Making Summer Plans: Continuing Speech Therapy
School may be out soon, but speech therapy doesn’t have to end. Instead of lamenting the (temporary) loss of your child’s school speech-language pathologist (SLP), use summer break as an opportunity to advance your child’s communication skills. If your child qualifies for extended school year (ESY) services, he will still be able to work with his school SLP. There are also plenty of opportunities to turn fun activities into learning experiences.
ESY services and private SLPs are only two options for structured speech therapy during the summer. Consider signing your child up for a summer camp that is specifically intended to help children with speech disorders and other special needs. Google “speech therapy summer camps” and you’ll see a whole host of programs, like the Camp Littlefoot in Maryland, the Charlotte Summer Camps in North Carolina, and the summer camps offered by the National Speech/Language Therapy Center.
If you have trouble finding a summer camp or other program in your area, talk to the school’s representatives about local programs. Contact local universities to determine if they plan to offer any summer camps for special needs children. If you still strike out, network with other parents at your child’s school or in your speech therapy support group. Determine if there is an interest in getting the kids together to work on social interactions and communication. Perhaps all the parents could chip in and hire a private SLP to work with a small group of children.
Speech Therapy Gift Bags
Heather from Heather’s Speech Therapy had the great idea of giving kids a speech therapy gift bag for the summer. Kids are always excited about getting gifts. Put together a gift bag that contains a few items that can help encourage your child’s communication skills this summer. Heather recommends some colorful pencils, a new box of crayons, a new book or two, and a journal. You can also toss in a couple of workbooks that are related to the areas of speech and language that your child needs to improve, such as vocabulary workbooks. Tell your child that he will receive a gold sticker for each completed page in the workbook. Five gold stickers could mean a small toy. Additional gift bag ideas could include a tape recorder (to encourage vocalization), a new speech therapy computer program, or a CD of sing-along songs.
At-Home Speech Therapy Activities
Children often would like to do nothing more during the summer than watch TV, play videogames, or hang out with their friends. Start speech therapy activities early in the summer break so that your child becomes accustomed to them. Set up a daily or weekly routine. For example, every evening right before bed, read a book with your child. Encourage your child to read along with you. If he cannot read yet, he could make up stories about the pictures. Every Saturday morning, you could take a walk with your child. During your walk, work on the areas of speech and language that your child needs to improve. If he needs to work on his “b” sounds, for example, point out birds, bees, and benches (as in park benches) on your walk. Encourage your child to repeat the words.
Break up the more traditional speech therapy activities into smaller chunks so that your child is less likely to resist them. For example, get into the habit of using Speech Buddies for articulation right after your child brushes his teeth every morning. Then, after lunch, you could work on flashcards with your child for 10 minutes. Afterward, reward him for successfully completing his flashcards with a quick game of ball outside.