Many parents who bring their children for speech therapy cringe at the words “home practice.” It conjures up images of crying, whining, begging and frustration – and that’s just from the parents. Why is it so difficult to recreate the same results you see in therapy sessions especially when it seems like your child turns into an attentive and cooperative angel for the speech pathologist and then reverts back to a monstrous fiend as soon as you bring out the speech cards at home? Your speechie doesn’t have a magic wand, but they do have a few tricks up their sleeve to make therapy a success.
1. LOCATION: The clinic is a novel environment for your child. You can create the same effect by building a ‘speech cubby house’, practicing in Mummy and Daddy’s bed or sitting under a tree outside. Try a different spot everyday or make a special regular spot that’s just for practice time.
2. EXPECTATIONS: Children respond better when they know in advance what is expected of them. Give them a target of one game of snap or 10 minutes on the egg timer. It is also important to reinforce the goal of the activity before you start!
3. ONE-ON-ONE: This can be the hardest to manage at home when there are other siblings at home. The truth is, if you can find one-on-one time, your child is going to love not having to share your attention. If you have to work with a sibling, make it inclusive of both children – trying not to praise or correct one over the other. Everyone has a go!
4. SUCCESS: This is the key to continued participation from your child. You know yourself how frustrating it is to get things continuously incorrect so it is important that your child experiences success. Even if they don’t produce the sound correctly make it a personal challenge never to say “no” or “not”. Try rephrasing with “That was an awesome try! Can we do it again?” or “Great try, but I know you can do an even more awesome sound than that.” Always use a positive and constructive approach.
5. FUN: Fun comes in many forms – it could mean some special games that are kept just for practice time, or a reward system even a game of ‘snap’ or ‘go fish’ is fun with a group of people. Just remember, for a 3 or 4 year old, winning is everything – which is why your Speechie is terrible at ‘snap’. Use your imagination – practice in the bath or while you’re driving to school, hide picture cards in a night-time story book, in the fridge or stuck to the walls down the hallway. The easiest way to make things fun is with your own enthusiasm and tone of voice. For an older child, ‘fun’ might mean a reward chart. FUN = MOTIVATION! The fun starts with you!