Whether your child has been diagnosed with a speech-language disorder, or if you’re speculating that he or she is developing a disorder, parent involvement is not only useful, it is essential. When parents are involved and staying up-to-date with their child’s progress, the chances of the child reaching his or her full potential greatly increase.
The first thing you should do as a concerned parent is to seek professional help from a speech-language pathologist (SLP). These professionals are specifically trained to identify and treat speech-language disorders and are one of the most important assets to you in helping your child succeed.
Another important factor in successful treatment is at-home parent involvement. The reason for this is simple: even if your child is receiving regular professional treatment, sessions are often scheduled only a few times per week at most; and practicing at home only increases your child’s advancement. Employing speech therapy games with your child between sessions boosts and reinforces the work done in therapy and can help your child adopt speech-language skills more quickly and effectively.
Speech Therapy Activity Ideas for the Home
Assuming you are employing professional assistance and consulting with your speech-language therapist about a home-study program, here are a few other options for products that are available online which can help improve your child’s language skills:
- Interactive websites and materials online: Speech-language pathologist Judith Maginnis Kuster has put together a particularly helpful and comprehensive site with links to various online materials that can be adapted for therapy. If you decide to use this site as an additional resource at home, make sure to consult with your child’s speech-language therapist in order to make sure that the information you are introducing complements your child’s therapy, and is not overwhelming when paired with the official program.
- Board games that stimulate learning: Physical board games such as Guess Who, Go Fish and Trouble can be especially useful in helping your child practice what s/he is learning during therapy by helping him/her use newly acquired speech and communication skills in a non-threatening and entertaining context. Incorporating “play” into your speech-language activities is a good way to keep your child’s interest and to make things more enjoyable for you as well. Just because it’s technically speech practice for your child, doesn’t mean it can’t be fun!
- Activity books and pages: Another option for practice is using a more hands-on resource such as an activity book, or a site that provides free language enhancement practice sheets in order to help your child make stronger connections between the spoken language and the way it looks written down on a piece of paper. This works especially well for school aged children, who can effectively sound out the information on the practice pages for verbal practice.
If your child has a speech language disorder you might be wondering what you can do to help him or her in the development process. While there are many games and exercises which can strengthen and reinforce speech language, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when making your choice:
- Parent involvement is not a replacement for receiving treatment from an accredited speech-language pathologist. Whatever activities you chose, they should be an accompaniment to a professionally designed treatment program.
- Not all games or activities, even those that claim to be specifically for speech-language development, are necessary that beneficial. There are plenty of useful resources for parents, such as the Speech Therapy Forum, which review available speech therapy games and describe what they’re best used to treat. Before investing in these products, it’s good to educate yourself.
- You should consult with your speech-language pathologist before implementing any home program, and be sure to ask for suggestions if s/he hasn’t already provided you with at home activities.
How Much Should I Do?
Your SLP should be able to provide you with a better idea of how much work to do with your child, but generally 10-30 minutes per day of language-enhancing activities is adequate. This might seem like a big commitment but it will help your child greatly in the long run. If this time commitment is more than you can handle, remember that any amount of activity is better than none, so do what you can.
Another thing to consider is that, while games which target your child’s specific needs are important, there are other adjustments you can make to your daily life which can also help. Creating a language rich environment for your child can be very helpful, and is no more difficult than talking to your child, singing to or with him/her, wondering out loud without asking questions, or having playtime that doesn’t involve the television.