Work with Your School to Maximize Speech Therapy Effectiveness
Whether your child is in private therapy or is getting services in a school or via, say, your local Early Intervention (EI) program, it is always a good idea to use the resources around you to maximize your child’s therapy gains. Unless your child is very young or home-schooled, he or she is going to spend a huge amount of time in school. This post is dedicated to the notion that therapy and the activities of daily life of your child, here school, don’t have to be so separate. Use the tips provided below to maximize the gains your child can make in speech therapy. Think of it as leverage for your time. You only have a limited amount of time with your speech therapist, and yet so much time outside of therapy. Applied consistently, these simple principles can perhaps double the value of your therapy.
See if Your School will Cover Therapy
Unfortunately, it seems that the general national trend from local school districts is to reduce the coverage they have for speech disorders, especially those that relate to articulation or speech clarity. Many schools are adopting a more educational-focused model in which the school will provide speech services only if your child’s speech challenge is directly related to his or her academic development. New York City, where I live and practice, is an example of this. However, talk directly to your school’s speech therapist and ask if there’s any way your child can be seen, if informally and unofficially.
Plenty of schools throughout the country do this, under an approach called response-to-intervention. This approach essentially gives the school leeway to see children without having to issue a formal Individualized Education Program (IEP) and allows kids who may not qualify for services, to be helped anyway. This all depends on your school therapist’s caseload and if she or he has availability. Try to appeal to the therapist’s caring instinct. Therapists, by nature, want to help children. Yet they are, in many schools, overstretched. Take what you can get: ask for just ten minutes per week, maybe at dismissal or during recess. Take charge of therapy and ask for a home-based regimen of exercises. Another great way to get the services you child needs, while making life easier for your therapist, is to use Speech Buddies Tools in your school. Better yet, pair this work, for example, with a once-weekly therapy regimen with a great local speech provider. In this vein, a kernel of advice I once heard from my grandfather: you never know what you can get if you just ask.
Coordinate with Your Child’s Teachers
Whether your child is participating in school-based, or in private therapy, it is crucial to get your child’s classroom teachers involved from the outset. Again, the premise is that your teacher spends a significant amount of time with your child. So, arming him or her with not only awareness, but actionable tips is incredibly helpful to your child’s progress. A previous post I wrote has a lot of additional advice on how parents can best get involved in their child’s progress.
First, you have to consider that your child’s teacher has a lot on his or her plate. So, keep instructions simple and check-ins about how the follow-up work the teacher is doing not that frequent, focused and brief. With a child working on correcting a speech articulation challenge, reading groups are a great way to incorporate daily practice. Mention this to your teacher and/or to the reading specialist. Instruct your child’s teachers to frequently check in about, for example, your child’s R sounds, but do so discreetly. This will get the point across that multiple people have an eye out for your child’s progress but that it’s “their secret.”
Also, ask your child’s teacher to be a keen but passive observer. This is especially important for the later stages of therapy, where a child is trying to incorporate this newly learned behavior into his or her daily life. The new, correct R sound may be really flourishing in the clinic and school, but not at home just yet, or at home, but not in school. Often, in private therapy (as in my own private practice), therapists will coordinate periodically with a student’s teachers and/or learning specialists. When your child is getting school-based services, it does depend on the school, your teacher and your therapist, as well as the school’s policies. In either case, I recommend you become an empowered parent to help facilitate this communication (no pun intended).
Whether your child is in private therapy or is receiving school-based speech services, don’t forget to use your school as an invaluable resource to improve therapy outcomes for your child. Your school therapist is busy, yes, and so are your child’s teachers. But with some specific, actionable suggestions (and a little needling) you’d be surprised how far some extra attention can go toward achieving your child’s goals.