10 tips to get the most of out speech therapy
Ongoing speech therapy can be a significant financial investment and a time consuming undertaking for busy families. The short and long term benefits of speech therapy are fairly obvious, but what can YOU do to maximise your child’s progress?
Everyone on your child’s therapy team has the same goal in mind ‘ongoing progress leads to faster communicative independence.’ We’d love to help your child achieve their goals in the shortest amount of time possible.
Here are our top 10 tips to maximise your child’s progress in speech therapy
Tip # 1 Session Attendance
Should I be in the therapy room? Should I wait outside the therapy room?
There is no hard and fast answer on this one, as it depends on your child.
Some children have difficulty sharing their attention with more than one person, therefore when a parent and a therapist are in the room they are taking in less information and have more difficulty focusing on tasks. These children often do better when the parent waits outside. If you do wait outside the therapy room it is vital that you have at least 10 minutes at the conclusion of the session to chat with your therapist about your child’s goals and home practice tasks.
For children who can easily share their attention our preference as therapists is that the parent stays in the room to collaborate in therapy tasks. Being in the therapy room means you will see first hand the activities and how they relate to your child’s goals, you can ask questions as they arise during the session, make suggestions to the therapist about different ways you have practiced this skill at home and be offer encouragement to your child to increase their motivation.
At small TALK speech therapy we provide families with a therapy bag, folders and home practise materials such as cards and worksheets. To get the most benefit out of your child’s sessions bring your child’s therapy materials to every session so they can be reviewed and replaced as your child progresses.
Tip # 2 Daily Home Practice
Your child will usually spend 1-2 hours a week in their speech therapy sessions and 166hours a week with parents, educators and carers. Just like learning an instrument or a new language attending a class for one hour has minimal impact on your skills if you don’t practise in between classes.
This is the tip that will make a huge difference to the pace of your child’s progress in speech therapy. Our general recommendation is that you ‘practise’ with your child for at least 15 minutes every single day. The more practise you can do, without your child becoming resistant, the better. As therapists we are fighting an uphill battle if there is no followup occurring at home and school.
Tip #3 Ask your Therapist Questions
We love your questions!
Ask your therapist questions about the therapy activities, home variations to the activities, why a certain goal is being targeted, how your child is progressing with their goals, if and when a certain goal can be targeted…
Asking your therapist questions gets both your therapist and yourself thinking and can sprout many new collaborative ideas.
Tip # 4 Give your therapist specific feedback
You know your child best!
Your therapist is eager to hear your feedback and ideas on how to facilitate your child’s learning. Don’t be afraid to let us know your child’s preferences as this can make all the difference to their engagement. If you know your child dislikes loud noises, doesn’t respond to verbal praise, loves a certain type of praise like clapping hands and cheering, let us know or even remind us mid session. As therapists were work with a wide variety of kids and need to adjust our level of feedback and interaction for every child based on their preferences, which can be hard work when one child loves over the top praise and another dislikes any praise at all.
Update your therapist on your child’s progress at home. Let us know if and how your child is using their skills outside of the therapy room.
Tip #5 Educate family members and careers
Many kids spend a fair amount of time in school/preschool/day care or with relatives and carers. If this is the case it can make a huge difference sharing information about your child’s therapy goals with their educators and carers. Carers, relatives and educators are most welcome to come along to observe your child’s therapy session, in fact grandparents often give us feedback after attending sessions that it was very insightful and as a result they feel empowered to assist with the continuation of these goals when the child is in their care.
Another way to involve carers, relatives and educators is to share your child’s weekly therapy goals and progress in a verbal or written format. Small TALK clients are given a Individual Therapy Program (ITP) for their child each week which outlines the child’s goals, home practice tasks and progress – click here to see an example of an ITP. Many of our clients share their child’s ITP with their child’s educators, therapy team and family members.
Tip # 6 Give your child frequent feedback on their goals
Keep your child motivated by giving them specific praise during everyday situations. Your child is always eager to please you and giving them positive feedback can make a big difference.
Try to relate your feedback to your child’s goals such as:
- Great talking
- Awesome listening
- I like how you kept your tongue inside your mouth for your “s” sound
- You are getting so clever at using your “l” sound
- Wow you remembered to use your new word all by yourself
- That’s right, “HE” is running. I like how you remembered to use “he” for a boy.
Tip #7 Display their goals
“Out of sight out of mind”
Families are busy. A week can fly by and before you know it its time to take your child to speech therapy you haven’t practised as much as you would have liked.
One tip from some of our families is to display your child’s Goals/ITP in a place where you will see it daily. Where do you keep your child’s therapy materials? In a folder filed into a draw out of sight? On your computer?
Please DISPLAY your child’s goals!
For some families that’s on the fridge in the kitchen for others its stuck on the door of their child’s room. The more times you see it the more you will be reminded about your child’s goals and think about incorporating practise into their day.
Tip #8 Take note
Our clients at small talk know how important collecting data is in the therapy process. After all how can you demonstrate and track progress without data? Your therapist should always be able to gauge how your child is progressing with their goals by referring to the collected data as well as parent reports.
How can you help?
We understand that sitting down to tick and cross boxes while practising or playing with your child is extremely impractical for busy families. Your estimations are just as valuable as data in the therapy process, so instead of giving us real raw data (63% during practise on Thursday) or general comments (he’s doing well with it) it is very useful to give an estimate such as “Jonny is doing very well at using his pronouns “he” and “she” – I would estimate that during our conversations he remembers the correct pronoun about 70% of the time and can fix it up the rest of the time when asked.”
Many parents often get into the therapy room and have difficulty remembering some of the things that happened during the week that they wanted to share such as their child saying a new word or using one of their new skills. Keeping a little list during the week on your phone, on the fridge or in your child’s therapy bag might help you keep track of things to share with your therapist.
Tip #9 Generalise the task into an everyday activity
Generalising means taking the new skills your child has learned in therapy and using them in as many different and varied settings as possible outside of the clinic. Generalising skills ensures that your child can use their new skills in other situations just as well as they can in the clinic. Generalisation helps your child remember the skill and use it from day to day throughout life. There is no use your child learning a new skill but only being able to use it when sitting at a table with their therapist or carer with one particular app – we want your child using this skill every day in their general living which involves using the skills with different people, in different environments and in a range of everyday activities.
Some things to think about when encouraging your child to generalise their new skills learnt in speech therapy:
- Use different people – this might be with a parent, siblings, relatives, teachers or school friends
- Different settings – at home, school, a relatives house, in the park, in the car and in the community
- Different times – Not always practicing an activity at the same time everyday and practicing in different ways.
- Different instructions – Asking different questions to get the same response from your child (e.g. “what’s your address?” and “where do you live?”).
- Different materials – Use books and iPad games that are different from those used in therapy to target the skill. Use new pictures or pictures that are known. Try using a mixture of pictures and real objects.
Tip # 10 Keep your therapy team up to date
As your child’s parent/caregiver you are most often the central source of information for your child’s therapy team. Professionals in your child’s team try to communicate often and collaborate to ensure that your child is receiving relevant and high quality intervention to meet their needs. In order to ensure your therapy team are on the same page update your child’s therapists on medical changes, changes to your child’s professional team, changes to your child’s education such as a new school or teacher, changes to your child’s funding allocation, updated NDIS goals and so on. Of course it is up to you to decide who needs to communicate with who in your child’s therapy team and appropriate permissions are sought before any communication occurs.
Keeping your therapist up to date with your child’s current health team, medical profile and funding allocations often results in a more integrated service delivery for your child.