Living Well: Pediatric speech-language therapist joins MRH team |

Living Well: Pediatric speech-language therapist joins MRH team

Memorial Regional Health staff/For Craig Press

Memorial Regional Health is thrilled to bring pediatric speech-language therapy to the area — a service which, outside the school disrict, has not been offered on a regular basis. Having speech-language therapy for kids in town will save parents trips to neighboring towns.

"This is a unique opportunity, and I'm happy to be here so I can save families the drive," said Jenna Harrison, M.A., CF-SLP, MRH speech-language pathologist.

Harrison was born and raised in Craig, and her parents still live here. She attended Fort Lewis College in Durango and completed her graduate studies at University of Northern Colorado. After graduating, she and her husband wanted to return to Craig, where she knew she could make a difference.

"There are two common sayings in the field, which say: "Everybody deserves a voice" and "The limits of my language are the limits of my world." It's these ideas that inspired me to get into speech-language services, because I believe every child deserves a chance to find their voice," Harrison said.

Understanding the need

There are a variety of reasons kids might need speech-language therapy. Some include not meeting speech-language milestones, such as babbling or saying their first word in the first year of life. Others are not being able to understand your child or hearing him or her make significant grammatical errors. Kids with learning or intellectual disabilities also often benefit from speech-language therapy, as do those with traumatic or acquired brain injuries, among others.

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Red flags

"When it comes to being able to understand your child, consider the "Rule of 4" for kids age 4 and younger. If they are 4, you should understand about 100 percent. If they are 3, 75 percent; 2, 50 percent; and 1, 25 percent," Harrison said.

But, if your 4-year-old still hasn't mastered the "r" sound, don't fret. This can take until age 8. Harrison says the range of normal is huge when it comes to speech and language.

A more telling warning sign is if your child is still making significant grammatical errors, especially pronoun or past-tense, when he or she is in kindergarten — for example, saying, "Him is a nice person," or "I want to goed to the store." If you are seeing this, you may want to get your child evaluated.

Early care makes big difference

It's important to get help early if you or your child's doctor suspects speech-language problems. If they receive therapy as infants or toddlers, they have a much better chance to catch up to their peers before school starts, compared to waiting for school. If you suspect speech-language issues, talk with your doctor about a referral for a speech-language evaluation.

"The sooner we start addressing those concerns, the better. We can help kids catch up before school starts, because once they start school and fall behind, the gap between them and their peers widens exponentially with each passing year," Harrison said.

Harrison works with children from birth to age 18 and will work closely with the school district to ensure continuity of care. Most insurance plans, including Medicaid, cover both testing and therapy for speech-language disorders.

Harrison is available for appointments from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. To learn more about pediatric speech-language services at Memorial Regional Health, call 970-824-5992.