About how to help children stay motivated for speech therapy
It is the beginning of a new year. School will soon be resuming and students and families will be getting back into the regular routine. In addition to school, some students may be commencing or continuing with speech therapy. Speech therapy can be a short term or a long-term commitment. Either way, it requires dedicated time and motivation. So how do parents help children stay motivated, enjoy therapy and see the outcomes of all their hard work?
Here are just a few suggestions on how to help a child stay motivated in speech therapy. This is not exhaustive but may point you in the right direction.
1. Think about your therapist!
The relationship that your child has with their speech therapist is vital. Imagine going to a class each week and dreading it. Fortunately, most speech therapists are lovely (The ones I’ve met in my studies and career), but if a child feels uncomfortable, it may lessen their motivation to ‘have-a-go’. A fun but focused therapist can be key to helping your child feel comfortable in therapy. When a child feels comfortable, they are more likely to be motivated, work hard and be happy to go each week.
You should also make sure you have a therapist that you, as parents/caregivers, can communicate well with. You should be able to ask questions, get help with using strategies at home, and be part of the goal setting process. If you don’t feel like you can do this, just have a chat with your therapist – it may be an easy fix!
2. Allow therapy to have a fun factor
Even as adults, some of our most memorable learning experiences occur when a teacher incorporates a bit of fun with the key learning outcomes. One of my most memorable university lectures was when a Professor stood at the front of the room and blew bubbles.
It is important to remember that children learn through play. It is possible to practice speech exercises as part of a game. Your speech therapist may recommend particular games, but you can integrate speech and language practice into variety of board games, puzzles, cause and effect toys and every day routines.
3. Feedback is important
Parents/caregivers are such an important part of a child’s speech therapy. You can read my blog about this here: Parents as partners in speech therapy
We all like to receive recognition where recognition is due. Children are encouraged when you offer praise and positive feedback. Be specific in your feedback. Make sure your child knows what your giving feedback about – e.g. “That was a great ‘s’ sound”. If your child is getting frustrated – encourage them to ‘have-a-go’. Make sure they know you believe they can do it! Some children love verbal feedback, others like visual feedback (or a combination of both). Sticker charts or books can be a great tool.
A few parents I work with keep a special treat or toy just for ‘speech therapy day’. This may not work for every family, but it can be an option for keeping a positive feeling about going to speech therapy. Try to make this special treat part of the routine and use positive language to encourage speech therapy attendance.
4. Make time for therapy practice
Home practice means finding regular time to work on speech therapy activities in a calm environment. If you know there are times where your child is often tired or frustrated it is not ideal to sit down for speech therapy, even when games are involved. Find a time that suits your family and your child, even if it is just 10 or so minutes. If you are finding home practice very difficult to complete, have a chat with your speech therapist to get some ideas specific for you and your child.
5. Be realistic and be ready to celebrate
Speech therapy can take time. Changes do not happen overnight. Remain positive and keep encouraging. Be ready to celebrate when goals (both small and large) are achieved.
Contact us for results focused speech therapy
This article was written by our speech pathologist Jenna Butterworth who is a Speech Pathology Australia member.
If you have questions about early childhood communication, contact your local doctor who will arrange for you to see a speech pathologist.