shirt off?” Are they following those directions, those very familiar directions that you’ve now had them go through for two years? Those are the types of things that you want to definitely be aware of.
With their words, can they identify? Do they know when you say, “Go find your teddy bear.” Not only do they know where it is, do they know what it is? If they indicate to you, “That’s what I want,” so they’re vocalizing, “This is my teddy bear,” he’s got a pretty strong rhythm of a name that I am approximating to the best of my ability. If they’re not coming out with whole words, that’s okay. What else is going on though?
If you have any concerns, we at Better Speech, we offer a free 15-minute consultation. The first thing that I would say is, if I don’t know, let me call somebody and talk with a professional immediately. At Better Speech, we are available. You can reach out to us immediately, and we will talk with you about where you are and where your little one is, what are the things that you’re seeing, and we can then better guide you from there.
Say you had a speech therapy session with us on betterspeech.com. We can give you an idea of where they are, and talk with you about what else is going on, and then you can decide, “Do they need speech therapy services?” Us as the professional, we’ll tell you yes or no, and you as the parent or the guardian then make that decision, yes or no. That’s entirely your right and your responsibility as that parent or guardian.
Will: Got you. That makes a lot of sense. You said a lot of the things that made my mind race a little bit, so I appreciate that. I love that you have a free-
Lenora: Consultation, yes.
Will: – consultation. Thank you. Yes, that’s great. It’s good to have tools like that, whatever. Asking for help really is the main thing, right? Always if you’re not sure about something, go to a professional because that’s their job.
Will: You did mention something that I was curious about. You said if you were asking your child to get their teddy bear or– It sounded like those were more listening things. Obviously, or not obviously, is there a connection there between listening and speaking in terms of what you see and when kids need therapy or–
Lenora: Definitely. There’s two parts of language. There’s the receptive part of language, the language that we understand. Are they answering yes/no questions? When I ask you, “Is your name Will?” you’ll tell me yes or no. That’s a receptive part of language. That’s, “I heard” language, “I understood it, I processed it, and then I will express to you my answer.”
Right now as I’m talking. I am the speaker, you are the listener, and we go back and forth in our communication. As the speaker, I am expressive in my language. As the listener, you are receptive in your language. There’s always two parts going on.
Will: Yes, that makes a lot of sense. So you often find a connection when someone is not listening, or it seems like they’re not listening, they might also have speech challenges?
Lenora: There might be a speech challenge, yes. When someone’s not listening, is it not listening because they’re stubborn, or is it not listening because they quite literally have no idea what you’re asking of them? Understanding commands, when we have little ones when they’re born, we should be talking to them constantly. For all new parents and guardians out there, talk to your children. Talk to the ones that are there, because what you’re doing is you’re narrating their environment, and you’re explaining to them everything that you do.
When you pick them up, you say, “We’re going to go up,” and you’re explaining that this is the concept of going up, and they can feel it. When you’re going to open the door, you’re going to say, “I’m opening the door.” Yes, it sounds like you’re talking to yourself a lot at the beginning of this, but what you’re doing is you’re helping shape their mind. You’re helping them shape the environment and the understanding that there is language, and I need to understand it.
We’re designed to understand our language, so that’s a great thing as the parent, the adult, the guardian. We need to put that language in place so that this little brain can understand what we’re talking about. Absolutely constantly talk to your children, narrate for them. Know your six-month-old doesn’t understand what the train on their pajamas is, but explain that it’s pajamas, it’s soft. Talk about the texture, the color. You’re constantly pouring information in because they have no idea, but that’s what you’re doing. You’re helping build that vocabulary, that understanding of language.
Will: I love that. I’ve found that personally to be such an important thing. I just talk nonstop, especially when my kids were really young. To your point, I just narrate, and you know they’re not going to– At first, they won’t catch any of it, and then they’ll catch 1%, and then a little bit more, and a little bit more, but that’s how you can build a vocabulary and help your kids. I like that.
What’s the opposite side then? What are common mistakes, or more common mistakes you see parents make with their kids? I’ll start. Not talking. [laughs] Now you’re like, “Not narrating,” but go ahead. I don’t mean to.
Lenora: Some other not necessarily mistakes. I find that a lot of people just don’t know, so the more information that they can research and learn about– As parents, there’s tons of books out there, and there’s tons of tips, and it can be really, really overwhelming. You as the new parent coming in, you don’t know what you’re looking for, where you are, and the things that you’re like, “Should they be doing that?” “Look into it,” or, “What should they be doing?”
