So we’ve identified the sounds that are difficult for your child with assessment. Now comes the ‘speech therapy’.
Every child has a different need for speech therapy – there is no ‘one’ package for therapy, how often, or what each session will look like. The age of your child, severity and type of the speech delay/disorder, and other factors (such as attention, language delays) will impact on the therapy. It is very difficult to say how long it will take, but it is worth considering that some children with significant difficulties do need years of therapy.
What does therapy involve?
Usually it will be very play based. Your child may not even notice that they are ‘working’ on anything in particular. You might even wonder if we’re just playing but don’t worry – that play is very deliberate and planned. We are using many strategies to help your child expand his/her speech skills. Play is how children learn, and reduces anxious feelings so I will use play in our therapy as much as possible.
There will be therapeutic strategies that you can use in everyday life that I teach, and you will pick some up through demonstration in our sessions. Creating a great communicative environment will enhance therapy, but don’t feel guilty or worried if you are following my strategies and your child is not speaking clearly yet. Good things take time, and there are many facets to a child learning new sounds. Speech is the hardest fine motor skill to achieve, and if there have been difficulties hearing sound differences, achieving clear speech can be even harder.
Most of the time there will be homework activities for you (and/or other adults) to do daily with your child. At least a little practice (10 minutes or so) each day is better than 30 minutes on one day.
What might you notice initially?
Parents often find in the early weeks of therapy that their child is harder to understand. This is a phenomenon that occurs once you’ve seen the Speech-Language Therapist identifying every single sound or sound blend in every position of a word that your child struggles with! Now all of a sudden, you are listening in and noticing all of the sound errors and they sound worse than they did before!
Similarly, you may also notice every other person’s speech errors: friend’s children, neighbours, family…it can be a bit disarming! All I can say is, welcome to my world 😉 Your heightened awareness usually reduces as your child improves especially after speech therapy progresses, though you will potentially be a great advocate for other parents who might need a nudge toward having their child’s speech assessed!
Sometimes, your child will get a bit worse before they get better. For example if we’re teaching a ‘k’ sound and they know they say it ‘wrong’ as ‘t’, they’ll over-correct themselves and suddenly ‘cat’ (which previously was said as ‘tat’) will now be a ‘cack’. This over-correction will pass and is a good step in your child’s learning… they are figuring out which sounds go where! The fixed-up-one strategy will be very useful for over-correction.
What might you notice as time continues?
Parents sometimes feel frustrated after months of therapy as it may be taking longer than they expected, particularly if they are doing all the homework and using all of the strategies given in everyday life. Your child might just not be seeming to ‘get it’, or one sound is generalized into conversation quickly, and another seems to take forever! There are many little steps from being able to say a sound by itself in therapy situations to everyday conversation. Try to be patient and celebrate the small wins. Try to use frustration as a motivation for yourself to keep up the good work (vs giving up or putting pressure on your child to achieve).
Sometimes you might be tempted to reduce the amount of speech therapy because it doesn’t seem to be working but the opposite is usually true – regularity of therapy breeds accountability and sometimes brings much needed breakthrough.
After a while of trying a number of speech sounds without much success at phrase level practice, you might start to notice a few sounds all start to fall into place at one time. Sometimes sounds you weren’t even ‘working on’ appear in conversation…It does happen and is definitely a hope to hold on to!
Often the best people to monitor how your child is improving are those people who only see your child every few months. When you’re with them daily, you may not notice some of the improvements, or be focused on all of the sounds that are still in error. Take encouragement from other people noticing improvement and pat yourself on the back.
Other things that support speech therapy:
- Reading stories to your child (you can highlight sounds that you’re working on as you go).
- Playing CD stories to your child.
- Singing or saying nursery rhymes together. Perhaps for some trips change your radio station to stories or children’s songs as they are much easier to pick up the lyrics and frequently have rhymes or language that is easier to pick up than most adult songs.
- Talk together. It might seem obvious, but, with the pace of life it can squeeze our time to talk with children.
Limit screen time, particularly passive screen time…usually when watching a screen your child is not practicing speech or gaining speech sound awareness at the same time.