1. How to Help Your Child Get the Most Out of Speech Therapy by Carol Casserly, MA, CCC-SLP This article is written for parents of elementary school students who are about to begin articulation therapy. You’ve just learned your elementary aged child is being recommended for speech therapy. Perhaps you initiated the evaluation because you knew he needed help with his speech. Or perhaps the recommendation came from your child’s teacher and was a complete surprise to you. Or maybe your child was referred for a speech evaluation after a routine screening by the speech/language specialist. You may even think that your child’s lisp or immature “r” sounds cute now. But will it still sound cute when he is a teenager? Whatever your experience, you want the best for your child and you want him to get the most out of his therapy experience. Parents are an extremely important part of their child’s therapy program. Parents help determine whether or not their child’s experience in speech/language therapy is a success. I have seen over and over again during my years as a speech/language specialist, that the children who complete the program most quickly and with the most lasting results are those whose parents have been involved. One of the most frequent questions parents ask me is “How can I help my child at home?” Since each child’s problem is unique, that answer can be different for each parent. However, there are some basics that apply to all cases that will be addressed in this article. The first thing a parent should do is to gain a good understanding of the child’s speech problem. Ask questions if you do not understand something (Speech Pathology has its own set of vocabulary like any other discipline...if you need something explained, ask) . You should offer information about your child’s speech at home. The speech/language specialist may provide you with a list of goals and objectives to be met in therapy. You should participate in this goal-setting process and feel free to share what you would like to see your child accomplish in therapy. Understand the sequence of objectives and how much is expected for each phase of therapy. Secondly, get all the details of how the therapy will be provided: will it be in a group or individually? Will it be in the classroom or in the therapy room? How often will he be going? What are some types of activities the therapist will be doing with the child? If possible, find out when the child will be scheduled. Knowing this information will help you to prepare your child at home by telling him where he will be going, how often, and what his class will be doing at that time. Third, demonstrate a supportive, positive attitude about the therapy to your child. In our school many children enjoy going to speech, but if not you can reassure your child that lots of kids go to speech (or have gone to speech in the past) and they will have a good time and learn things that will help them their entire life. Try not to make him feel that he has some terrible problem, but that going to speech is similar to going to reading club, math club or even “GT” (Gifted and Talented). Help your child understand that this class is just as important as any other class and that you take it seriously too. Continue to show an interest in your child’s speech program by asking what they did in class. Keep in contact with your child’s therapist through parent conferences, Back-to-School Night, and phone or written communication as needed. Your child’s therapist may provide a practice notebook to be done at home. These assignments should be considered to be just as important as their spelling or math homework. Initialing the assignments once they are completed lets the speech therapist know that you’ve gone over them with your child. Use the speech book to write notes to the therapist or to let her know if any words were particularly difficult. Finally, integrate speech practice into daily activities as much as possible. Here are some general activities to try. Choose those which fit your child’s age and interest the best. Speech Activities 1. If your child is working on a specific sound, help him to become aware of that sound by pointing out things in the environment that contain the sound. You can do this in a number of ways: a. Go on a “Sound Walk”. Hunt for things in or outside of the house that have the child’s speech sound. b. Look through magazines for pictures or words that have his speech sound. c. When driving, look for things with the child’s sound. d. Play a 20 Questions. Think of a word or object that has the child’s speech sound. Have the child ask questions to figure out what the object is. If that is too difficult, give the child clues and have him guess. 2. Once your child can say the sound correctly in words, have him practice saying some of those words for you. When that becomes easy, have him say them in sentences. a. Spelling Search - Have the child search his spelling list for words that have his sound in. Say them aloud. b. Silly Sentences - See who can make up the silliest sentence using one of your child’s speech words. c. Challenge Sentences - See who can make up the sentence using the most words containing the speech sound. d. Tongue Twisters - Do you know a tongue twister that has your child’s speech sound? Can you and your child make some up? 3. When your child is able to say his speech sound in words and sentences, have him begin to practice reading aloud using his sound correctly. For beginning readers, have him read from his reading book or story books he enjoys. Try using poems, the Sunday Funnies, Comic Books, cereal boxes, signs, TV guide, video or board game instructions, anything your child enjoys reading. (This will help improve reading skills too!) 4. Begin to encourage your child to use the sound correctly for short periods of time during the day. This is called “carryover”. Can your child carryover good speech every time he says his sister’s name? his pet’s name? his favorite food? 5. Once your child is able to use good speech for longer periods of time, try these conversational activities. a. Make a phone call using good speech. b. Use good speech all during supper. c. Use good speech in the car on the way to practice, lessons, or school. d. Use good speech while going over homework. 6. If you have any questions or concerns, contact your child’s speech therapist. The keys are to keep speech practice fun and to teach your child that good speech is not just for speech class. Don’t let speech practice become a source of conflict. Do not pick times when your child is tired or upset to expect good speech. Praise your child as he acquires new speech skills.