If you have a two-year-old, you don’t need to know what your five-year-old will eventually need to know. Right now, it’s not as critical. You want to know what your two-year-old should be doing so that we can continue to progress and to grow. I find that it’s just offering as many resources as possible. At betterspeech.com, we have a great resource link, and we have tons of videos, tons of information. We’re on social media platforms, just educating people because they don’t know.
It’s understandable, especially if it’s their first. They don’t know what they don’t know, and you can’t fault anybody for that. It’s simply a lack of knowledge. That’s our intention, is to simply be of service, and to offer as much knowledge as we can because the more you know, the better off you’ll be.
Will: Absolutely. That’s a wise answer. I like that a lot. We need to educate ourselves as parents. To your point, as first-time parents, which you all are at some point, there are guidebooks, but there’s no true guidebook for your child because every child is different, every parent is different, so that whole relationship is going to be different.
Will: Yes, it really needs to be customized to your point. One thing you brought up earlier in the conversation was looking at age guidelines. Where would you find that?
Lenora: Depending on which guidelines. If we’re talking about the growth of a child, the American Association– or the American Pediatric Association is a great resource, or looking at other areas, you can reach out to your physician, your primary care doctor, or even just Google typical language development of a child. Typical growth development of a child.
Usually those first few links on Google will be beneficial, so that is a great resource. Our technology today is phenomenal. We didn’t have this in the 70s, in the 80s. We didn’t have this kind of access. We had to wait, or send away, or find a phone number, or who knew who. We’re in a completely different world now. We’re inundated with information, so you do have to be careful and do some sorting, and do your best to arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can to make those decisions. My first thing, especially when I don’t know. Now I have, okay, fine, I have four resources in front of me, and I still don’t have my answer.
I will call somebody. That’s where when you– especially in today’s age– with especially with the job market. There’s job openings everywhere, and people are especially in the healthcare field, people want to ask their physician. They want to ask a professional. They don’t want to wait two or six months, which is very unfortunate to go in-person and be there. At least on here with Better Speech and the services that we provide, you can reach us, and you can get in touch with a speech pathologist and start services the next day, if it was appropriate, if it was warranted, if you felt like I need answers and something is wrong.
Especially for these little ones, time is of the essence, because their minds are going to continue to grow for six months. They’re not going to wait for that appointment. It’s imperative that we get the resources in immediately. One thing that I know you had mentioned to me was, especially with new parents, I find that new parents sometimes will be a little defensive, and it’s only because they’re thinking something’s wrong, and what did I do to my child.
When a parent is appearing like that, the first thing I want them to know is they did nothing wrong. This is simply where we are. Especially when you seek out a professional, it’s not about judging your child. It’s not about pointing and going, “You did this. You did that.” It’s not about that at all. We are here to be of service. We understand things are the way they are, and there’s nothing that you did wrong, so immediately cross that off your list.
Come and ask questions. We completely understand that you don’t know, and we also know that you’re not supposed to know. This is something that I’ve studied for years, and I’ve learned, and I’ve worked with a variety of people for years. Why would you know the speech therapy development child language of a two-year-old? You haven’t had 10 two-year-olds. This makes perfect sense to me.
When I’m offering you information, and when I’m answering your questions, I’m very careful to watch my tone, because I want people to understand that they’re not supposed to know, and it’s not a judgement. Here, I will inundate you with as much information as possible, and many professionals do. Only because we have so much and we want you to know we want to bring you into that circle so that you don’t feel alone. You’re not alone. We’re here with you. We’re a part of it. That is something that I found that people just want to feel that support. Absolutely, not that judgment. It’s not about a judgement.
Will: Yes, that is so important on a lot of levels, right? Because when something is wrong with your child, you’re worried, you’re anxious, you’re stressed-
Lenora: Oh, yes.
Will: – and then when it’s something like speech, it almost seems like, “Was I not talking to my kid enough? Was I not this, was I not that?”
Lenora: Yes, it’s not a bad thought.
Will: What you’re saying is no. Chance are that’s not it, unless you’re totally– but anyone who’s listening to this podcast is not absent. You know what I mean? Every dad who’s on here, he’s trying to be better. We’re all trying to improve.
