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More than 5 million children in the United States have a speech, language or hearing disorder, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
And early diagnosis is a key factor when it comes to treating youngsters with such disorders, explained Dr. Nancy Polow, a speech-language pathologist and founder of Suburban Speech Center on Morris Turnpike. Today the center’s pathologists treat children as young as 1 year old. Children previously came to the institution at 2 1/2 or 3 years old, according to Polow.
“There is more public awareness nowadays, especially since the rise of autism and apraxia,” said Polow. “Many children that are diagnosed early will be able to attend a regular kindergarten placement.”
The Suburban Speech Center is located on Morris Turnpike. Before then, it was in South Orange. The institution has provided help to children for 35 years. Recently, the institution held an event to celebrate its 35th year in business and its 14th year in Millburn.
The Suburban Speech Center treats children with severe speech and/or language disorders, apraxia, autism, articulation disorders and auditory processing disorders. The 12 therapists on staff work with these youngsters on an individualized basis. Parents and caregivers also learn how to work with their children on overcoming their language and/or speech impediments.
Polow said the Suburban Speech Center uses a “total approach” when working with their customers in which learning consultants and physical, occupational and behavioral therapists regularly meet with each other regarding a child’s disorder.
And with the help of modern-day technology, children can practice what they learn at home. Suburban Speech staff members give parents and caregivers a list of speech- and language-related games for the youngsters to play on an iPad. Children may also watch interactive DVDs and home videos which are provided to them by the speech center in their spare time.
One of these DVDs, “Babies and Boomers,” is designed so children can sing and dance to music with their grandparents.
“We’re noticing more and more grandparents bringing their grandchildren in for therapy,” noted Polow.
According to Polow, the center is also known for inviting experts in from around the nation to work with the staff and children. Nancy Kaufman, an apraxia expert from Michigan and Lois Heyman, an auditory processing disorder specialist who has worked with television personality Rosie O’Donnell’s son, are among some of these visitors.
To raise public awareness about language and speech disorders, the Suburban Speech Center offers free screenings at more than 250 local nursery schools.
“Parents want to be reassured,” said Polow. “We can give them suggestions about ways to work with their children at the time of the screening.”