Good afternoon, everyone. Speech-language pathologist/momma here. As the school year draws to a close, some of my older therapy students have been asking, “When will I graduate from speech therapy?” Some of those students’ parents have been asking that question as well. As your child gets older, they become more self-conscious of anything they may do differently from that of other students during the school day. Plus, they are becoming burnt out when it comes to attending speech-language therapy if they have been receiving those services for several years.
So WHY Is Your Child STILL Attending Speech-Language Therapy?
The severity and number of speech-language issues. If your child was initially placed in therapy for a speech or language issue that was severe and/or had numerous goals, it can take some time to either “fix” the issue or for your child to learn compensatory strategies that help them effectively maneuver situations. For example, if your child has a diagnosis of autism, which is often accompanied with social skill challenges, your child is always going to have the autism, but they can learn social skill strategies to help them maneuver social situations. Due to the fact that many individuals with autism struggle with certain social skills, learning new social skills may not come naturally to them, which means it takes more time for them to master skills in that area. Another example is if your child has typical language skills, but began speech therapy with a large number of sounds they were saying incorrectly. The greater the number of goals your child needs to work on, the higher the probability it is they will spend quite some time receiving speech-language therapy services.
Remember This: The amount of time it takes for your child to be ready to be dismissed from speech-language therapy services is NOT a reflection on your child’s intelligence. Based on what you read above and what you’ll read below are all determining factors in the amount of time if takes to be ready to be dismissed from therapy.
Okay, that’s understandable. What can be done to speed up their progress?
Check in on your child’s motivation. Here’s the three main reasons why older students, in my experience, are not motivated to address their speech and/or language issues:
1: attending therapy makes them feel “different” because it’s something just they or a few others do
2: they feel as if they’ve been given no choice in the matter because their parents signed them up for it
3: they are burnt out because they have been attending therapy for a long time
If your child is very aware of their speech and language issues, yes, they are most likely very motivated to conquer those issues. However, a pre-teen or teen, if given the choice, would not want to attend speech-language therapy in order to solve those issues because then they are afraid it would draw even more attention to their speech and/or language issues. In other words, they are already feeling “different” and why would they want to add on more “different” thing to the mix? As adults, we realize the therapy is a means to an end, but a younger version of ourselves wouldn’t rationalize the situation that way.
Ask Your Child’s Speech-language pathologist for additional at-home activities and suggestions to speed up your child’s progress. Yes, we’re busy. No, we don’t get annoyed if a parent asks for help regarding how to help their child. We wish there were more of you that would ask.
What To Do About Reasons #1 and #2…
BE UPFRONT, ASK YOUR CHILD’S OPINION, and GIVE THEM RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR OWN SUCCESS. This is in all caps because these tactics have been the most effective, at least for me, in getting older students motivated! First, tell your child that quitting speech-language therapy is not an option. Then ask them what would make attending therapy at school less awkward. Perhaps a schedule change? Also, ask them if they have voiced their concerns to their speech-language therapist. Some kids just flat out won’t. Perhaps they don’t want the therapist to feel as if they are being challenged or they are just not on that level of comfort with their therapist. Personally, and I think it is safe to say this for other SLPs as well, we want your child to be open with us. Ask your child’s speech-language therapist about scheduling options and/or encourage your child to. The next important step in giving your child more control of their situation, is making sure they are aware of what goals they must master in order to be ready to be dismissed from therapy. Take those goals and set some reasonable, and flexible, timelines in which they would like to achieve that goal(s). Make it visual so they can track their own progress towards their goals. Click on the link to see some student friendly goal tracking pages I made and that I use with my therapy students: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/My-Products
What To Do About Reason #3…
Addressing Therapy Burn-Out. This sometimes happens to students who have been receiving speech-language therapy for several years. If you have tried the above tactics to increase your child’s motivation plus others and your child is STILL not motivated, it may be time to reassess the situation. Is your child receiving speech-language therapy services at school AND at an outpatient center? If so, maybe you should cut one out temporarily and see if that improves your child’s motivation. If your child is receiving speech-language therapy from only one source, consider switching their therapy services to a different source. For example, if they are receiving therapy only at school, talk to your child’s school based speech-language therapist at temporarily discontinuing services while your child begins therapy services at an outpatient center, for example. Just please be sure to make sure your child’s school therapist knows that you’re just trying to help your child with their burn out and to not take it personal!!
Since you have read this, I would like to point something out. There are cases in which I have students that are very motivated, are not burnt out, despite having attending therapy for several years, and are willing to deal with “feeling different” in order to address their speech or language issues. If this describes your child, ask your child’s speech-language pathologist for a meeting or graphs/data points in order to see where your child started, and how far they have progressed since starting. A picture is worth a thousand words.
To see posts that relate to how you can improve your child’s speech and/or language at home, please click on the following links:
How to Improve Your Child’s Speech at Home Using Everyday Activities
Everyday Activities to do at Home to Help Your Child Start Talking
Is Your Child Having Difficulty Communicating? It May Be Due to a Limited Vocabulary Bank.
How to Expand Your Child’s Vocabulary to Improve Their Communication
How to Teach Your Nonverbal Child to Communicate Without Using Words
How to Improve Your Child’s Attention Span
How to Help Your Child Talk More
How To Help Your Child With Sensory Issues Cope With Holidays and Social Gatherings
How to Improve Your Child’s Ability to Answer and Ask Questions
Setting Goals for Improving Your Child’s Communication
Teaching Your Child to Communicate When They Are Sick or Hurt if They Are Communication Impaired
How to Improve Your Child’s Social Skills
The “Little Things” That May Be Hurting Your Child’s Speech and Language Development
I hope everyone finds something in here that is helpful. If you do not see something that relates to your child, please leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to create a post, no names mentioned of course, that will hopefully help your child.
This article was written by a speech-language pathologist, but is not meant to replace a speech-language evaluation or speech-language therapy. If your child is already receiving speech-language therapy at this time, please continue to work on improving your child’s communication at home. Therapy is so much more effective when we all work together with the same goal in mind!