By: Jessica Drake-Simmons, M.S. CCC-SLP
I recently had a shoulder injury and was prescribed a long list of exercises to do multiple times a day. True confession: I was not the best patient. The exercises were time consuming and pretty boring. Being in the shoes of the uncooperative, slowly progressing patient made me reflect on what I could do as the practitioner who may be guilty of occasionally recommending time consuming and boring home practice. My best advice for working on speech is: incorporate it into a routine as part of your day and Make it FUN!
When working with kids with articulation disorders, phonological disorders or apraxia of speech, I like to balance repetitive, structured practice with functional, meaningful words. Here are 10 fun and easy ideas for practicing speech at home:
- Beat the timer: This is one of my favorite games for getting A LOT of repetitions quickly! I like to use a visual timer which can come in the form of an app like Time Timer Time Timer or a sand timer from an old board game. The visual timer lets the child see time passing and acts as a great motivator. If you don’t have a visual timer—any timer will do! Set a goal of how many words the child will say correctly before the time runs out. I like to set this as an almost unobtainable goal so that it is a fun challenge and perhaps something that has to be attempted 2 or 3 times before we succeed.
- Story time: Have the child find his targeted sound in a story. He can repeat the word or fill-in-the-blank of your sentence as you read to practice his targeted sound.
- Driving in the car: Practicing speech words in the car can be a great way to use this time more purposely. You can leave a sheet of pictures or flash cards in the car. If your child were to produce their target words each time they got in the car they could get SO MANY repetitions throughout the day!
- Playing a sport: There are many different ways that you could incorporate speech practice while playing a sport but here are a few of my favorites:
- Basketball- Set up different places to shoot with a targeted word attached to each place. Have your child say the word a given number of times before they can shoot. You can play this game like HORSE to create a fun element of competition.
- Soccer- each time a goal is scored against your child he has to say a set number of words.
- Playing catch- have your child say a targeted word every time they throw a ball.
- Meaningful Words: Create a list of your child’s favorite foods, activities, toys and important people. Identify which of these words contain your child’s targeted sound. You can have your child practice these words in drill or in meaningful opportunities. These words are a good bridge for generalizing correct production of a sound into natural, spontaneous speech.
- Board games– When playing board games, I like to make a list a list of the words we are saying related to the board game that contains the targeted sounds. As the game progresses, I focus on having the child accurately (or to the best of his ability) produce the meaningful, targeted words. I also make the child produce a given number of words before they take their turn.
- Silly stories– This is one of my recent favorites! I will give a child a sheet of pictures that contain his targeted speech sound. The first person selects a picture and starts a story using the target word. The next person repeats the first sentence and then builds onto the story by selecting a different picture and creating a sentence. I cannot even begin to tell you the funny and crazy stories that some of my little munchkins have come up with! Not only is this a fun activity to target speech production but it also develops language skills, sharing an imagination, memory and sequencing.
- Talking Activity-For a child who is at the level of generalizing his speech sounds into conversation, any talking activity can be a great time to work on speech! When a child is at the level of generalization, I don’t like to correct all of the time because I don’t want the child to get the message that how they are saying something is more important than what they have to say. I recommend designating specific times or activities to monitor speech production. These could be activities like: telling you about his day, reading a book, playing I Spy, describing pictures, or playing a game.
- Brushing teeth– This is a routine activity that children do 2 times a day and can be a perfect time to spend a few minutes targeting speech goals. Being in front of the mirror and having the child watch their mouth movements can be very beneficial!
- Follow your child’s lead: So many of the kids I work with have brains that are far superior to mine in terms or creativity. Kids can come up with the greatest games using the simplest of materials. So try giving your child the opportunity to develop their own creative ideas and games while working on their speech.
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