Speech Therapy Begins at College Avenue Preschool

The Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus

JCC preschoolers with speech or language delays now need only to walk down the hall at the Early Childhood Education site on College Avenue to meet their speech therapist. Weekly speech therapy sessions are being offered during preschool hours, taking the stress out of managing yet another activity in an otherwise busy schedule for parents.

Services like these set the JCC apart from other preschools where early intervention therapies are not typically offered on-site. The speech therapy partnership is just another one of the many benefits the JCC offers for preschoolers and their families.

The JCC preschool recently began a partnership with Columbus Speech and Hearing to offer on-site speech therapy services to enrolled families. JCC Early Childhood Director Nikki Henry and Early Intervention Specialist Shara Reiss have been working with Columbus Speech and Hearing over the past year to develop a plan and implement the new program. “We’ve always had a great relationship with Columbus Speech and Hearing and they were very agreeable to the idea of partnering like this. It is just amazing that we are able to offer such a convenient service for our preschool families,” said Nikki Henry.

Shara Reiss elaborated on what makes this offering so special. “We are taking all the inconvenience out of the process for parents. We are simplifying things so that kids can get the therapy they need in a familiar setting. The kids feel at home here, so it just makes it an easy, anxiety-free experience for them,” she said.

Ericka Amabile, a preschool teacher at the JCC for over seven years, sends her own son, 20-month-old Connor, to the speech therapy that began being offered at the College Avenue location on Monday, January 14. “My experience so far has been extremely positive. As a busy, working mom, it’s such a relief to have the benefit of Columbus Speech & Hearing come to my son’s preschool. Not only do they provide services for the children but they also provide activities and information to the families about how they can help their child at home—all right here at the JCC!”

Each fall, Columbus Speech and Hearing specialists visit the JCC to conduct speech and hearing screenings with preschool children. Once a child has been recommended to seek speech therapy, Reiss said families will then be given the option to pursue speech therapy sessions at the JCC, following an initial evaluation at Columbus Speech and Hearing’s Clintonville location at 510 E. North Broadway.

Right now, the partnership is in the pilot stages, said Reiss. If the program is successful, Reiss hopes that by next school year, the program can expand to all three preschool sites and potentially include occupational therapy services.

Five families have already begun the speech therapy sessions, and five more are in the evaluation process with hopes to begin the sessions soon. Sessions are offered each Monday and are 30 minutes long, including a discussion with both parents and teachers about exercises and in-classroom and in-home changes that can be made to adapt to each child’s individual needs. Suggestions and paperwork are sent home with the children, and the therapist follows up with parents that day to report the child’s progress by phone.

“The best part of this is that our therapist is able to communicate with the teachers immediately afterwards. Normally, they aren’t able to have that direct line of communication between the therapist and teacher, especially not on a weekly basis. That is information the teacher may never have received before,” said Reiss. Jen Withee, a 1994 graduate from Northwestern University with an M.A. in speech language pathology, conducts the speech therapy sessions. She brings 13 years of experience with her to the College Avenue JCC where she truly enjoys working with children and families to overcome obstacles in speech and language development. She has worked with children at the Columbus Speech and Hearing Center for more than four years and also taught the Parent-Tot program at Congregation Beth Tikvah for six years.

For parents considering speech therapy, or any other early intervention, services like these which make the whole process seamless can be extremely beneficial. Parent and teacher Ericka Amabile noted, “Early intervention is so important and speech is something simple that can be very helpful to children who need it.”

If you are interested in learning more about early intervention services at the JCC, please contact Shara Reiss, LISW at 231-2731, ext. 363, or sreiss@columbusjcc.org, for more information.