If you have a child in speech therapy, then you know how important it is that your child is motivated. It doesn’t matter how much you want them to improve if they refuse to pay attention or practice. On the other hand, a child who is motivated to learn can make the experience fun and see big improvements in their speech.
Having been through years of speech therapy as a child myself, and now having a child in speech therapy, her are techniques that I’ve learned to help children stay motivated in their speech therapy.
• Pick the Right Therapist
If your child feels uncomfortable with their speech therapist, then they’re not going to be motivated to try their hardest. If there’s not a good relationship and connection between the speech therapist and your child, then it will cause tension and stress for everyone involved. Don’t be afraid to “shop around” for a speech therapist in order to find one that is right for you and your child.
• Make It Fun
Children are more motivated to do things if they are enjoyable (let’s face it–so are we as adults). It is possible to practice their speech exercises and have fun. For example, we often turn speech activities into games for my four-year-old. We turn pictures of words for her to practice and put puzzle pieces on top of them, for example. As she practices the words, she also gets to complete the puzzle. This can be adapted to fit games and activities suitable for different ages. Just try to make it fun.
• Pick the Right Time
It can be difficult to fit in time to practice, but it’s important to find the time of day that works best for your family. For example, you may find that at bedtime your child is too tired to really focus on practicing their speech. Find a time of day that works the best for your family, even if it’s just for five or ten minutes, and use that time for speech homework every day.
• Offer Praise and Encouragement
Everyone likes having their hard work recognized. It’s amazing how much more motivated your child will be if you just make sure to offer them praise and encouragement. When they get frustrated, tell them things like, “I know you can do it.” If they say a sound well, praise them for it. You may want to keep special treats just for speech therapy. Consider giving them a sticker after they practice each day, for example, or offering a special treat if they are good for their speech therapy session. During my daughter’s first block of speech therapy, she would get to pick out a magazine afterward as a treat. Bringing home a children’s magazine afterward really helped her to be excited about speech.
• Be Patient and Realistic
Don’t expect your child’s speech to be perfect overnight. It took years of speech therapy to help me (and although people don’t have any idea if I don’t tell them, there are still sounds that I sometimes have to concentrate on). If you are unrealistic in your expectations, your frustration will be transmitted to your child. Realize that this will probably be a slow progress, but be prepared to celebrate as they do progress.