Speech pathologist Gina-Marie Principe’s program to help kids with their speech and language skills doesn’t take place in a classroom or clinic…but in the park!
Principe, a speech language pathologist at P.S. 9 in Concord, created Roar with Speech to give kids ages 3-7 tips and tricks for improving their speech and language abilities in a fun and interactive way. It takes place in the South Shore’s Bloomingdale Park and is centered around a dinosaur theme. (After all, what kid doesn’t like dinosaurs?!)
“Roar with Speech is an opportunity to have children come together in a naturalistic environment with the benefits of fresh air, nature, and friends to increase their overall speech and language skills with the support of a speech and language pathologist,” Principe says.
Roar with Speech: Dinos Helping Kids Gain Speech Skills
The program gets kids moving and interacting with others in a fun and relaxed environment. First, each child gets an adorable dinosaur shirt to wear (there’s a T. rex on it). Then, Principe takes the kids on a quest to find dinosaur eggs along paths in the park. Using a map, they search for the eggs, point to the ones they see, and describe them. Then, everyone celebrates with a story time session once all the eggs have been found.
This playtime interaction is not only fun for kids. It’s a great early-intervention tool for children diagnosed with speech or language disorders. Since children learn language by listening to others speak, Principe will talk to the kids about dinosaurs and the eggs they find and point to. Pointing at something can be difficult for a child with a speech or language disorder. The inability to point is sometimes seen in children with autism spectrum disorder and other conditions that can result in speech or language issues such as cerebral palsy, sensory integration disorder, among others.
“People take it for granted, but the action of pointing is so important as a form of communicative intent,” Principe says. “It seems so basic, but sometimes parents don’t even realize how important pointing really is.”
A speech pathologist for eight years, Principe started Roar with Speech in July. Although there is no set schedule for the program, parents and Principe discuss when to meet next in the Facebook group she manages, Your Neighborhood SLP. Usually, they meet once a month on Saturday mornings.
A Support Network for Parents of Kids with Speech Disabilities
In addition to being a learning and development opportunity for kids, Roar with Speech serves as a support network for parents of children with speech disabilities. While the kids participate in the dinosaur activity, parents have an opportunity to share with each other things they might have in common.
“I want parents to know that they’re not alone. We can build a safe community for parents and guardians where they can ask any questions they might have.”
One thing parents should know: Speech and language disabilities are pretty common in children. Nearly 1 in 12 children ages 3-17 have a disorder related to voice, speech, language, or swallowing, according to the National Institute of Health.
For Principe, Roar with Speech is a labor love—a way for her to utilize her expertise to help others. There’s no fee to join the program, and it’s open to children diagnosed with a speech or language disorder and their parents.
Helping children is one of her greatest passions, Principe says. She feels fulfilled knowing parents trust her to help their child find their voice.
“I feel very honored to do the work that I do,” Principe says. “When you work with families during early intervention, they become your family. You build bonds with them and very much want to give them help and support.”