I have been a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) for 18 years, and have been doing virtual speech therapy for 8 years. I have definitely had challenges and successes along the way, so I know what works and what doesn’t. If your child is struggling with speech therapy online, you are not alone!
It can be challenging for a lot of families. Even though it might not be your first choice for your child, it may be your only choice for direct speech therapy at home right now!
As of this writing, (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) we are all learning a new normal with our lives, our jobs, our kids, and schools -with everything from in person, hybrid, and online learning. Although school and speech therapy looks a lot different these days, I want you to know that there is some good news!
Online speech therapy is not new! Although it may be new to your child and even maybe your SLP, there are tried and true techniques that work well for kids of all ages who are working on lots of different types of speech and language goals. Your SLP will be working hard during your child’s session on all of these speech therapy techniques.
Here, I want to share what YOU can do as a parent to help your child’s session go smoother.
Make sure your child is in an area of the house with minimal distractions during speech therapy. I know this can be challenging in most households! I have 3 kids and there is rarely a quiet moment! But, remember, your child’s speech therapy session is different than his/her whole day of online learning. Usually the session is short (15-30 min) and it’s usually individual or a very small group. Your child needs to be able to not only hear what the SLP is saying very clearly (to hear specific sounds, work on listening comprehension, etc..) but also where he/she can talk freely. Your child will be asked to say words, sounds, sentences, and practice things that are difficult for him/her, so make sure there are minimal distractions and he/she won’t be worried about being made fun of (by a sibling for example) for saying things a certain way.
FIND A FUNCTIONAL SPACE
Set your child up at a table and chair if possible. If not possible, at least make sure your child has a stable surface to place the computer, tablet, or device he/she is using. It can be very difficult for your child to concentrate on what he is doing and for the SLP to see your child’s whole face (which is very important for successful speech therapy) when the camera is moving around. Please make sure your child is not laying down on the floor, bed, or couch while doing speech therapy.
CHOOSE A FAVORITE STUFFED ANIMAL OR TOY
Have your child choose a favorite item he/she may be able to share or talk about with the SLP. It is helpful to have this nearby, but out of sight if you think it may be distracting for your child. Or, if your child is hesitant to be on camera or participate, holding a favorite stuffed animal while doing speech therapy may be a helpful thing to try to help your child feel more comfortable.
BE AVAILABLE TO SUPPORT
Even if you are not directly involved in the session, make sure you are available to your child if he/she needs something during the session- and also for any technical difficulties! It’s also a great idea to participate or listen in on the session so you can learn more about what your child is working on during speech therapy. You may even get some great ideas about how to help your child at home!
CHECK IN WITH YOUR CHILD’S SLP
Don’t be afraid to check in with your child’s SLP at the beginning or end of the session. SLPs love it when parents get involved and are wanting to understand more about their child’s speech and language so they can learn how to better help at home. It is also helpful to have your perspective as a parent- you know your child best! If something is not going well, talk about it with your SLP.
CHANGE IT UP IF NOT WORKING
Don’t be afraid to change things up if the session is not going well for your child. Online speech therapy is much different than in person speech therapy. Take a break- let your child stand up, move around and then come back. If the session is still not working for your child, that’s ok- you can stop the session early and try again next time!
HAVE A PLAN FOR NEXT TIME
Make sure you and your child’s SLP come up with something to encourage a better session for next time if the session did not go well.
Does your child need more breaks?
A positive reward system?
A visual schedule for the speech session?
You want your child to associate speech therapy with a positive experience and something fun! We don’t want to ‘force’ him/her to continue, and that won’t be very effective anyway!
Depending on your child’s needs, realize that you as the parent may need to support with redirection, behavior management, positive reinforcement, etc to help make speech therapy more successful. You are the expert on your own child! Share what works and doesn’t work with your child. Share your child’s likes and dislikes and collaborate with your SLP to find a plan that will work best for your child.
CONNECT SKILLS TO REAL LIFE
Talk to your child and your child’s SLP to find out how what they are working on in speech therapy connects to everyday life situations. Is your child working on answering who, what, when, where questions? How can he/she practice that in everyday life?
Practice asking and answering questions as you go about your day. Have your child take turns asking you questions too:
Where do we put the forks?
What is your favorite color?
When do we go to bed?
Then, have your child practice by thinking of some questions to ask you!
Is your child learning new words (vocabulary & language) or practicing sounds (speech)? Find creative ways to use those sounds throughout your day and write down new words your child is learning and post them on the fridge so he/she sees them often.
Identifying how the skills your child is working on in speech therapy are relevant to everyday life can be helpful and motivating to your child. And, practicing these skills on a daily basis and not just when your child has speech therapy can help him/her make amazing progress!
We are all going through some trying times right now, and remember it's hard on our kids too! Don't be afraid to take a break if the online sessions are not going well. You can implement techniques at home in the meantime. Your child's SLP should be able to give you some ideas for helping at home.
If you are looking for more ideas to help your child make progress with speech therapy at home, check out my website at www.schooledinspeech.com. It's all about helping parents learn how to help at home. You will also find free resources here to get you started!