Will: If you’re listening, that’s not you. That’s a good place to be. It’s not your fault. As parents, as dads, I’ll just say this for me personally, like I feel that a lot when– Yesterday, my daughter was just having tantrums and crying. I thought it might be something to do with something my wife and I were talking totally, and I’m sure it wasn’t, but in my mind I’d combine these two things like, “Oh, man. If my wife and I didn’t have this little tiff, then maybe she would have been–“
Lenora: It’s not that.
Will: No. Kids have their ups and downs. Adults have their ups and downs.
Lenora: Oh, yes. Absolutely.
Will: Give yourself a little grace, yes. Well, that’s very helpful to hear, so I appreciate again on the speech therapy front.
Lenora: Yes, it’s definitely not about a judgment. I know a lot of people worry and, “What did I do wrong?” It’s not that you did anything wrong? No. Especially if you’re listening to podcasts and you’re finding all these resources, and we can really internalize it and beat ourselves up, it’s not that at all. This is simply, “This little one is presenting, and what can we all do? How can we all help? It’s only about helping and supporting each other.
Will: Love that. I really like that a lot. Let’s switch gears a little bit. Going from a child who needs speech therapy, and maybe they’ve used Better Speech or other tool or whatnot, but let’s go to someone whose kids not only don’t need speech therapy, but they’re amazing speakers, they’re great readers. My kids are 10. How do I make my kid an 11? You know what I mean? Like that kind of thing. There’s not a deficit that I see. What would you say to turn your kid into an all-star?
Lenora: Not every child needs speech therapy are completely right. When it comes to that, it depends on what they’re doing. I often think of, “Do they really enjoy performing?” and “How do they perform?” Then you start to get into body mechanics, how are they standing? How are they presenting? What’s their story, telling skills, like knowing sometimes people will tell a story? I love storytelling skills. Some people will tell a story and they’ll tell you all these details, but they’re losing you in the story because they have so many details that are unimportant. Say, for example, my kid speaks really clearly. Their articulation, perfect.
How can we have more fun with speech therapy, ,or how can we have more fun as speakers. Start practicing telling stories, and how animated they are, and how they play with their voice, make it a game, embellish it, and then also when they’re talking to people, what you also want to notice is people’s posture, especially in today’s world, to really watch your posture. When we’re rounding your shoulders forward and when we’re in the slouch position, it’s not as strong as of a body position as it is when we roll our shoulders back and keep our chin up.
Then you’re going to start talking more about looking people in the eye and making that eye contact, and holding that eye contact. When we have our social media devices, we’re seeing a lot of what we call pragmatics, your social skills shifting because people don’t know how to maintain their eye contact, or they don’t know how to maintain a conversation. Those are some things that you can also play with to build upon your communication skills. It’s not necessarily formal articulation therapy, or voice therapy. It’s more play of how to play and be a better speaker in general.
Will: I like that a lot to your point. Those are the skills that will get you through life. We don’t know what technology is going to be in 10 years or 20 years. We’re going to need to know spell check. We’re getting to know math, right? They’ll be online. Being able to connect with people to be creative, to tell stories to your point, that will always be what separates us from computers, from their world. Well, maybe not always, but hopefully my lifetime. [laughs]
Will: No, but that’s why it’s so important. I mean, to get away from just the rote memorization. There are basics we need to learn, of course, but then there’s also–
Will: –yes and following your children’s passions, right? If a child is talking a lot, you feel like there’s probably a better chance they’re also going to like telling stories, right, and learning to to tell stories well, or something like that for someone who’s really uncomfortable speaking, you can maybe get to that story side, but that’s not going to be like step two, or step one.
Lenora: Yes, absolutely. We definitely do see shy little ones where they aren’t maintaining that eye contact. What they’re also doing is they’ll model what you’re doing. If you want to improve upon the skills, notice what they already have, because a lot of what they already have is modeled from you as the parent or the guardian. Where else do we want to go?
For example, I see some little ones that will stand in a posture that are similar to their parents, or they’ll walk in a posture, or walk in a way that is very similar to their parents. If you want to continue to improve upon their skills, continue to improve upon your skills, and it will follow suit because you’re setting that model, you’re setting the tone for them.
Will: That’s awesome. Yes, we talk about modeling all the time, because it’s easy to just say, “Don’t raise your voice.” I’m like, “Well, they’re going to do what you did. They’re not going to do what you say always.
Lenora: Pretty much, but yes, it’s very true.
