Do you and your child feel like you’re on a Speech Therapy treadmill? This 3-part series is all about how to make speech therapy fun and motivating – for both you and your child. This first blog gives general tips addressing some of the most common reasons kids burn out with therapy: the tasks are boring to them, they don’t see the point of therapy, it is not rewarding to them, or it is too hard (ie. they are experiencing too much ‘failure’).
Don’t be afraid to move away from the pen-and-paper activity at the desk. Brainstorm activities that you can do and talk to your therapist to get more ideas. If your child enjoys varied activities, then plan to do therapy a little bit differently each day. You’ll be surprised at how many different ways you can work on the one goal.
If you have an active learner, who is always on-the-go and reluctant to sit down at a table, check out my next article in this series: Active Speech Therapy.
Interested to learn how to use LEGO to work on speech or language goals? Tune in to my blog for Getting off the Treatment Treadmill – Part 3.
Make a Routine
Set up a routine practice time each day. Draw boxes on a piece of paper, one for each word the child will practice. Tell him the rules—”I’ll put a star in a box each time you practice one of your words. When you have 3 stars in a box, we’ll colour that box. When all the boxes are coloured, we’re finished!”
Reward Your Child
We all enjoy a reward for hard work. Some children need very regular rewards. This may be in the form of a ‘high 5’ or verbal praise (eg. “well done!”). Alternatively you could use a chart/board where the child gets a stamp, sticker, one move on the board or gets to colour in one part of a picture. Once it is finished, they get a reward of their choice. For children who are really unmotivated, you may need to reward every correct sound. Make sure that the reward is something that your child really likes.
Example: Draw a happy face when your child has finished practicing his words for the day. When he has 5 to 7 happy faces he can pick a prize from a special toy box. Have a variety of small prizes for him to choose from.
A child will become disheartened and disinterested when they experience failure repeatedly. Contact their Speech Pathologist if the child is not able to complete the tasks that have been recommended.
Start and end well
Start and end the session with speech tasks that the child can do SUCCESSFULLY. Therefore the session will start and finish on a good note.
Consider the Timing
- How long can your child realistically spend doing a task? Start with something achievable. For some children, especially under-3-year olds, this may be only 5 minutes. You can try to build this up over time.
- Is short bursts of practise, a few times a day more appropriate than one long practice session? Eg. 2 x 10mins, 3 x 5mins or 5 x 4mins? If your child has a motor speech or articulation problem (eg. lisp or childhood apraxia of speech), frequent, short bursts of practice are often most effective.
- When is your child most attentive and motivated? Usually it is earlier in the day or after they have woken up from a day sleep.
Depending on the age of your child, it can be good for your child to understand the reason she is in therapy. Without putting down your child for her communication problem, you can discuss with her how therapy is going to help them in the short-term and long-term. Eg: “Smooth talking will help you to be able to tell news more confidently without any bumps.” “Let’s work on your speech. Grandpa would love to be able to understand you better on the phone”.
Speech homework doesn’t have to be a dull or dreaded task. In fact, many children love the individual time they get with Mum, Dad or Nan when they’re doing their homework. If you have any concerns about your child’s goals or homework, please speak to your therapist. Speechies like it when parents take an active interest in their child’s therapy. And we DEFINATELY like it when homework is done, because we know that therapy works when homework is done.