This year House of Knowledge has added a resident speech therapist to their staff. Originally from Germany, Sophie Horn speaks German, English, and Dutch. Horn offers consultations in English and German, from Monday to Friday, at both HoK campuses, and is available to work with students, adults and families from HoK, as well as the general public. In addition to conducting private speech therapy, Horn spends several hours per week in the classroom working with our children and teachers. Horn also holds regular workshops and seminars for parents, caregivers and educators.
How did you become interested in speech therapy?
I always wanted to help people, especially children. I chose a therapeutic setting because I wanted to be able to help people face-to-face. It’s been the perfect choice.
What does a speech therapist do?
We deal with all sorts of speech and language related problems: forming sounds properly, word finding difficulties, stuttering, children with hearing difficulties, grammar issues, children who can’t move their facial muscles properly, and also adults who are suffering from brain injuries after strokes or other injuries which cause them to experience language problems. Stuttering is common across languages, and for German, it’s very typical to form the “s” sound incorrectly.
How long does speech therapy take?
I usually recommend a program of ten sessions once a week, so all in all around three months on average. Some problems are harder to address and may take longer.
How do you screen or assess a child?
The first screening is about getting to know the child and assessing their spontaneous speech. While playing a game or looking at pictures I will pay attention to the different aspects of speech (sounds, words, grammar) and get a first impression what the child’s specific problem is. Then I can administer standardized tests to confirm my suspicions.
Do children ever grow out of speech problems?
Some children grow out of some problems, maybe – for example stuttering. Many children start to stutter at a certain point in life, usually when they start using longer sentences. For most of them the problem resolves itself after a few weeks. If it persists, diagnosis and treatment is recommended.
When should parents tackle speech problems?
Parents should tackle speech problems as soon as they think their child has a problem. Along with consulting their family doctor, they should also talk to the child’s Kindergarten teacher. However the best time to begin a medical or therapeutic intervention differs from difficulty to difficulty: You can start therapy for hearing difficulties with a Cochlear Implant (hearing aid for the inner ear) at six months, but we don’t address a malformed German “sch” sound until five years of age.
How can parents support their children during speech therapy?
I get the parents involved through homework. For some therapies it is necessary to practice every day. It’s best not to pressure the child by training every free minute. Just make a routine and take five minutes per day, for example before brushing teeth, to go over the exercises.
Does speech impairment cause other difficulties in school?
Children are usually very tolerant toward each other and their communication skills are sometimes much better than those of adults. If the child is hard to understand they might become lost in a group. And children who have language impairment pre-school, are more likely to have difficulties with learning how to read and write in school.
How do you work with deaf children?
I usually work with children that have been fitted with a hearing aid. As soon as they are able to hear their first sounds, I start work with them. For example I play with a toy the child is interested in, and when they use their voice to signal they want it, they get the toy. This way the child learns that their voice has meaning. They need frequent reinforcement, so I comment on everything they do.
How can people outside the school avail of your services?
People outside school can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Once they have a doctor’s referral we can make an appointment and start therapy. The costs are generally covered by the parent at the time of treatment and reimbursable through your health insurance.
Photos courtesy of House of Knowledge