Good evening, everyone. Speech-language pathologist/momma here. A new school year is beginning and speech-language therapy home programs are weighing heavy on my mind right now. I just got back from the school I work at as a speech-language pathologist a few moments ago. In addition to decorating my door and organizing my desk, I spent quite a bit of time organizing and making new “homework” sheets for speech-language therapy students. I’m just going to jump to the whole point of this post is and that is:
WE NEED YOU.
We need YOU, the parent/caregiver/guardian, to help us improve your child’s CORRECT/APPROPRIATE speech and language skills and habits. If your child attends a public or private school, they are there at least 35 hours a week; that’s 2,100 minutes. We, the speech-language pathologists, only get them for 30 minutes – 1 hour a week, on average. We would like to pull your child for therapy services more than that, but we have to share. At school, we all work together to ensure that your child doesn’t miss out on valuable reading and math instruction time, which is so very crucial, especially during those early years. A lot of SLPs, including myself, also do not like to pull students out of special classes, such as computer, library, or P.E. if at all possible, because your child needs that brain break throughout their busy day.
DON’T GET ME WRONG.
We SLPs are not asking you to do our job for us, but we need your help in helping your child PRACTICE the skills they are learning in therapy. Chances are, you already are. I highly doubt you randomly stumbled across this blog post – you actively sought it out because you ARE looking for more ways to facilitate improvement of your child’s speech and language. If so, view this post as affirmation that you’re doing the right thing.
Do NOT be afraid of messing your child up!!
Yes, if you are not a speech-language pathologist, you could accidentally steer them in the wrong direction of correct tongue, lip, or mouth placement if they’re working on speech sounds AND if you’re doing it without the guidance of a speech-language therapist. IF you have guidance from your child’s speech-language therapist, however, you’ll be just fine.
Practice outside of the therapy room is so so very important! Imagine if your child was learning to walk, but they only got the opportunity to practice 30-60 minutes per week. During that practice time, they are going to learn how to balance and alternate their feet. However, it is going to take them a very long time to perform those skills correctly if they only get to practice 30-60 minutes a week.
YES, IT IS ONE MORE THING TO DO.
I totally get the feeling of being at your tipping point. Your child may already be bringing homework from each class, not to mention upcoming projects they must complete at home. That’s not to mention the extra-curriculars they may be involved in. Speech-language therapy home activities generally do not take nearly as much time up as other types of homework. The awesome thing about speech and language practice is: it can usually be done anywhere. Is your child working on speech sounds? Play I Spy on the way to and from school or any other locations. Or simply remind them to use the speech sounds correctly by placing some sticky notes around the home with their sound written on it. Some good places would be their bedroom door, the refrigerator, and close to the t.v.
CHILDREN LEARN BEST THROUGH PLAY
The minds of children are designed to learn through play. Play is what they are interested in. Remember playing Peek-a-boo with your child when they were an infant. I bet you both had a blast! Did you know that you were teaching your child object permanence (just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s gone) and social exchanges (“I like it when mommy/daddy/nana/papa pay attention to me.”)?
Working on language skills, such as comprehending questions or following directions? Give them a challenge by saying, “I want to see if you can use your speech sounds correctly for the next 5 minutes.” If they can, they win a small prize such as extra 5 minutes of playtime before bed.
EVERYTHING is a language opportunity. Asking what they want to eat, what they did that day, what they want to do, what they need to do, any small talk. If your child answers a question incorrectly, repeat it, give them another try, if they don’t answer it correctly, ask again, them immediately answer it yourself, then ask them again. Working on following directions? Use their homework from other classes as an opportunity for improving their ability to follow directions. If their math homework says, “Do problems 1-5 and then draw “5” of something.” Read the directions aloud with your child, ask them what they are supposed to do, and check in on them from time to time like you normally do to make sure they are following the directions correctly. Do they need to clean their room? Break it down into specific instructions so they can continually improve their ability to follow directions. For example, “I want you to pick up your toys first, then pick up your clothes.” Make sure to emphasize the key words in order to draw their attention to them (see the words in italics?).
KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Keep it simple for your sake and your child’s sake. Take everyday activities that you are already doing and put a speech-language therapy twist on it. Does your child not know their colors yet? Play Lego blocks with them and make a game out of only using the “blue blocks” or the “red blocks.”
MY CHILD HAS A LOT TO WORK ON THOUGH…
Working on speech sounds are more isolated and cut and dry. If they have a LOT of speech sounds they need to work on, be sure to coordinate with your child’s speech-language pathologist to see what specific sounds he/she is working on in therapy and what techniques he/she uses. Work together and remain consistent with what you expect of your child. If they have a lot of language gaps they need to work on (may not be talking yet, not talking enough, comprehension, impaired knowledge of basic concepts and vocabulary, following directions, attention span, etc) do not become overwhelmed. Language is NOT isolated, but is very interlinked. Even if you think you are working on improving your child’s ability to name simple objects, you are also targeting colors, shapes, sizes, memory, etc just through the simple back and forth exchange you and your child are having or little things they pick up on throughout the day when you don’t even realize they are paying attention to you.
REMEMBER THAT NOT ALL LANGUAGE IS OBVIOUS
Please please please do not give up on yourself if your child is not demonstrating the skill you have working towards after some weeks, or even months! Do your best to maintain their attention and eye contact. Eye contact can be difficult for some children. Stay nearby. Talk aloud about what they are doing. What you are doing. What the dog is doing. They hear you. Do not lose heart. Stay steadfast and consistent.
To see some posts that may be specifically related to your child’s speech and language, check out the list below.
How to Improve Your Child’s Speech at Home Using Everyday Activities
Everyday Activities to do at Home to Help Your Child Start Talking
How to Expand Your Child’s Vocabulary to Improve Their Communication
How to Teach Your Nonverbal Child to Communicate Without Using Words
Part 1 of The Basic Language Concepts Your Child Needs and How to Teach Them at Home
Part 2 of the Basic Language Concepts Your Child Needs and How to Teach Them at Home
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
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
Not sure if your child should receive speech-language therapy?
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!