Is your child dreading speech therapy homework? Do you find it harder and harder to practice sounds through drilling? We’ve been there plenty of times before. The child wants nothing to do with picture cards and just wants to play. Luckily for you, we've got a few tricks to share to get you through the slump.
Read on for five steps we recommend to make (and keep) speech homework fun.
Step #1 - Reduce their load
Yes, you read that right. Reduce their load.
There are many reasons your child could be avoiding practicing their speech sounds. Sometimes, the expectations are too high and the child may be feeling overwhelmed or unsuccessful. Reduce the load by a.) praising the effort the child gives and/or b.) moving to a level of practice they already have mastered.
When a child is practicing at home, it's important to recognize their effort. Each time, whether or not the sound they make is “new” (i.e. correct) or “old” (i.e. incorrect) we can provide positive feedback. Some examples to try include, “I love how hard you’re trying”, “That was SO close”, “Almost! Let’s try that again”, and “You’re doing a great job listening to my new sound!”.
Moving back to a level could be practicing the sound on its own, in words, or in phrases. Overall, we'd like them to experience 90-100% success to reinforce their efforts and solidify the motor movements needed to produce their new sounds. Speak with your speech-language pathologist (SLP) to determine which level is most appropriate for your child and how much cuing you should be giving.
Step #2 - Change the environment
It’s time to switch up the speech practice environment. Take practice to a new place, away from the kitchen table. Whether you choose to practice the new speech sounds during games, pretend play, dinner time, during walks, or in the car, no place is off limits. Use words in the environment while playing "I spy". Ditch the worksheets for a moment and see what happens! Switch things up and make it fun again!
"Ditch the worksheets for a moment and see what happens!"
Step #3 - Practice with meaning
Practicing with objects, words, places, and people which are familiar and meaningful to your child is a great way to naturally practice new sounds. For example, if your child is working on “z”, “zebra” or “zipper” might be more meaningful and occur more often in their speech than “zinnia”. Make a list of “new” sound words from your environment with your child and focus on those!
Step #4 - Model, model, model
Modeling and exaggerating your own speech sounds (whichever your child is working on) helps increase the auditory difference between old and new sounds. Exaggerating and modeling both provide a verbal “highlight” and bring focus to the sound in daily conversations. Oftentimes, raising your voice and stretching the sound is enough to draw the child’s attention to the “new” sound. For example, if your child is focusing on their “L” sounds, you might exaggerate and model it in your own speech during dinner time (e.g. “I LLLLove brocoLLLi”).
Step #5 - Keep it short and sweet
Along with reducing the load and switching up the environment, we can keep speech sound practice short in order to create a positive experience. Research shows that short, frequent practice is more effective than longer, sporadic practice.
We recommend keeping practice to 10-20 minutes a day, daily. If daily practice is too much, stick to every other day. If you can, put the speech practice into your family’s daily routine to help stick to it. A few examples from our Speech SF families include practicing on the way to school, at stop lights, and during dinner. As with reaching most goals, consistency is key to mastering their new speech sounds.
With these five steps, our hope is that speech homework will become more natural and fun in your home. Looking for an easy speech practice idea to start with? Head here to download our speech practice bingo worksheet.
***Article was originally published on Suite Speech by Kaleigh Matthews, MS CCC-SLP, owner and SLP at Suite Speech and Speech SF.