We all know that practice is crucial when it comes to learning any new skill. We need to repeat tasks and activities until they become second nature to us. Remember learning to drive a car? You had to think about each move of your hand, feet, eyes. You practised over and over, and your incentive to learn was high. Now you can jump in the car and drive, without giving the pedals, indicators, steering wheel or mirror checks a second thought. That’s the power of repeated, consistent practice.
When you or your child need to learn a new speech or language skill, consistent practice is your key to success. Here are a few tips to get you started.
#1 Plan for Practise
Speech practise rarely ‘just happens’. Identify the best time of day to work on your speech activities. Linking practise to a specific daily event will help you to keep it regular. For example, you may have your child work on their speech drills in front of the bathroom mirror for 5 minutes before or after they have brushed their teeth. That’s two practice sessions in one day!
If you are working on developing your child’s vocabulary or sentence structure, picking a daily routine such as bathtime or afternoon tea time will help you prepare and implement quality practise time. You can then ease off the pressure of trying to fit in practice throughout the day.
#2 Share the Load
Your speech pathologist will have given you some specific exercises or techniques to work on at home. Take the time to share these with your partner and other family members or friends. Share the load and allow different people to implement the therapy with your child. Your child will appreciate the variety, and you may find that someone else has the ‘knack’ of getting the best practise results from your child.
#3 Prepare for Practise
Tell your child that you are going to work on their speech homework. Sit in a specific place for practice that is free from distractions. This might be sitting quietly on the lounge together, or on the floor in their bedroom. It could be any room of the house or outside in the yard. Let them know how long the practise session will last. You may want to use a timer for the reluctant child. Remember that even 5 minutes a day is going to make a difference. The idea is that your child is mentally and physically prepared for practice, and realises that this is a distinct and limited period of time.
#4 Set Rewards
Rewards are personal for each child. You may want to give tangible rewards such as stickers or a food treat, which is often a great motivator for young children. For the slightly older child, try rewarding them with extra time at their favourite activity or giving them their choice of food for dinner or movie at the end of the week. Make sure you have a clear system to track progress towards larger rewards. Never threaten to ‘take away’ a reward given for speech practice. Speech practice should stand alone and not be part of broader behaviour incentives. Your child has earned the reward for their commitment to speech practice, and it should be celebrated.
When should you give a reward? Always give verbal feedback about your child’s speech practise. For example, that’s great you made a great ‘s’ sound in that word. Well done you remembered to say ‘she’ when you were talking about the girl. Be clear about what you are rewarding your child for. Initially, you may need to give a tangible reward (sticker, stamp) every time your child is successful. You can then tell your child that they will get the reward when they have said five words correctly etc.
If your child is working towards a larger reward, you will need to negotiate what they need to achieve success. The reward should fit the effort and be sustainable, particularly if you will be working on multiple speech goals. Don’t promise a new lego set for five days of practice. Rather the lego set could be the final reward when your child uses their new speech skill every day without being reminded to.
#5 Use a Speech Coach
Sometimes you just won’t get the practice done. We understand. Instead of letting your practice slide and waiting for your next appointment, why not book an appointment with one of our speech coaches?
Speech Coaches are our special assistants who can help you get your speech practice done at home. Appointments are only 20 minutes, and they are done online. Your coach will use the same programme and materials your speech pathologist has given you, and take you through your practice exercises. All you need is a device (tablet, phone or computer) connected to the internet and you can do your practice anywhere!
Speech Coaching appointments are only $30. Take the pressure off and call the office to book an appointment with one of our coaches.