If your child is working with a speech and language therapist, it may also be your very first experience with this type of educational intervention.
As a parent of a child receiving therapy services for their speech, language, or overall communication skills in school, you may feel like a fish out of water—unsure how to help and support them in reaching their goals.
If you’re experiencing these feelings of uncertainty—you’re not alone.
You may wonder if there are ways you can help your child when they’re not in therapy. After all, you want to support them in overcoming any challenges and reaching their goals in therapy. But you’re no expert. Maybe your child’s therapist would rather you take a backseat?
“Is it best to just let the specialists do their work and stay out of it? Will I just be one too many cooks in the kitchen if I jump in to help out?” you wonder.
It’s understandable to feel unclear about your role in your child’s speech and language therapy.
But here’s the truth—parental involvement in therapy and home practice is associated with more positive outcomes for children receiving intervention.
That’s great news if you’re a parent who’s willing and able to be more involved in expanding your child’s therapy into your home setting!
This article will dive a little deeper into how parents can target children’s speech and language therapy goals at home. In it, we’ll look at both why home practice is important, and offer you some tips and strategies to maximize your effectiveness in the home activities you do.
First, let’s do a quick review of what research has to say about your involvement with your child’s therapy.
Why is parental involvement and home carryover important in children’s speech and language therapy?
You may wonder if your involvement in your child’s therapy is important or necessary.
After all, you don’t want to be a third wheel, and infringe on the work they’re doing on their speech and language skills in therapy.
The good news if you’re wrestling with this concern is research shows exactly the opposite to be true.
Parental involvement in therapy is associated with more positive outcomes and overall gains in therapy than without it.
Not only can parental engagement in classroom activities and home practice lead to improved outcomes in both language and behavioral skills—simply communicating with your child is a vital way they learn, grow, and succeed—both as a student AND as a person.
Another study (a wide-ranging, high-level form of research, known as a meta-analysis) concluded that parents who implemented language interventions at home with their children made a notable difference in both their expressive and receptive language abilities. This study saw similar benefits in both children with and without diagnosed intellectual disabilities.
This large Australian study showed that most speech and language pathologists (SLPs) highly value and seek out parental involvement in their children’s therapy, whenever possible. The SLPs agreed that parental involvement is important for improved outcomes in therapy, especially for children working on speech issues and disorders.
Yet another relevant study is literally entitled: Collaboration between parents and SLTs produces optimal outcomes for children attending speech and language therapy. It seeks to explore the many ways effective collaborations between speech-language pathologists and parents can be realized, in order to maximize their effectiveness.
The authors also note how it’s important for SLPs to communicate and educate parents about the complexities of speech and language therapy, so they have a clear understanding of how and why they can help, as well as specific, personalized strategies to use at home.
So, it’s pretty clear that parental involvement is not only beneficial, but welcomed by most therapists you’ll partner with in the school setting.
Your child’s therapist knows you are their first and best teacher. You know them better than anyone and have taught them so much so far in their educational journey.
You’re a vital asset as not only a core member of your child’s treatment team, but also the person who can further their therapy goals outside of school.
Now that you know WHY any involvement you can offer in your child’s therapy is important and valuable, let’s look at HOW you can become involved—so you feel confident in giving them the extra support they need to soar past their speech and language therapy goals.
How can parents target their children’s speech and language therapy goals at home?
Even if you’re fully onboard with targeting your child’s speech and language therapy goals at home—you may not know where to begin.
A great first step is often reaching out to connect with your child’s speech and language therapist (SLP) directly. If you haven’t discussed it already, it’s a good bet your child’s SLP is open to involving you in therapy and home carryover activities.
Your child’s SLP will have a great sense of their personalized goals and strategies, and will be able to train you in the best type and level of cues to give your child, as well as any appropriate activities to engage them in.
Because speech and language therapy is highly individualized, touching base with your child’s SLP is a great way to ensure what you’re working on with them at home is appropriate and targets their unique needs.
The great news for parents wanting to promote therapeutic benefits at home is—there are SO many ways and opportunities for you to engage your child in activities that will support their progress in therapy. You don’t even need to change your daily routine to do it!
One great strategy for building therapy opportunities into your home life involves simply co-opting aspects of your normal routine, and building therapeutic moments into them.
If your child is working on their articulation skills, simply find or point to items around the house you can ask them to name out loud.
If your child is working on expressive language or issues related to language and auditory processing, you can narrate what you’re doing around the house, and ask them to join in.
Using wh- questions (as in—what, where, why, which, and when) is another awesome therapy tool for kiddos working on language skills and concepts.
Daily routines such as mealtime, bathtime, and getting ready for school and bed also offer tons of natural opportunities to connect with your child and target their therapy goals in a way that doesn't feel forced.
Speaking of bedtime, shared reading is a MAJOR way parents help address emergent literacy and all-around language skill development. Grab your kiddo’s favorite book, and enjoy some snuggles while you read together.
How about some fun, beneficial activities that aren’t part of your everyday routine, but are still easy and enjoyable—for you and your child?
Listen to music! Music is a great way to naturally target speech, language, and communication skills. Songs employ a lot of figurative language, like metaphors and similes. Talk to your child about lines in their favorite songs, and what they might mean. You can even search up the lyrics for songs easily on apps like Apple Music and Spotify, or on the good ol’ internet.
Look at photos! Got any family photos albums lying around? Maybe you’ve got a ton of photos on your phone or tablet? Look through them with your child. Any shared activity like this offers you lots of opportunities to engage them in commenting, making inferences, organizing thoughts, and formulating sentences.
Play a game! Don’t underestimate the power of using your child’s favorite games to stage therapeutic opportunities. Games are a great way to target TONS of language and speech skills—in a way that’s fun and motivating for your child. (pro tip—scavenger hunts and mad libs are also super fun ways to blend therapy with fun).
Bake something! A shared baking or cooking activity can be a great way to target executive functions and auditory processing skills like understanding and following directions. Plus, afterward you get to eat the tasty results!
The best thing about building therapeutic moments into your daily routine is that it doesn’t need to be a big to-do.
Simply asking your child questions, involving them in a conversation, or sharing a fun activity can provide you with many chances to target their speech and language therapy goals.
Your speech and language therapist can also give you info and training in how to provide the best level and type of cues for your child during home therapy practice.
At The Loop, we highly value involving parents in our therapy plans. We’re here to support you in offering your child the best of in-home practice, to support all we’re working on with them in school.
Cueing simply means the support and assistance you give your child during their therapy activities, to help them succeed. Prompts and cues can be given verbally, visually, or by touch.
Therapists tend to scaffold our cues, meaning we build upon what a child already knows in order to promote their learning and mastery of therapy skills.
Cues can be given in a multi-modal way, meaning you can use both a verbal and a visual cue to help a child focus on or understand a concept.
Therapists also practice fading of cues, which simply means we offer a child a cue only at the level they need it in order to succeed in the skill or activity we’re targeting with them.
As a parent, this can be a tough concept to master, because you always want to help your child do their best.
If you struggle with matching your cues to your child’s needs, think about it like this—keeping your cues to the level needed helps your child by teaching them to help themselves. Instead of doing the hard work for them, you’re supporting them in being independent and self-sufficient.
And, of course, your trusty Loop team is always happy to answer any questions you may have—so you get the support you need to make your home practice a fun, enriching experience for you and your child.
The Loop is always here to support Chicago-area families and private schools with our stellar therapy and learning support services. We’re your go-to place for speech, language, and occupational therapy services, as well as learning remediation, executive function coaching, and educational consultancy and advocacy.
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