May 10, 2002

Camarata offers advice for special needs children

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Stephen Camarata speaks at the conference, sponsored by Children's Special Services and Maternal and Child Health, Metropolitan Health Department, Vanderbilt University's John F. Kennedy Center, the Junior League Family Resource Center of Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, and Family Voices of Tennessee. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Stephen Camarata, Ph.D., associate professor of Hearing and Speech Sciences and acting director of the Kennedy Center, delivered “A View of Tennessee Services for Children with Speech and Hearing, Language and Communication Delays,” at a conference last week, “May the Circle Be Unbroken: Caring for Children with Special Health Care Needs.”

In his address, Camarata encouraged parents to focus on the outcome they are seeking and specifically what they want their child to learn, and team with a specialist who understands their expectations. Many therapies, he cautioned, may focus on peripheral areas without actually producing any notable improvements. Some controversial therapies often promise results that cannot be delivered, taking advantage of hopeful parents.

Camarata suggested that parents seek advice and guidance from other parents with special needs children. Navigating the system, including insurance, can be daunting. Parents who have dealt with similar issues can be empathetic guides and provide useful information. Universities can also be good resources of information.

Most importantly, Camarata emphasized, is the need for good communication between the parents and the clinicians or service providers working with their child.