Walking into a kindergarten classroom sometimes makes ears ring and head ache. Most kids jabber about their favorite TV show or cartoon. They collect all their toys and reenact shows with cars and dolls.
Most kids favor the question, “Why?”
Why is the sky blue? Why does the dishwasher make that noise? Why can’t that little girl speak as clearly as I can?
Most kids talk as loudly and freely as they please. Others who cannot find that ease may work with specialists at the Walker Scottish Rite Clinic, where the unusual goal is to let children make their ears ring.
Walker Scottish Rite Clinic, a nonprofit charity, specializes in speech and language therapy for children between ages of 2 and 6 years.
The clinic works in a professional partnership with Maryville University to improve speech sound and language issues. They also help a child improve their understanding of other people’s speech and gathering their own thoughts.
“We’ve come to see parents who went through the clinic, bringing their children to the clinic,” director Jacob Gutshall said. “It’s really neat. You can see the difference the clinic can make when they’re little, so that they can be successful in the future.”
Walker Scottish Rite Clinic has received support from Old Newsboys for several years, recently providing funds for assessment testing, speech and language therapy equipment, toys and games. According to Gutshall, therapists use these items for interaction.
“It’s unique and it’s beneficial because (Old Newsboys) provides the materials you need to engage or test children,” Gutshall said. “They do a really great job at allocating funds. You get to create a wish list and hopefully it comes true.”
The clinic uses simple techniques to improve children’s speech and social interactions. Therapists teach social situations like bath time and taking turns. They also teach kids how to rethink how they speak and correct misunderstood language.
While their child is with a therapist, parents are also with specialists who teach them techniques to extend the lesson at home.
“As adults, we tend to try to answer for people,” said Cherisse Osorio, a mother who has used services since January 2017. “I learned that, with children, you can’t do that. It takes their mind a little longer to get their thoughts together. Taking that time to have them take that time to think and gather what they want to say, instead of responding and answering for them, helps them tremendously. It’s taught us to pause, to listen and wait.”
Osorio's daughter, Danielle, 5, has attended sessions since last year and her brother, Christian, age 2, started receiving services this fall. Cherisse noticed huge improvement in Danielle's speech.
“She is different,” Cherisse said. “It’s brought up her self-esteem. Even if there are words she has trouble with, she recognizes it. You can literally see her take a step back and pronounce the word so that somebody can understand her. That was a pretty quick turn-around for once-a-week for 45 minutes.”
Each Walker Scottish Rite Clinic location helps dozens of families.
“A lot of time the kids are withdrawn at first,” director Gutshall said. “They don’t say a lot. It’s neat to watch them come out of their shell. They’re confident, they talk to you, they come up and give you a high five. They have a whole different demeanor now that they can speak clearly and people can interact with them.”