5 tips to get the most from your Speech Pathology sessions

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

After a lovely break I am excited to see all of my kiddies again and to check on their progress over their time off. As we start a new year I thought it would be a good time to post about how to get the most from your speech pathology sessions.

As a speech pathologist, I am here to educate and support a child and their family to develop the child’s speech, language, literacy, social skills etc. In between sessions please read on for some tips to maximise your home practice while keeping your child motivated and entertained.

1. Be in it to win it!

While it’s true that some kids may be more involved in a Speech Pathology session when the parent is not there (I’ve seen some kids that have mastered the trade of deception and are very good at getting the parents to do the talking for them!), parents are able to take more away from the session when they become active participants themselves. Generally speaking, a Speech Pathologist will see a child once a week or fortnight for 30 minutes to an hour. These sessions are crucial for working on child-centred goals, assessing the child’s needs and response to therapy, and determining where to go from here (that being, is this child meeting his goals and can we challenge him further, or do we need to find a more manageable way to help him achieve his goals?) I would argue, though, that the most important part of these sessions is having the opportunity to speak about any issues you may be having and getting some feedback so that parents can continue this process at home. The parent will be the one to see the child every day and work on these goals at home, so it is important that the parent has a good understanding of not only what to work on, but how to do it.

It is important to ask questions of your therapist; do not be afraid to question what they are doing, how they are doing it etc so that you fully understand the ‘why’ and ‘how’.

2. Have fun!

If a child doesn’t enjoy doing something, chances are he will not do it! That doesn’t mean to say that kids shouldn’t be exposed to some of the more menial tasks in life (like the dreaded “packing up” of toys), but kids are more likely to engage in a task when they have fun. Some days your child may be happy just naming the picture cards (with a high five after each good sound) other days you may need to play a board game, snap, memory, hide and seek etc to increase motivation (and you’ll have more fun too!) Please ask your speech pathologist for a handout on different games to play.

For speech sounds and language based work try to work in the targets into your day to day routine where possible, for example, meal times, bath times, driving in the car, outside time.

(see this blog for some examples – Outdoor Speech and Language activities)

Your speech pathologist and yourself will discuss what your child enjoys and how to tie these in with their specific goals.

3. Let the child be in charge (sort of…)

Let’s face it, kids don’t like being told what to do. Between kinder/school and home, children are constantly being told what to do and how to do it. Giving your child a choice is a great way to let him feel like he is in charge, while still creating an opportunity for him to work on his goals. You might let him choose between two games to do your home practice, or create some broader boundaries for your child to work within (like doing an arts and crafts activity with intermittent practice and letting your child choose the picture to draw or the idea of what to create). Just remember to always provide choices where you will be comfortable with either choice the child may choose (or you might find yourself trying to grant wishes for which you haven’t quite planned)!

4. Positive reinforcement

Kids (like adults!) want to know when they’re doing a good job. Rewards are a great way to let them know they are on their way to achieving their goals. You might choose something like a sticker chart (I like to find out what a child’s favourite TV character or hobby is and do an easy internet search to make it more personalised for them). Rewards don’t need to be material items, and don’t even need to have a cost involved! You might reward your child by letting them know that 10 minutes of practice each day will earn them a special trip to the park at the end of the week, or some one-on-one time with mum or dad doing a fun activity of their choice (maybe baking a delicious treat, riding the bike down the street, or just playing one of their favourite games)! Positive reinforcers are a great way to motivate kids to work on their goals and make the experience more enjoyable for them at the same time.

5. Practice, practice, practice!!

It really is THE most important thing you can do for your child in between therapy sessions. For younger children, you could do a play based session each day with their toys working on their speech sound or language goals as well as incorporating their targets into your day to day routines! For older children, it may be a card game each day as well as in their reading. If you are finding it difficult to get your child to practice, or if you need ideas on how incorporate into each day, please speak to your speech pathologist.

I wish everyone a successful and happy 2017.

Bec.