How do families really practice speech at home?

by Julie on August 29, 2011

My sweet friend, who always oversees all the school work her three kids bring home, was stumped by the seemingly random worksheets her kids brought home from their speech therapy visits. She dutifully saved them all in folders, one for the child working on /s/ and one for each of the kids working on /r/. And there they sat. What a bummer! She needed to be empowered to take charge of speech practice at home.

So, I took off my friend hat and put on my speech hat. Here’s the gist of what we talked about.

Articulation refers to the sounds we use to make words. Some common articulation goals include accurate production of /l/, /s/, /r/ and “th.” We tend to target production of these sounds in a hierarchy, first in isolation, then in the beginning, end, and middle of words. Can you visualize the hierarchy? Once production in words begins to stabilize, we quickly transition to using the sound in phrases, then sentences, reading and conversation. Speech Pathologists continuously raise the bar to in increase sound accuracy in more and more speech environments.

So what exactly are parents and students supposed to do with those worksheets? Your SLP will send worksheets and word lists home to keep you informed of your child’s current sound(s) and to give you a resource for daily practice. You could simply have your child say the words on the page. But let’s face it. That would last for three days at best. Bor-Ing. In speech lingo, we call that a drill. It has its place in therapy, but isn’t usually super functional for home practice.

To help your child with articulation goals, give these ideas a whirl.

  • Flashlight Search Cut apart the pictures or target words. Hide them in a dark-able room. (New word. You heard it here first.) Give your student a flash light and start the search. Each time a word is found, your student presents it to you and says it with his/her best effort.
  • What am I thinking? Place a few target word pictures on a table. You describe one of them and the student has to guess which one you are thinking of.
  • Grab Bag Find household objects that contain your child’s sound. (Check with your SLP if you aren’t sure if your objects are on target.) Place them in a pillow case. The child is challenged to guess what the items are without looking.
  • Fishing! Making a DIY fishing game is pretty quick and easy. Get yourself a wooden dowel, a yard of string, a magnet and metal paper clips. Tie the magnet to the string and the string to the dowel. Slide a paper clip onto each speech target. Scatter them on the floor and encourage your student to say the word he is fishing for.
  • Memory Make a copy of the target word picture cards. Glue them and the originals to construction paper. Cut them apart. Now you have two “decks.” Spread them on a table, face down. You and your child take turns flipping two at a time, trying to find the matches. Be sure she is using her best speech to tell what you are both turning over.
  • Toss Across Gather a few tennis balls, bean bags or (my favorite) super bounce balls. Place a bucket or basket across the room. In order to get a ball from you, the keeper, your student has to give her best attempt at a target word. When they’ve all been tossed, start with a new batch of words.
Are you feeling encouraged? Inspired? Try to practice for five to ten minutes each day. Incorporate great speech into your family time. The more fun you are having with it, the more it will feel like play and less like work.
As always, consult with your certified, credentialed speech-language pathologist regarding your child’s home program. Therapists love to empower families to practice practice practice.

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