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This episode of All About Kids features a speech therapist who used pandemic as a springboard to establishing the practice of her dreams – and ahead of schedule! Out on maternity leave from her job at a hospital, Abbie Lande took the opportunity in early 2020 to do her homework and leverage online resources to launch Upword Therapy in Carmel, IN. She explains to Host Zach Grossfeld what resources she tapped to set up systems, learn about teletherapy and engage with clients. She also quickly took to the world of social media, in the process creating community not only among the families she worked with but also with fellow speech pathologists across geographies. “I found (it) to be a blessing and very, very helpful,” says Abbie. You’ll learn about what drew Abbie, one of a whole family tree full of educators, to speech therapy in particular; some of the useful digital tools she deployed in establishing Upword Therapy; whether or not the “wait and see” approach is recommended for late talkers; and how to make peace with that modern-day albatross: Screen Time. You won’t want to miss this informative conversation with a young speech therapist who has ideas to share and energy to spare! 

  1. Abbie starts the conversation with reflections on her path to becoming a speech therapist.
    1. (2:00) Abbie comes from a long line of educators in the Midwest, where at a young age she shadowed her mom in the classroom and learned that multiple young kids were not going to be her sweet spot.
    2. (2:30) A high school experience shadowing an elementary school speech therapist cemented Abbie’s future course. “I just loved it and was so drawn to having that individualized time with one kid or a small group.” (Abbie) There was no turning back!
  2. About changes in the therapy industry as a result of pandemic, including a shift to digital practices:
    1. (4:50) Abbie had never done a single teletherapy session prior to Covid19, so she had to adapt as part of a wholesale shift that included integrating (and leveraging) social media resources and other online management tools.
    2. (6:30) “Therapy as a whole on social media has grown immensely since the pandemic started.” (Abbie)
  3. How Abbie navigated launching her practice in the midst of Covid19.
    1. (7:30) As pandemic descended, Abbie was on maternity leave and decided the time was right to leave her job at a hospital to start the private practice she’d always envisioned for herself. 
    2. (8:30) The first year was about getting educated and getting her bearings:
      1. A lot of online research into how to establish a private practice.
      2. Figuring out the world of teletherapy and how it works.
      3. Enrolling in courses to learn how to create a website, create HIPPA-compliant systems and incorporate social media.
    3. (9:45) Abbie’s social media profile started out modestly, with a few posts here or a reel there. The positive response was immediate, and positive.
    4. (10:55) Social media has been a great way to cultivate community not only with families but also with fellow speech therapists.
    5. (11:37) “We started our podcast and chopped out these 30-second reels and hundreds of people viewed them – sometimes thousands, depending on the topic … It’s cool to see speech therapy entering the realm of TikTok-able content.” (Zach)
    6. (13:10) Talk of the Town: The CDC altered speech therapy guidelines recently, which has inspired Abbie to create content around modifications to milestones that have been controversial.
  4. Do you have concerns about whether your child’s is on track?
    1. (17:10) If there’s a concern, Abbie advises erring on the side of getting kids evaluated. Better to assess and be sure than risk delaying necessary intervention.
    2. (18:06) What exactly defines a so-called late talker? 
      1. The issue generally emerges between 18 and 30 months.
      2. Late talkers may understand and follow what’s being said and acquire typical social skills. They just aren’t expressing themselves.
      3. It’s important to educate parents to the range of sounds that qualify as words in early stages. 
    3. (19:30) General targets for on-track speech acquisition:
      1. Age 1: About 2-6 words.
      2. By 18 months: About 50 words.
      3. By 2: About 200 words with two-word combinations.
    4. (20:30) Forms of communication that are valid, even if they aren’t entirely verbal, include whining, crying and otherwise expressing needs or emotions.
    5. (21:24) Personality and temperament can somewhat influence word acquisition, “but at the end of the day kids want to communicate with us – tell us their thoughts and ideas. So if they’re not doing that we need to figure out what is impacting their ability to do so.” (Abbie)
    6. (24:00) Bilingual kids may experience some delay, but Abbie encourages parents to keep using both languages. Speech may take a little longer to kick in, but she doesn’t consider it a delay so much as processing information.
  5. The “Wait and See” Approach: Is it the way to go?
    1. (26:10) Abbie explains some of the factors she considers when advising parents to have their child further evaluated.
    2. (27:41) There’s more risk in waiting when the hint of a red flag emerges, since early intervention can be key to getting back on track as seamlessly as possible. Abbie urges parents to go with their gut and advocate where necessary.
    3. (28:18) “It’s crazy to think about the window of time when you’re one, two, three years old and how much a little slice of time makes a difference in your larger window of development.” (Zach)
    4. (30:25) Abbie provides an example of what a difference it can make to educate parents to cues and small things that can make a huge difference in early language acquisition. “Being able to help them recognize those things and get started right away is always great.” (Abbie)
    5. (31:40) Advice for parents who believe the statistics are on their side and a “wait and see” approach is indicated: Think twice. The other side of the ledger offers statistics that argue for early intervention as a defense against not only late speech but also stress at home and other lags in development.
  6. Abbie shares some of her play-based strategies for late talkers.
    1. (34:18) All of Abbie’s methods start with – and revolve around –the child’s needs and what is age appropriate. She piggybacks onto their lead!
    2. (35:20) “So much of traditional education in the classroom is not the go-with-the-flow approach. If you’re not tunnel-visioned on this textbook reading or the PowerPoint, you are punished or looked down upon.” (Zach)
    3. (36:20) Honoring and building upon a child’s interests fosters a sense of safety and engenders more engagement and learning.
  7. Are there rules of thumb to consider when it comes to digital diets?
    1. (38:26) Being a new parent herself has reshaped some of Abbie’s opinions and approaches to screen time. She has learned:
      1. It can be a constructive, collaborative time between parent and child.
      2. “By sitting with them and talking about things, pausing and answering questions, you’re still providing that new language and vocabulary.” (Abbie)
      3. Interactions around screens – turning something off or on – can be used as an opportunity for verbal interaction.
    2. (39:55) While screen time doesn’t have to be all bad, it can easily devolve into being a crutch – a crutch that at times is 100% necessary for parents with other demands on their time! 
    3. (40:50) Abbie doesn’t advocate for any fixed amount of screen time, focusing instead on quality of content and easing all-around anxiety about the issue.
    4. (42:50) “It’s all about the source and the content itself rather than the medium, because you can rot your brain watching something, listening to something or reading something … So I’m just gravitating towards exciting content, whatever the medium, rather than giving myself these hard lines.” (Zach)

About Abbie:

Abbie is a speech and language pathologist in Carmel, IN, and the surrounding areas. She is a dedicated individual with a passion to provide therapeutic services to the pediatric population, having worked within several therapy settings, including outpatient, hospital, schools, and developmental preschool. Abbie’s  professional areas of interest include, but are not limited to, Autism, early intervention and Childhood Apraxia of Speech. She has a passion for working with children and families to help them reach their fullest potential in order to communicate effectively. 

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About All About Kids:

AAK provides diagnostic evaluations as well as direct and consultative behavioral intervention services to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. After comprehensive assessment, each child has a portfolio or program book designed specifically to meet his or her individualized needs. The quality of our ABA services are closely monitored through program and field supervision as well as ongoing consultation by BCBA’s/BCaBA’s, and Experienced Team Leaders. 

Click here for a link to comprehensive educational and support resources. Previous podcast episodes and more information about All About Kids is available here.


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