CHARLOTTE MCPHERSON

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CHARLOTTE MCPHERSON
February 25, 2011, Friday

Expat parents: Your child’s speech development

When you choose to move abroad and raise your children in a foreign country, where your mother tongue is not the primary language, you can face many challenges. Facing speech problems is not uncommon. However, when you can seek help in your own country it makes dealing with the problem slightly easier.

The other day I went to see the film “The King’s Speech” starring Colin Firth as King George VI. It was a good mix of biography, drama and history. The film tells the story of the man who became King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth II. After his brother abdicates, George (“Bertie”) reluctantly has to assume the throne. He was plagued by a dreaded stammer and considered unfit to be king. Determined to not be defeated by this speech problem, Bertie engages the help of an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue. Through a set of unexpected techniques, and as a result of an unlikely friendship, Bertie is able to find his voice and boldly lead the country through war.

Coincidently, the day after seeing this film I received the following note from someone. The parent who wrote the note plans to move to Turkey soon. The note asked this heartfelt question: “Hello. Our family is hoping to move to Turkey. … We have three children aged 7, 5 and 2. Our 5-year-old currently receives speech services in the States and it is essential that he continue speech classes. We have currently found no schools that offer speech or any other way straight forward way to continue speech therapy for him. We were wondering if you had any experience or advice about how to get the appropriate services. Thank you for your time. From: N. (USA)”

For every expat parent, if you are concerned for your child’s speech development you need to be able to have access to a speech-language pathologist. The expatwomen.com website notes that a speech-language pathologist can help if someone has one or more of the following concerns:

* Cannot produce speech sounds or cannot produce them clearly;

* Has trouble understanding what is said to them;

* Has trouble producing language and expressing themselves;

* Has difficulty reading;

* Has difficulty writing;

* Stutters;

* Wishes to improve their spoken language by modifying an accent; and/or,

* Has attention, memory and problem-solving difficulties.

Let’s face it, in Turkey finding an affordable, high-quality, English-speaking speech therapist is not easy. It is best to ask for referrals from friends who you trust. Also it is helpful to consult coordinators at international schools. You can also use online services to obtain speech therapy services. The advantage of this is that if you move, often your child’s therapist can move with you virtually, wherever your family might move to next.

Here a few other suggestions from expats in Turkey to find speech therapists here:

* “You may be able to find some assistance through the consulate or the US military base if you are American. Last I heard $35 per half hour was a recommended rate.”

* “Hospitals such as “npistanbul” (neuropsychiatry hospital) offer this service and probably other private hospitals may do so.”

* “Elite private Turkish schools such as ENKA Schools and international schools such as the British International School İstanbul have special educational needs coordinators on staff who can either assist or put you into contact with someone.”

Some expats have shared how they have used Skype and had weekly consultations with a speech therapist for their child and were pleased with the results.

One parent shared how 10 years ago you could not find this type of assistance in Turkey. In the end she got some basic directions from a therapist, material to work with, and finished off the therapy herself over several months.

A few parents have shared that you can find excellent speech pathologist in İstanbul but they are in great demand and can be expensive.

One parent shared advice that she was given, which was, “Your child is having difficulty in his own language, don’t start another one.” The parent shared that they went against this and by the grace of God, her son was treated with patience in a private school and the result is that he finished through fifth grade in Turkish school and now is studying in English in high school and his speech has been completely corrected.

“It takes leadership to confront a nation’s fear. It takes friendship to conquer your own.” (Tagline for “The King’s Speech”)

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