My next Thursday morning session with a first grader will be our last. She has mastered her r-sound. Here’s the crazy part. We have only had three speech therapy sessions. To be honest, I am shocked. Typically, it takes a few months to see such progress. I will say that, after a decade and a half of practice, I have expedited the process by doing a few key things. First, let me say that the 6-year-old came into the assessment not stimulable for pre-vocalic and vocalic r-sounds. Based on the assessment, the examiner recommended two, 45-minute sessions weekly. Due to scheduling, we were only able to provide a session per week. As I was speaking to the child’s mother last week, I got to thinking about what made this happen. And, here are the 5 steps for dismissing a child sooner rather than later:
1. What does she like?
Before all of my first speech therapy sessions, I find out what’s important to the child. I call the parents, introduce myself, ask about the caretaker’s biggest concerns and then say, “So, tell me, what does Gabriel like?” Remember, treating the whole child goes a long way. Our children and clients are not just their disorder. Honor what’s important to her, and she will work, work, work.
2. Let me tell you why you’re here.
The second I pick up a child for his first session, I say, “So, why do you think you’re coming with me?” Since I often go into schools to support SLPs for short periods of time, I am continually shocked at how often a child cannot tell me why he comes to speech. It’s hard to make progress when one is unsure of the task at hand. So, before doing speech and language tasks, SLPs, start with teaching the child his goal. Check out our Goals Rap. It works and it’s fun.
3. It’s all about muscle memory.
Once the child knows that his speech therapy sessions will be spent working on R/S/TH/L sound, then it’s time to give a brief Anatomy 101 lesson. I talk about muscle memory and how it exists in the tongue. Now, I know what you’re thinking…are kids really going to get this? The answer is yes, yes, yes. I start by bringing up an example that the child understands. “So, what happened the first time you rode your bike? (Let child answer) Yes, you fell off. It’s because your arm, leg and core muscles were learning how to ride a bike for the first time.” Then, I say, “What if I were to take your bike a way for a whole month? Do you think your body would remember how to ride? It would! Your muscles remember, and that’s exactly what we need to do with your tongue.” And, each time the child says the sound, we drill, drill, drill to build muscle memory.
4. Here’s your homework.
So, let’s talk numbers. As an SLP, we typically spend 30 hours with a child during the course of a year. There are 8,730 hours left in the year when you cannot be with your client. And, the research says that 5-7 minutes of daily articulation therapy is best. So, what do we do? Give homework. Better yet, send a video of a strategy to the parents so they know exactly what to do.
5. I like spending time with you.
Last, it’s important to like your student. When you find ways to like someone, you start building trust and rapport. All of this goes a long way. Our children know when they are valued. So, take the time to build this relationship. When there’s a solid partnership, the speech therapy happens more easily and with great success.
So, there you have it. A few strategies that get the most out of your SLP-time during speech therapy sessions. Also, check out this online learning module for therapy planning. These training modules, initially geared for SLP-Assistants, provide the most comprehensive (and free!) information for all SLPs (e.g., Clinical Considerations, Therapy Planning, Treatment for Speech Sound Disorders & Language Intervention)