Will: I mean, they model you.
Lenora: It’s that old adage of–
Will: Do as I say, not as I do, or–
Lenora: That’s the one. Thank you. Do as I say, not as I do.
Will: Yes, unfortunately, I’ve had to repeat that too many times, but that’s one of the challenges and joys of parenting. I think when we go back to following our children’s passions and seeing where they want to go. My son, luckily in this regard, was interested in reading, and we went through the Harry Potter books. He’s a little herself, but there were a lot of words he didn’t understand. I would kind of read it’s a little out of his range when interject that’s it. Harry said, mournfully, that means sad, just kind of give those–
Lenora: That’s great idea. Phenomenal.
Will: Okay, because I had no idea. That’s the kind of thing for first-time dad, no idea.
Lenora: Absolutely. Now, especially when you’re reading with little ones. That is a great idea. Another great thing is, thank goodness we all carry our smartphones. Have them look it up with you. Oh, okay. Well, let’s type it in because what you’re doing is– I love the idea of just saying, “Oh, well, that’s what it means. You’re keeping it simple and sharp and clear, and boom, you can go back the next day.
Am I being mournful? What is mournful meaning? Do you remember that word and just keep carrying it over with smartphones? I’ll have a lot of students online that will ask me a question and I’ll say, “That’s a great question. Let’s look it up.” We look it up together. I don’t send them away to go look it up. It’s not their homework. We’re doing it together. When you do it together, you’re creating that connection. You’re creating that bond, and they’re saying, “Oh, I can use this device for good. I can learn from it.” A lot of the times our smartphones do get a bad rap because they’re– We got all these notifications in social media. That’s true, but the opposite is also true. They can be used for good, and it’s simply how you’re using it. To show them that it can be educational is also really, really great.
Will: Oh, awesome. Yes, I know. I mean that’s 100%. That’s such a great, another area of modeling because probably most parents– I’ll just speak for myself again here, I model my phone and not a good. I’m getting better, but I’ll just be picking up my phone, checking it, checking it, checking. That’s not healthy for me [chuckles] or to teach versus you’re saying, “Hey, obviously phones do have, these smartphones have value.” You can look up words. You can learn, educate. Not only are we looking up together, but you’re teaching that other lesson, that hey, there’s value in these.
Lenora: Yes, absolutely. Phones aren’t going away. Even a lot of times, I’ll hear things like, “Oh, I’m being bad.” It’s like, well, acknowledge it, but also absolutely we can reframe it. Oh, I have something else to do. Time to put this away. Reframing it and just spinning it, there’s two sides to everything. You can say it’s bad, or you can reframe it in another way and simply say, “Oh, you know what? This time is done. I’m going to go do this,” or, “Oh, I had a question about something. I needed to look up the recipe and show them how you’re making it functional rather than just play.”
Sometimes they get the reputation of, “Oh, I’m playing on my phone.” It’s like, “I might be, but play is also a lot of fun.” How can we show them the good in it? How can we present that to them so that they understand, “Oh, this is bad time.” No, this might also be educational time. However, you spin it is how they’re going to see it.
Will: That’s a really good point, and important, because in my mind, it’s a habit that I’m trying to get out of at out of boredom or whatever it is, just having my phone right there in the kitchen looking at it. To me, that is maybe not the right way to use it, but there are a lot of good ways to use it, and you need to communicate that. I think that’s–
Lenora: Yes, absolutely. Even voicing in, if you had a little one that was practicing speech, the nice thing is that when you voice in, Siri, actually if you have an iPhone, they’ll say, “Oh, hey. Let me look into the weather for you.” They’re telling you what they’re doing. Now you’re also getting that speech of what I’m doing. Then they’re hearing something also on the other end saying, “Oh, they said something specific.’ Then it’s doing something specific.
Will: So that’s a great point. I thought this is how Siri works when she listens correctly. When she’s [laughs] getting better. Question about, you’re in the car. Audiobooks. Is that a good tool to use or would you say, “Hey, why don’t you just talk to your kid in the car?”
Lenora: I love audiobooks personally. [chuckles] I think audiobooks are a great solution to visual. Rather than setting up the iPad in the car, we’re constantly bombarded by electronics. Let car time be time in the car. It doesn’t necessarily have to be– I mean we’ve all survived without TVs in the car. I certainly have survived without a TV in the car. What I really loved is that when I was in the car, there was a lot of conversation.
