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Speech pathologist helps families navigate language issues

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As a speech language pathologist, Elissa Murnick recommends using playtime to improve speech and language skills in elementary-age children. Murnick, center, is pictured with her children, Kayla Murnick, 7, left, and Hayley Murnick, 10. (David Murnick photo)

Elissa Murnick of Fairfield believes that children learn through doing.

As a speech and language pathologist, treating children and adolescents since 2001, Murnick has learned a thing or two herself in the same manner.

Murnick is certified by the American Speech and Language Association. She maintains a Connecticut Department of Health license.

After working with children in public and private schools on a range of speech and language issues for the last 12 years, she recently opened a private practice, Murnick Speech and Language Associates, in Fairfield.

“I’ve always wanted to establish a practice here,” Murnick said.

Now that her children, ages 7 and 10, are a little older, she decided the timing was right.

“I’ve seen a need for it,” Murnick said.

Murnick graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1997 with a double major in psychology and communications disorders and then, after a lifetime of living in Fairfield, moved to Florida. She received a master of science degree in speech pathology from Nova Southeastern University in 2001 and began working for schools in Florida with children in preschool through middle school.

But Fairfield beckoned and she moved back with her husband and children seven years ago.

“Now I feel like I never left,” she said.

Since returning, she has been working as a speech pathologist in private and public schools in Trumbull with children in preschool through elementary school.

 

Identifying speech and language issues

Murnick said that the biggest hurdle for parents to overcome in seeking an evaluation of their child’s speech and language issues at an early age is fear.

“Some parents get anxious,” Murnick said.

She can help with that.

“I can reassure them,” Murnick said.

There are also parents who might be in denial that an issue exists.

“[Some] say their kids will outgrow it,” Murnick said.

Whatever the situation with a child, her first goal is to give parents the tools to help their child.

“I’m trying to educate parents,” Murnick said. “Help parents know what to do, what to pursue.”

Sometimes problems can be addressed quickly, but sometimes they take a while to work through. Either way, Murnick said it is better to start sooner rather than later.

“There is a need for early intervention,” Murnick said.

 

Treatment is a family affair

In her private practice, Murnick works with parents on what is best for their individual situation.

“I really believe in a family approach,” she said.

Murnick will coach parents on how to help turn therapy sessions into ingrained changes.

“There are so many skills that a parent can be taught that carry over,” she said.

Murnick said that children learn best when they are taught one-on-one but she likes to bring parents in at the end of sessions. The goal is to change patterns and to get children to understand how to right themselves.

“That’s the hardest part,” Murnick said. “Making it permanent, getting them to self-correct.”

And each child is different.

“It’s definitely a process,” Murnick said.

She has seen children go through five treatment steps in one session or get stuck on one that takes longer for them.

One thing she has learned is that correcting speech and language issues for children does not have a set pattern. The approach and progress is individual.

“It’s not medicine with a prescription,” Murnick said.

 

Cost of treatment

Murnick said that she understands financial issues and always tries to work with the best interests of the child and the parents’ finances.

“My goal is to have them done in the shortest amount of sessions,” she said.

She does not do a sliding scale, but Murnick is flexible with scheduling.

“The child could go for a few sessions and I can give parents the tools [to work at home],” Murnick said of an option for parents.

She recognizes that most parents will look first at free treatment provided in schools but she does take some medical insurance.

And she will work with the parents if the treatment will take a while.

“If it’s someone I’m going to be seeing a long time, I will consider qualifying for their insurance,” Murnick said.

 

An understanding

Since Murnick’s ultimate goal with her new practice is education, her website has a lot of information. There are several articles, including one with her take on some speech therapy iPad apps.

“I like to incorporate the iPad into therapy,” she said.

And she knows that parents want to understand the big picture when it comes to their child’s development.

“I always give parents a model of developmental milestones,” Murnick said of one of her tools to help parents.

Most of all though it’s about the relationships.

“I like to treat people well,” she said. “Give good service.”

And she can empathize with what the parents who come to her are going through.

She remembers watching her children develop when they were younger and the stress of analyzing how they were doing. She wants to help other parents through it.

“I wish I could go back,” she said. “There’s so much information out there.”

Murnick Speech & Language Associates is holding a Speech and Language Screening Day on Saturday, April 13, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 39 Sherman Court, Fairfield. The screening will assess articulation, language, fluency, pragmatics and oral motor difficulties. Screenings last about 15 minutes and the cost is $25. A brief summary and recommendations will be sent to each parent.

Space is limited. To schedule a time slot, call 954-873-4726 or email [email protected]

Information can be found at murnickspeechandlanguage.com.

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