Parents: Get Involved in Your Child’s Speech Therapy Progress!
In our many years of collective experience as speech-language pathologists, our FOCUS team has amassed lots tools to help us address children’s speech and language problems. We have loads of interactive games, cool crafts, brightly-colored books, fun toys and the technology that made us one of the first providers of online speech therapy for kids in Fort Myers (even prior to the pandemic). We also glean a lot of insight working with other professionals in a multi-disciplinary clinic.
But the most powerful tool we have? Parents!
Parent involvement in a child’s speech therapy is so, so important. Those who are committed to our process and make efforts to use our strategies at home are going to see their children make more significant, faster strides. That’s our personal experience, but there’s a lot of research to back us up on this.
We get it, though: Easier said than done. Parents these days are pulled in a thousand directions at once. This is only compounded if your child has been diagnosed with a developmental delay or disorder. There are appointments for doctors, specialists, therapies and school programs – on top of the everyday demands of work and other commitments.
It can be very tempting to simply rely on your speech therapy team to”fix” the speech problems. It’s true that we do (as we sometimes joke) “have ways of making you talk.” We bring to the table proven clinical strategies to help improve your child’s communication skills. But at the end of the day, parents are the rock star reinforcements.
Practice – With Parents – Makes Perfect
Think of it like piano lessons. If your child gets weekly sessions with an instructor, they’ll learn all the keys, the notes, cords and how to position their hands. This is all essential for learning how to play. But if your child never practices outside of those lessons, it’s going to take a very long time to master the “Moonlight Sonata.”
Parents are essential participants in their child’s speech therapy progress. The main reason for that is you know your child better than anyone. Our SLPs are passionate about this field and we do our best to quickly figure out – and adapt our services to – their learning styles, moods and challenges. But we could never match a parent’s intuition. When parents work closely with us, we can develop more effective treatment plans and develop home carryover strategies that are going to work best for your family.
Beyond that, learning isn’t confined to the clinic. It happens everywhere – play time, grocery shopping, birthday parties, chore time, bath time. These are all opportunities to practice the skills we’re teaching. Plus, we only have a few hours a week with each child. It’s parents and caregivers who have the real opportunity to make those lessons stick.
How Parents Can Get More Involved in Speech Therapy
The first step in being more involved in your child’s speech therapy progress is to find a therapist you trust and with whom you feel comfortable communicating. That foundation allows us to better identify the kinds of activities you can use everyday to make a bigger difference in YOUR child’s progress.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach that will work for every child or family. A lot depends on your child’s age, abilities and goals. That’s why it’s so important to have a good rapport with your child’s SLP. Broad topics to for discussion include your child’s therapy goals, opportunities for daily “learning moments,” and how you can measure improvement.
A few general examples of what we might suggest:
- Birth – Age 2: Point out all the colors and shapes at the grocery store. Look at your baby when she talks, respond with sounds, talk back, pretend to have a conversation. Use gestures. Talk to her while you’re giving her a bath, feeding and dressing her. Tell her what you’re doing, where you’re going, who you’re going to see. Teach her to play peek-a-boo, clap her hands and make faces. Read to them.
- Ages 2 to 4: Try to model good, clear speech whenever you can. Ask questions that give the child a choice (i.e., “Do you want a bananas or strawberries?”). Play “yes-no” games (i.e., “Is your name Grace?” “Do pigs fly?”). See if your child can make up questions to “trick” you. Name your body parts and explain what they do. Read to them.
- Ages 4 to 6: Give your child your attention when they talk to you. Give positive reinforcement when they use their words. Pause after speaking so your child has a chance to respond. Talk about positions of objects (behind, in front, last, middle, under). Mention opposites (on-off, up-down, left-right). Play a game where they have to guess an object you’re describing. Working games that focus on categories and matching – and finding what doesn’t belong. Practice building a tower with blocks where you must follow their instructions. Play games like “house” in different rooms that allow for role playing. Watch movies together and talk about the story line. Ask what they think is happening or what might happen next or how they’d change the ending if they could. Read to them.
Never be afraid to ask us if you’re feeling unsure or stuck. We’re here to help guide you through this process and help your child reach their full potential.
FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy and online speech therapy for kids in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.
The effectiveness of parent-implemented language interventions: a meta-analysis, August 2011, The American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
More Blog Entries:
Is My Child a Late Bloomer Or Is It A Language Problem? Speech Therapists Weigh In., March 2, 2020, FOCUS Fort Myers Speech Therapy Blog