Marissa Siegel - Children's Book Author and Speech Therapist - Ask Me Anything

Marissa Siegel
Mar 4, 2018

I'm a new author with my first children's book, Sammy Goes to Speech. Inspired by the families I have worked with, I created this inspiring story for little ones going to speech therapy for the first time. What do you want to know about my life as a speech-language pathologist, my venture into self-publishing and my decision to write? Ask me anything!

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Do you believe that you can make a change in the learning trajectory for a child facing speech issues even without parent involvement?
Mar 10, 9:00AM EST0
Do you have kids? If so, do you read your books to them?
Mar 9, 3:55AM EST0

I don't have children of my own (unless you count the four-legged kind!). If I did, I would read to them all the time! Reading to children is such a smart move to not only increase their literacy skills, but to encourage language development and academic success.

I remember when I was younger, my parents would read to me and let me read to them all the time. I have fond memories of getting to pick out a book and my father reading bedtime stories in a very animated fashion to both my sisters and I.

Mar 9, 12:45PM EST0
What do you think the current events/issues are in speech-language pathology.
Mar 8, 10:35PM EST0

A big one is therapy caps for insurance. Congress just recently repealed medicare limits on therapy. The limits were not even just for speech therapy, it was for occupational therapy and physical therapy as well. We've been fighting for this for a long time, and it's finally repealed!

Another big one is the rise of telepractice. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)  determined it was an appropriate service delivery model back in 2005 for speech therapists and audiologists, but as a community, I feel we are all still trying to wrap our heads around how best to implement it. I know it has been successful for many students and practitioners, especially in more rural or underserved areas. It will be interesting to see the trends moving forward!

Mar 9, 12:40PM EST0
What’s your philosophy for serving preschool students for speech/language?
Mar 8, 3:30PM EST0
Are you already working on new books? Do you plan on writing books for adults in the future?
Mar 5, 1:41PM EST0

I actually wrote this book with the intent to have it as the first book in a series. I have some ideas fleshed out for further books on various communication disorders with a similar leaning. I can't wait to start the next one!

Mar 5, 8:19PM EST0
Is there a way for a parent to conduct speech therapy for their own child at home?
Mar 5, 1:41PM EST0

As a licensed professional, I do not recommend parents conducting speech therapy at home without the guidance of a speech-language pathologist. Once speech therapy starts, the speech therapist can make recommendations on how a child can work on skills at home in collaboration with the professional working with them.

I feel that this is parallel to asking a doctor if a parent can diagnose and perform medical procedures at home. There is a reason professionals are sought out and recommended. They go to school to learn and become experts in their field.

Mar 5, 8:18PM EST0
How does a parent know that a child requires speech therapy?
Mar 5, 1:20PM EST0

Typically, I tell parents to trust their gut. If they feel like their child might be behind other children with their communication development, reach out to a speech-language pathologist. They can give recommendations if any next steps are needed.

Mar 5, 8:13PM EST0
Is your book only for kids or would you recommend it for parents too?
Mar 5, 1:06PM EST0

My book is for parents to read to children and talk about together. There are parent tips and activity ideas at the end to encourage communication development.

Mar 5, 8:12PM EST0
What are some of the most conditions or issues kids have that make their parents take them to therapy?
Mar 5, 10:18AM EST0

Three of the most common ones I see are articulation disorders, language disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.

Mar 5, 8:11PM EST0
Do you have any prior experience in writing, if so what else have you written and if not, what about the writing and creative process did you find to be most demanding and why?
Mar 4, 10:38PM EST0

I do have prior experience in writing. Most of my experience is in writing evaluation reports from the speech therapy side of things. I have dabbled in copywriting recently as well in a variety of niches. This is my very first children's book and is my favorite piece of writing so far!

I suppose the most demanding part of the process was not the writing or creative process, but simply having to look up everything as part of the process- how to find an illustrator, what things typically cost, what platforms I could even publish with, or even how to make my book available for sale. I don't personally know anyone who has written a book and had it published, so I had to do quite a bit of research about the process to inform any decisions I made.

Mar 4, 11:02PM EST0
If you had to choose a cartoon character that was similar to you, who would you choose and why?
Mar 4, 9:52PM EST0

Hmmm, Velma from Scooby Doo! A bit of a geek, but loveable. We definitely have the same glasses. I also get to work with my dog while I'm writing! He's no scooby doo, but he is pretty goofy. I loved this question!

Mar 4, 10:01PM EST0
What are some of your suggestions for the types of activities a parent can do with their child in between therapy sessions, and do these activities help or slow down the therapy process if not carried out exactly?
Mar 4, 9:04PM EST0

Parents can do so much in between therapy sessions! Therapy is a partnership and is most successful when all parties are working towards the same goals. ASHA has some wonderful tips for children of various ages to encourage their communication development.

Even more beneficial for a parent would be talking with their child's therapist about the goals they are working towards for specific tips and activities for individualized progress. If a therapy technique used in therapy is highly technical and specialised to the point that a parent may not feel confident replicating it at home, the therapist could provide other suggestions of things to work on that could still be beneficial.

