You know the drill. Your child completes her speech language therapy session with her “Good Job” sticker in hand and a beaming smile across her face from having won Candy Land for the third week in a row. As she approaches you with pride the speech language pathologist (SLP) hands you xeroxed copies of pictures and word lists and says, “Here is your home practice.”
You may have thought to yourself, “Is this homework really necessary? Isn’t the one to two hours a week with the SLP enough?”. Speech language pathologist are not just trying to be self-involved “speech geeks” (as we frequently call ourselves) by giving you homework. We know how busy you are. We also understand the importance of practice and that the fastest way to success is frequent, accurate practice.
Here are 5 tips about speech language home practice that are important for parents to know.
1) Be honest with your clinician about practice. Tell the clinician if you are unable to find time to practice and maybe together you two can brainstorm some solutions. For example, I have sent daily emails, made daily phone calls and provided teletherapy sessions for 10 mins a day to help structure home practice. For younger children I have gone as far as to wrap their practice in little boxes for them to unwrap daily. This made it a lot easier for the parents to entice their little ones into practicing.
2) Practice should be fun, or at least engaging. Speech language pathologist do not expect your children to be running to their speech folders begging for their homework. We know it is not as fun as that new video game or being outside riding a bike. While home practice may not be your child’s top choice, it should not be a burden. If the speech language practice is not fun enough for your child to willingly comply with the activity, the activities need to be revised. Most therapists give simple tasks for homework to make it easy for the parent to execute, and for homework to be a quick, high-drill activity. Let us know if it is not working and we can adjust the homework to increase your child’s interest.
3) Be realistic about how much time you can commit to practice. The unfortunate truth is that few children will make great progress without regular practice. While we would all love it if a child could only attend speech therapy one time per week and make great progress, it is unlikely. I always try to have an honest conversation with my families about the requirement of practice outside of the therapy session. It it not always the right time or the best time for speech therapy. Next month, or after basketball season, or the big school play might be better. It may be best for everyone to delay therapy until there is a time when therapy can be the most effective.
4) Know that we are using your practice as a diagnostic tool. It is imperative that you are honest about the level of home practice because we are using your progress as a diagnostic tool. Imagine the difference between a client who practices everyday and does not make progress and a client who does not practice at all and does not make progress. We would have reason to be believe that the therapy approach is not working if the client is practicing each day and is not making progress. If we are mislead to think this is the case, we could disregard a therapy approach that could have been effective. This could damage the client’s overall progress.
5) Carryover starts NOW! Carryover is the last frontier of speech therapy success. Nobody, clinician and client alike, wants to be caught in the entrapping circle of “Perfect in therapy. Impossible at home.” This is a frequent and real phenomena that speech therapists are trying to combat in each session with you. Not only does practice help success today, it builds the foundation for carryover success in the future.
Hopefully, these tips can help us work towards more productive practice and faster speech therapy results.