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Better Hearing & Speech Month Puts Spotlight on Early Need for Speech Therapy

When you sit down with Katie Antinoro, a Speech Language Pathologist at Rochester Hearing & Speech Center, her love for working with her co-workers becomes obvious. By co-workers, she is jokingly referring to the two-and-a-half to five year-old children who she considers herself lucky to have spent her days with. “They’re who I’ve always interacted with,” she explains. Now as the Manager of Preschool Special Education Evaluations, her joy for this hard but rewarding work is what has kept her here at RHSC for almost 20 years. Antinoro now does evaluations, manages the RHSC evaluation team, attends Preschool Special Education meetings with school districts and continues to do some therapy.

The need for Speech Language Therapy children under 5 years old is often overlooked, and it's sometimes not until preschool or later that children are identified as needing or are able to get this service. However, this age is when they are most ready to learn language and begin to express their wants and needs. According to Antinoro, “in addition to being an appropriate time for their brain development, this is when children need to reach expected communication milestones to prepare for preschool and kindergarten.”

A teacher working with a young student
Katie Antinoro working with one of the children in our Early Intervention Developmental Groups.

A common misunderstanding is what Speech-Language Therapy focuses on. It is often believed to be only about articulation and producing sounds correctly, when in reality, children are being taught to understand language, follow directions, use more vocabulary, put sentences together and express themselves, allowing them to interact with those around them and experience less frustration. Part of the challenge for pediatric SLPs is to make the work feel more like play to effectively help children to build these crucial skills. There is a lot of paperwork and prep work with this job, and setting goals when working with children is essential.

For those children who are not able to express themselves verbally, therapists may start with teaching them to sign, which is easier than using their lips and voice at a young age. They are taught functional signs, such as “more,” “help” and “eat” which act as a bridge between not communicating and using words.

A teacher using sign language with a young student
Signing is an effective way to communicate a child's wants and needs

Antinoro has always known she wanted to do this kind of work with kids. Those moments when she gets to witness the children she works with verbally identify “mommy” or “daddy” stay with her, and she loves the difference she is making with that entire family. Her advice to someone thinking about becoming a Speech Language Pathologist is that it is “very challenging, hard work but rewarding."


One of the best things she likes about her job are the connections and relationships made with her clients and their families. “I remember a lot of my clients for years!,” she remarks. “SLPs in general, including me for sure, are always truly excited to see what their clients can do or say, and we love watching what these children can accomplish through their communication!”

In addition to Speech-Language, RHSC provides Educational and Clinical Services including Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Special Education and Early Intervention Services for children from birth through age five. Learn more by visiting our website!


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