More often than not, a parent's involvement and focus on their child's communication skills at home is one of the most beneficial things they can do. In my experience, children progress noticeably faster when their parents are involved and practice new skills at home.

Mar 4, 9:32PM EST0
Is it possible for a parent to observe their child’s sessions with a therapist, if so what are the best ways to observe the techniques without the parent becoming a distraction or obstacle to the therapy session?
Mar 4, 8:32PM EST0

That is really up to you and the therapist who is treating. Often, it is very beneficial to have a parent observe and even participate in activities. This could look differently depending on the environment, the therapist, the type of therapy, and how the child reacts. The parent could sit and observe from the side all the way up to the therapist coaching the parent to provide the therapy. However, sometimes, it can be more of a hindrance to progress. I would make it a discussion between the parent and the therapist to come to a decision for what works best for the child.

Last edited @ Mar 4, 8:59PM EST.
Mar 4, 8:58PM EST0
What are some of the formal assessment tools that you have used to evaluate cognitive patients?
Mar 4, 8:19PM EST0

Oh man, it's been a long time since I evaluated cognitive patients. I now work solely with children in the public schools. Our school psychologists are the ones who do the cognitive evals in this setting. I used to use the Scales of Cognitive Ability for Traumatic Brain Injury when I worked with adults in my internship. I'm sure cognitive evaluations have come a long way since the last time I did one!

Mar 4, 8:54PM EST0

What are some of the methods of evaluation a speech therapist can use in order to measure their success with a patient?

Mar 4, 3:58PM EST0

Great question! This is what therapy is all about- treating and measuring success with a patient every time you see them.

Firstly, make sure you have a thorough, appropriate evaluation. Base your goals on the patient's areas of need and take clear baselines. Based on those baselines, success is measured every single time you see a patient. Are they making progress? What is the rate of progress? Is it appropriate given their diagnosis and prognosis? You can think about all of these things.

Of course, it isn't all about the goals and numbers, it's about communicating how things are going with the patient and their communication team as well.

Patient satisfaction is also important. Checking in with your patient to see how things are going and their perspective of how successful therapy is can be a helpful tool and can inform your treatment. There are formal and informal measures available for this area as well. Carol M. Frattali has a great article about measuring client satisfaction. Check it out.

Mar 4, 5:08PM EST0
In your experience, what are the steps one should take when conducting a quantitative evaluation and a qualitative evaluation and why do believe that this is the most effective method to use?
Mar 4, 3:48PM EST0

As this is a more technical question, I will refer you to some work on this topic by Marilee J. Bresciani, Megan Moore Gardner, and Jessica Hickmott here.

Mar 4, 5:20PM EST0
What are some of the recent trends in speech pathology and which one of these do you think is important?
Mar 4, 1:50PM EST0

One of the most important and growing trends I see is education directed to the public about communication disorders. Advocacy for the field of speech-language pathology goes hand in hand with this.

Education about limiting screen time for younger children and the impact of screen time on communication development is hugely important right now given the widespread technology use in our society.

Mar 4, 2:05PM EST0
What are some of the communication disorders you have worked with, and which do you consider to be the most difficult to treat and why?
Mar 4, 12:38PM EST0

I have worked with so many! To name a few- apraxia of speech, speech sound disorders, language disorders, autism spectrum disorders, language delays, fluency disorders, voice disorders, aphasia, swallowing disorders, pragmatic language disorders, etc.

Having worked in a private practice, home settings, and the school setting, as well as having experienced internships working with both adults and children- I have worked with too many diagnoses to count!

To me, there is not a particular disorder that is harder to treat. It is the circumstances and factors involved that make it harder to treat. For example, it is more difficult to treat a child when there is not a supportive, involved communication team in place. There has to be support, education, and collaboration from parents, caregivers, teachers, and all members of a team to have the most success.

However, I suppose that since I have the most experience with children, communication disorders in adults would be harder for me to jump back into. I would certainly have to brush up my skills!

Mar 4, 2:15PM EST0
What is the difference between an articulation disorder and a phonological disorder?
Mar 4, 8:25AM EST0

To me, this is more a difference in approach based on a person's pattern of errors. ASHA spells it out nicely: "Articulation approaches target each sound deviation and are often selected by the clinician when the child's errors are assumed to be motor-based; the aim is correct production of the target sound(s). Phonological approaches target a group of sounds with similar error patterns, although the actual treatment of exemplars of the error pattern may target individual sounds. Phonological approaches are often selected in an effort to help the child internalize phonological rules and generalize these rules to other sounds within the pattern (e.g., final consonant deletion, cluster reduction). Both approaches might be used in therapy with the same individual at different times or for different reasons."

If you'd like to know more, check out ASHA's page on speech sound disorders.

Mar 4, 10:55AM EST0
What was your favourite food as a child and do you still enjoy it today?
Mar 4, 12:52AM EST0

Great question! I'd have to say any kind of pasta- the cheesier the better! I definitely still enjoy it to this day.

Mar 4, 10:56AM EST0
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