If there wasn’t time for conversation, it was okay to be quiet. For example, if I drove to Florida, there was audiobooks in the car when my parents were driving me to Florida simply because you’re in the car for 20-something hours. From where I was coming, you needed to fill the time with something else. Also, if you have little ones, talk about the things that if they’re really little, I’m talking like two, three, one, talk about the things that you’re doing.
We’re driving down the street, we’re passing trees, we’re passing cars. Talk about the things that are passing them by, and that they’re seeing. If you have older ones, talk about your day. Use a time to make it fun and educational. “Hey, while I’m driving, you tell me a story.” Have them entertain you. Give them that opportunity to talk and tell you about whatever’s coming to mind.
Hey, you have any fun questions? Use it as time to play. If you want to use audiobooks, that’s another great one because they’re still listening and they’re creating these mechanics of visualization and bringing that image to life and they’re watching something without actually watching something. They’re hearing it. That’s a great imaginative play depending on what you’re listening to. For example, Harry Potter. Harry Potter is a phenomenal audiobook.
Will: [laughs] I agree. Are there benefits in terms of speech development and things of that nature, you think, with audiobooks or is that a good question?
Lenora: Absolutely. That’s a great question. Their language is constantly developing. What you might hear is words that come up and they’ll go, “Hey dad, what does convenient mean?’ It’ll give you the opportunity. A, he feels comfortable enough to ask a question because you haven’t created a state that says, “Don’t ask me a question.” They’re asking a question. This is a great thing. They’re giving you an opportunity to be the educator, and then you can explain it. What’s convenient for you. Then you give an example of how it is in their life.
Then, a couple of days later, “Hey, you remember that cool word that we learned the other day?” If you make it fun, if you look at it as just a play and not a task that you have to do, it’s something you get to do. You get to be a parent, that’s awesome. You get to educate this person that’s in your life, and they’re looking to you. Wow. You are the ultimate of the ultimate superhero to them, and you always will be. Enjoy that and have fun with it. As long as you can make it fun, you’re golden.
Will: I love that. That’s a great message to close on, Lenora, and really an interesting podcast for me. I’m excited to re-listen to this one. What closing thoughts do you have, if any, for us about Better Speech or therapy and being parents?
Lenora: This podcast was great. Thank you so much for having me. Could not agree more. When it comes to if you have a little one that may need speech therapy services, absolutely reach out to us at betterspeech.com. We are there. We are absolutely thrilled to offer any servicing care that we can in any way. We’re incredibly affordable. If you wanted to just see how they were doing, we’re only $80 per session, which is way cheaper than a co-pay of any sort.
You don’t have to get in the car. You don’t have to make it a two-hour expedition. It’s so incredibly convenient. If we do recommend speech therapy services, as I said earlier, it’s up to you as the parent of the guardian to determine if you want to go with Better Speech specifically. Our monthly rate is only $260 a month. That’s another great thing because again, it’s still cheaper than a deductible.
Sometimes you’re going to these clinics and their deductibles are $100 every visit. Two times a week, or one time a week, that can get pricey. We’re still affordable and clearly convenient by comparison. A lot of people do ask if we accept insurance. What we do is we provide you with a super bill. You can actually work directly with your insurance company, which I think is great. That way, you have a better understanding of your coverage, and you can ensure that your services are provided and covered. My favorite thing about betterspeech.com is the practice library, that we’re able to give you things to do apart from speech therapy. The parents are there, they’re engaged. It’s not like sending them to school or to a room that you don’t get to be a part of it. You’re a part of it with us, and that’s a great thing.
Will: I mean the whole service, I really like a lot. I haven’t used it, but just in terms of what you’re offering, in terms of, being interactive and virtual and affordable. Those are all really important. Parents don’t have a lot of time. We often don’t have a ton of money either. It’s really nice. Then it’s hard to get your kids to learn sometimes, to do your reading, to do your X, Y or Z. To your point, there’s interactive games. It makes them more fun.
Will: I love that. Whatever. You said there’s a free-
Lenora: Free consultation.
Will: – consultation, right?
Lenora: Yes. We have resources on our website. I’m sure they’ll be attached here and they’ll link you any way that we can. Thank you so very much, Will.
Will: Well, that is awesome. Thanks again, Lenora. I’m very happy you joined us. Looking forward to talking again soon.
Lenora: Stay well. Thanks.