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Friday, August 2, 2013 at 6:49AM
Speech Tree

Your child spends several hours every month working on targeted speech and language skills in the therapy setting. You feel proud as your SLP tells you that your child's performance is steadily improving every week. You eagerly observe your child watching for proof of their hard work and practice. Why are you not seeing the same results at home and in spontaneous interactions with your child? The missing link is generalization, or the ability to transfer learned skills from a structured, therapeutic setting to real life. How can you, as a parent, assist in this process? The key is partnering with your SLP to open the lines of communication and to learn strategies to use at home.

A starting point is to observe your child's therapy sessions. By observing both your child and SLP in action, you will be able to conceptualize your child's speech and language strengths and needs. Your SLP can provide you with concrete examples of the speech and language behavior they are trying to remediate so that you can conceptualize the difference between your child's current level and the desired performance. You will also be able to observe how your SLP elicits the targeted outcome as well as what kind of reinforcement might improve their performance (e.g., stickers, high fives, a victory dance, a turn at a game, etc.) Is your child shy or reluctant to perform in front of you? Ask your therapist to videotape the session so that you can watch it at a time when your child is not around.

Utilize time before and after sessions to discuss any improvements or concerns you've had since the last session and to identify speech and language priorities. During this time, your therapist can provide you with suggested activities for home practice. Homework is highly effective if completed, therefore work with your SLP who will be able to identify ways to work homework into your day-to-day routines and activities. For example, if your child is working on the /s/ sound and is on the soccer team, you might try to have your child practice using good speech while talking about soccer, on the way to practice or when recalling what happened in the game. Your SLP can help you identify targeted sounds, language structures, concepts, and vocabulary that are pertinent and applicable to your family's real life.

Finally, if you have multiple therapists or specialists working with your child, make sure to put them in contact with each other. It is beneficial to connect providers so that they can communicate about diagnoses, therapy strategies, and observations. Your SLP may provide examples of speech and language targets to your occupational therapist (OT) and your OT may provide positioning or sensory strategies to your SLP. Sharing information will lead to optimal performance in both environments bringing your child one step closer to generalization.

It is exciting to see any type of progress in your child's speech and language skills. Watching your child's performance climb in accuracy is fulfilling and proof that their hard work is paying off. The ultimate reward is seeing your child spontaneously use their new skills in a genuine communicative interaction. Practice, patience, and open communication make perfect!

Written by -Jessica Hawkins, MA, CCC-SLP

(Jessica is an experienced clinician who has worked on the Speechtree team since 2008)

Article originally appeared on Speech Tree Therapy (
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