How can a parent best help their child with speech therapy?

Being a parent myself, know that we want what is best for our kids. I think it is safe to assume that all parents want their kids to be the best possible versions of themselves. With that in mind I will now answer this common question, “What can I do as a parent to best help my child?”. The answer to this question can be broken down into 4 different topics:

  1. Finding a starting point
  2. Use a systematic method to build a strong foundation.
  3. Develop automatic productions by focusing on speed and accuracy
  4. Practice….practice….practice….

Finding a starting point

Knowing where to begin is half the battle. Your best bet is to have a speech language pathologist assess your child. They will be able to give you a run-down of all the sounds which are in error as well as an order to approach working on the sounds. This will be money well spent. If you do not have access to a SLP or money is an issue (I know Speech Pathologists don’t come cheap) then try and find a sound that your child is stimulable with.

Stimulability refers to your ability to say a given sound (in isolation) when given a model. Quite often a child can be stimulable for a sound at sound level but unable to say the sound accurately in conversation. I see a lot of this. For me, Stimulability is always the main criteria I have for starting a speech sound. These targets will be easier to work with in comparison to sounds that are not stimulable.

Once a sound is stimulable, you will be able to start working on it using a Systematic approach.

Use a systematic method to build a strong foundation

Now that you have achieved a starting point you can start working on it using a systematic approach. I like using a systems approach because you will know what to do next each step of the way if the system is easy to follow. I like to use the following approach which breaks down the speech therapy process into manageable chunks.

  1. Sound level drills
  2. Syllable level drills
  3. Double syllable level drills
  4. Word level drills
  5. Sentence level drills
  6. Conversation level drills

Develop Automatic Productions by Focusing on Speed and Accuracy

You now have a systematic approach to use that shows you a pathway to follow. To further speed up the therapy process you need to focus on developing the speed of your productions while maintaining accuracy. Accuracy is always your starting point, but it is critical to boost the speed of your productions when training. Speech sound production requires rapid movements. Most clients require much focus and attention to say target sounds correctly when first working on a sound. This is the only way to override their automatic way of producing their sounds. In order to build automaticity for the correct sound, develop the speed of your productions.

My favorite way of doing this is getting in a rhythm. Always set your rhythm for sets of 5. This allows for easy chunking of sets and makes tracking number of reps much easier. Start with 2 slow productions to help accuracy then follow with 3 rapid productions. I call this the golden rhythm. By default it helps establish accuracy and provides the opportunity to work on speed. 

This is powerful because it is built into each set of 5. You will be able to rack up some serious repetitions in little time using this method. Sounds losing accuracy? Slow it down and reconnect with your best sounding productions, then switch to pushing the speed using the golden rhythm. Developing your speed while holding onto your accuracy will optimize your results.

Practice…Practice…Practice

It is easy to overlook the simplicity of practice. Don’t be fooled. It is one of the most important elements for achieving quicker results. Do not leave the work of helping your child’s speech to the SLP only. There is only so much work the SLP can do. I found that when I was working with a child in the school system and was the only person doing the work, it simply took longer. I have long believed that the thing the kids need the most is what no SLP can give them.

Consistent daily practice has to be done! Work is the key that will unlock your child’s speech. 

Make sure you our working with an SLP who takes full advantage of your willingness to help and contribute to your child’s speech success. By having the parent (and anyone else for that matter) contribute with helping the child with their speech homework you are upping the likelihood of a quicker outcome.

The key is getting everyone on the same page. Everyone needs to be working on the same sounds in unison. This is where having a simplified and easy to follow method is great. It creates a pathway for all to follow. By creating a speech team supporting your child and providing them with an optimized approach you are creating an ideal situation for your child. They will have plenty of opportunity to practice and thrive with their sounds.

About the Author

I am a Canadian Speech-Language Pathologist. My passion is helping children and adults achieve their speaking potential. Results come quicker when “an optimized” homework program is followed on a daily basis. Training parents, caregivers, tutors, educational assistants, teachers and volunteers is my top priority. The “Rapid Speech Therapy” method was born out of the necessity to provide an easy to use yet powerful way to develop speech sounds in the hands of the “non professional”.

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