With a team of traveling professionals, Saren Schapiro runs a multidisciplinary private practice to address the needs of children from Roswell to Grant Park.
SAGE Speech and Learning Associates aids children as young as 6 months with issues such as speech and language, feeding, learning disabilities, developmental delays, sensory processing and autism. The team includes speech language pathologists and partners with psychologists, occupational therapists and pediatricians. Many of the speech language pathologists have 20 years of experience treating clients.
Schapiro, the mother of two young girls, grew up in Sandy Springs with South African immigrant parents. She explains her field and how parents can hone in on communication concerns.
AJT: How does a parent know her child needs help?
Schapiro: There are so many areas to watch from speech and language — which includes content, vocabulary, syntax and more — and social pragmatic skills. At each age there is a different expectation. Eighteen months is a good age to get an opinion for whether or not to get services. Pediatricians can do the first check, but if you feel like something is off, push for more screening.
AJT: Can you be more specific? If I’m the first-time mom of an 18-month-old, what am I looking for?
Schapiro: At 18 months your child should be saying anywhere from 10 to 50 words, like ball, jump and up. By age 2 it jumps to hundreds of words. Not just nouns and objects, but also spatial concepts like “on top” and two-word phrases like “Mommy up,” “my turn” and “Daddy’s socks.” Now they combine words into phrases.
AJT: If the language isn’t progressing?
Schapiro: See a speech pathologist. We take private clients, insurance and Medicaid. You don’t need to wait for your next doctor appointment. We can connect with the pediatrician to share information, test results and recommendations. My company travels to homes and schools. When a therapist comes to your house we show parents or other caregivers how to play therapeutically, so days between appointments they can be making progress.
AJT: How do the appointments go?
Schapiro: We ask kids a lot of questions. We are testing, not teaching. We start playing therapeutically.
AJT: What can I do to further my child’s language?
Schapiro: Parents can help, too. At the grocery, talk about fruits and vegetables. Talk about colors and shapes. Describe and narrate the day. That’s how you teach and build language. It gives meaningful context. Talk about body parts, clothing, shapes, action words — there are so many opportunities to build in language. If you are taking time to ask questions, you’re missing an opportunity to build language. Questions put children on the spot. Explanations give information and language.
AJT: Other than at a pediatrician’s recommendation, how can families reach you?
Schapiro: We host play-and-learn playgroups at Purple Hippo Art Studio on the MJCCA campus throughout the year. Professionals come in to play with kids and work with parents on speech development and occupational therapy.
AJT: Is there a stigma for the older kids?
Schapiro: The therapists work through play and games. This is not about sitting and doing work; it’s about moving the body and making it fun. We visit kids at camp during the summer so they’re not exhausted when it comes time for therapy. During the school year, it’s kind of the norm for kids to be pulled out of the class for something. We see other kids asking to go.