- SLPs @ MSLT
Why Does my Child Need to Complete “Homework” for Speech Therapy?
As your child progresses through the therapy process, your clinician may ask that you complete practice at home. Most often, this will occur when your child requires therapy for speech production (e.g. therapy to address articulation and sound production). Parent/caregiver involvement and practice outside of sessions is also crucial for younger clients working on early language skills. Sometimes, parents are eager to work with their children outside of therapy time. However, understandably, some parents wonder why additional practice is required when their child is already receiving therapy once, sometimes twice per week. So, why is home practice so important?
Motor Learning: For children that are diagnosed with a speech sound disorder (e.g. children that have difficulty with formation and production of certain sounds like /s/, /r/, and /th/), speech therapy is focused upon teaching the child a new way to produce a sound. The clinician will be taking a particular motor pattern that the child is used to (for example, producing an /s/ sound with the tongue sticking out between the teeth), and teaching a new way to produce the sound (e.g. producing an /s/ with the tongue up and behind the teeth). The most effective and efficient way for children to learn these new motor patterns is to practice....a lot! Once the child is able to produce the sound accurately, the goal of a typical therapy session is to obtain as many accurate productions of the sound as possible. While one session a week of this practice is certainly beneficial, progress will be significantly faster if the child practices these new motor movements outside of the therapy setting as well.
Parents as Models: For younger children working on early language skills, the primary focus of therapy is modifying the environment in order to encourage and foster speech and language development. Your clinician will teach you certain techniques to utilize with your child during play (such as modeling vocabulary and strategies to lengthen sentences and elicit new words). Your child will make progress more quickly if these strategies are utilized across different environments, and with different adults. Any adult that your child interacts with on a regular basis (e.g. grandparents, babysitters) can and should use these strategies while playing with your child. Treatment will be much more effective if parents/caregivers, and other adults in your child’s life utilize speech therapy strategies/techniques in different environments throughout the child’s day. Parents can also model grammatical/articulatory/social skills for older children as well.
Generalization: Probably the most important reason why home practice is important is because it leads to faster generalization of skills. That is, your child will improve their speech and communication outside of structured therapy settings. It is not uncommon that children nearing discharge produce speech accurately in the treatment room, but forget to use their new skills once they walk out the door. Home practice helps to avoid this pitfall. Generalization is the ultimate objective for all skills addressed in speech therapy, but home practice and parent carryover is often critical for transferring new skills outside of the treatment room.
Every child (and family) is different. Busy schedules can make additional practice seem overwhelming and/or unrealistic. Your clinician will help to develop a home practice program that is both appropriate for your child and for your family’s routine.