Speech Sound Generalization at Home
Hi, all. I'm so glad you're here. It has been a while since my last post, because, well...2020.
Ok, so maybe your child has been in speech therapy for a while now. Maybe they have been absolutely crushing it during their speech therapy sessions and "come here" no longer sounds like "tum here". Maybe your child's SLP keeps telling you how much positive progress your child is making. This is fantastic (errrr pump the brakes)- except, you aren't seeing the same improved speech sound productions at home.
First, I always tell parents that generalization of learned skills takes time. Because, it truly does. Don't be discouraged if your child still makes some speech sound errors at home.
This leads me to my next point: the real magic of the generalization process must take place beyond the 30-45 minute weekly therapy session. There is a saying in the SLP world, "We are clinicians, not magicians." As much as I would love to wave a magic wand and sprinkle some fairy dust and poof! no more speech or language difficulties, it just isn't that simple. Parent and caregiver involvement at home is the key to your child's successful generalization of the skills they learn during speech therapy sessions. Parents and caregivers, you are important and so valued in the therapy process!
Today I want to share 3 easy ideas that you can try at home to encourage carryover of improved speech sound productions. All of these ideas involve fading direct imitation of words and instead facilitating spontaneous productions.
Play I Spy with your child. Choose words that have your child's speech sound in them. For example, if your child is working on the /k/ phoneme say, "I spy with my little eye an animal that meows". Now, your child is prompted to say "cat" and practice their sound without being given a direct verbal model of the target word (e.g. "say cat").
Read books! Find a book that is "sound-loaded". For example, if your child is working on initial "sh", I love the books Sheep in a Jeep, by Nancy E. Shaw, and No Sleep for the Sheep, by Karen Beaumont. When you read, pause for your child to fill in the word. (e.g. "Go away said the.....", "sheep!")
Use your child's interest to improve generalization in conversation. Cars, trucks, and Minecraft are all great topics for "r" carryover. Talk about their interests and if they are producing many errors, occasionally pause and playfully ask, "What a minute...is that a wed car?". See if your child can hear the incorrect production and then correct it on their own without being prompted, "No, say red ".
Above all, choose connection over perfection. If your child feels that they are constantly being corrected, they may shut down and begin to avoid using certain words altogether. Try to connect with your child daily and praise effort versus perfection.
Generalization takes time, and all good things come in time! No one jumps off the couch and runs a marathon. Distance runners put in months of training, slowly building their endurance each training run, until finally crossing the finish line. Your child, too, can reach the point where they will effortlessly produce their speech sounds beyond their weekly therapy sessions. But it takes practice. It takes patience. And it takes connection.
As always, thank you for reading.
Written by: Lindsey O'Neill MA, CCC-SLP owner of Cultivating Communication LLC, a pediatric speech-language therapy private practice based in Lebanon, Ohio.