6 Things Your Child’s Speech Therapist Wishes You Knew
After working as a speech language assistant in a number of settings: schools, pediatric private practices, nonprofit clinics, etc. I learned that there are some things that parents commonly do, or don’t do. I’m hoping this might clear up some of that and help you enjoy therapy more.
I want to help make the sessions between your child and their speech therapist more productive and the relationship between you and your child’s therapy team stronger. Read on to learn the 6 important things I hope all of my clients and families know.
1.) How important home carryover is.
We get it, we really do. Homework is no fun. Very few people enjoy it, and as adults, you probably feel as though you already did more than your share of it in school. One thing I wish that my families knew, more than anything else, is how important the “homework” I give you at the end of a session really is. I see your child once or twice a week for thirty to forty-five minutes a pop and while we make great strides in that time, you see your child far more than I do.
In our sessions, I work on larger breakthroughs and more concrete, larger-scope concepts and goals with your child. Those breakthroughs and that progress does not just pause when your child leaves my office, they need to be built upon and reinforced at home. It can be frustrating when a child comes in every session and we have to work to rebuild progress made the previous week. Therapists, like dentists, know when you’re doing your upkeep when you are away. Having to work on the same tasks to make up for lost progress is frustrating not only for us but also for your child. They do not love doing the exact same things every session, it gets boring. When a child thinks their therapy is boring, they are not motivated to work harder on meeting their goals.
2.) You can use anything, anything, to support speech at home.
To piggyback off of my last point, supporting your child’s speech at home does not have to be complicated, require special equipment, or really cost you anything beyond time. It can be as simple as reading a book to your child at night and following up with questions such as, “what was your favorite part?” “Who is this character?” “What are they doing?” “What is happening on this page?” The questions do no have to be complicated or deep, though they should be open-ended. An open-ended question is one that needs more than a yes-no answer.
If your child has a favorite item, game, activity, etc. that they frequently want and use, require that they verbally request it. Alternatively, set time limits for the activity or item and when the time limit is up, have them ask for more time with it. Setting a timer they can see can help them learn about time as well and understand their limits as they go along. This timer can also work well for those children who need a little help with their transitions, or moving from one activity to another. Setting the timer gives you the control of when it is time to stop and it helps move your child on to something else.
3.) Therapy is not an overnight fix.
Therapy is a very unique and complicated practice at times. Each plan and goal must fit your child exactly and a plan set over several weeks has been well thought out and paced in order to ensure your child meets their goals and also keep them engaged. If we cram too much in a session, they will feel overwhelmed and will stop enjoying their therapy sessions. When a child does not enjoy their therapy, they will not put the work in.
We understand that you want to help your child, why else would you be coming to us in the first place? We just need you to understand that we are not magicians. I promise, I am not hiding a magic wand in my ukulele bag that can make your child meet their goals overnight. I wish parents knew that speech therapy is not something that can cure a stutter, pragmatic, or articulation issue after one session. A therapy relationship needs to be built with your child. They need to trust me and I need you to trust me in order to reach those goals when your child is ready.
Children that are given the right tools and strategies and support will reach their goals quickly, surprisingly so, we just need to plan their sessions appropriately and give them the time they need to grow.
4.) Consistency is key.
Remember how I said that we only see your child a few times a week? Those improvements and that progress we make each week add up but do you know what makes my job a million times easier? When I can do it consistently. Missing a session here and there is understandable, life happens. We get that. I try to always make extra room in my schedule to fit someone in if something happens, that way if your child’s first slot is not going to work for you, there is another spot that might and this allows them to still have their session that week.
The problem happens when sessions are irregular, regularly. If I see your child two weeks in a row, one week off, one week on, two weeks off, it becomes very difficult to fit within our timeline goals for their progress, and your child has to adapt to the session structure anew every time. I usually spend the first few sessions getting your child into routine for therapy so they know when it is time to work really hard and when it is time to receive a speech reward. Speech rewards are those activities that still work on speech but are more tailored to your child’s interests and feel much more like games or play.
Remember again how I said that I have to make up for lost progress between sessions when children aren’t supported at home? This becomes a much larger issue when sessions are skipped altogether. If i haven’t seen your child in two or three weeks, then we have a lot of ground to cover and we have to reinforce what we had worked on before. It puts stress on me for planning and preparing and adds more stress on your child because now they have to do more of that harder work with far fewer speech rewards. If we have to make up a lot, there simply isn’t time for it. This makes therapy less fun and as we know, boring therapy is ineffective therapy that no child wants to sit through.
5.) Please don’t take Speech Therapy (or any therapy) for granted.
This doesn’t happen a lot, thankfully but I feel like it needs to be said and it is something that I wish some parents knew. We know you are a smart, well adjusted parent who wants to do everything they can for their child. There are loads of resources for parents out there to work on their child’s speech goals and we adore them. I will gladly find and research and send you all kinds of links for fun, effective things to do with your child. We want you to read these because we want you to work on speech every day with your child. Here’s the important piece: Those resources and those tips and tricks do not qualify a parent to be a speech therapist.
That might have come off a little harsh so I am sorry if it did but we need you to understand that what we do comes with degrees, hours and hours of clinical practice, and extensive studying just to get a license. After we get the license we have to complete 12-30 continuing education hours per year, spend time going to conferences to learn new techniques, attend additional accreditation courses, and so on just to keep it and do our duty as a competent therapist.
My role as a speech therapist is one that I am committed to and I have had and continue to have professional training to improve my practice and give your child the very best therapy session I can. I do not doubt that you could do wonderful things working with your child on their speech, I’ve seen it happen and I want it to happen but you shouldn’t do it alone. A speech therapist has the training to work the session around your child’s needs, assess and structure their plan, create goals that are appropriate to their age and abilities, and instruct you on exactly how to best help them at home. We are a team.
We, as speech therapists, love to talk and what we want to talk about most is how your child is doing…
6.) We want to talk to you, as much as we can.
Seriously. Shoot me an email or a text right now, go on. I’ll wait. We, as speech therapists, love to talk and what we want to talk about most is how your child is doing, how the homework is going, what is going on at home, literally anything you want to let us know might be something we can use in our next session. Is your child suddenly into PJ mask? Fantastic, now I know to pull out the PJ mask stickers. Has your child been singing “You’re Welcome” from Moana? Excellent, I’ll practice it on ukulele so we can sing it together next week.
Additionally, if something happens at home like a move or a new family member, that might give us a cue that we need to take things a little slower. This lets us know that your child needs a little more time or that dramatically new techniques might be overwhelming this week. If your child hasn’t slept well, we know not to run them through the obstacle course or have them do a lot of deep pressure play activities.
For those whose children see a speech therapist and an occupational therapist, this is the same type of talking we do with each other. When Your child’s OT drops them off at my office, they fill me in on what they worked on, what went well, and what didn’t go well so I can adapt our session accordingly. Of course, never feel like you have to tell us anything you aren’t comfortable with. With that being said please, please feel free to reach out any time you have a question, concern, or want to learn a better way to support your child at home. I put my cell phone number on my cards for a reason. I want you to be able to reach me.