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What Is Speech Therapy?

how to do a speech therapy

Speech therapy is the assessment and treatment of communication problems and speech disorders. It is performed by speech-language pathologists (SLPs), which are often referred to as speech therapists.

Speech therapy techniques are used to improve communication. These include articulation therapy, language intervention activities, and others depending on the type of speech or language disorder .

Speech therapy may be needed for speech disorders that develop in childhood or speech impairments in adults caused by an injury or illness, such as stroke or brain injury .

Why do you need speech therapy?

There are several speech and language disorders that can be treated with speech therapy.

  • Articulation disorders. An articulation disorder is the inability to properly form certain word sounds. A child with this speech disorder may drop, swap, distort, or add word sounds. An example of distorting a word would be saying “thith” instead of “this”.
  • Fluency disorders. A fluency disorder affects the flow, speed, and rhythm of speech. Stuttering and cluttering are fluency disorders. A person with stuttering has trouble getting out a sound and may have speech that is blocked or interrupted, or may repeat part of all of a word. A person with cluttering often speaks very fast and merges words together.
  • Resonance disorders. A resonance disorder occurs when a blockage or obstruction of regular airflow in the nasal or oral cavities alters the vibrations responsible for voice quality. It can also happen if the velopharyngeal valve doesn’t close properly. Resonance disorders are often associated with cleft palate , neurological disorders, and swollen tonsils .
  • Receptive disorders. A person with receptive language disorder has trouble understanding and processing what others say. This can cause you to seem uninterested when someone is speaking, have trouble following directions, or have a limited vocabulary. Other language disorders, autism , hearing loss , and a head injury can lead to a receptive language disorder.
  • Expressive disorders. Expressive language disorder is difficulty conveying or expressing information. If you have an expressive disorder , you may have trouble forming accurate sentences, such as using incorrect verb tense. It’s associated with developmental impairments, such as Down syndrome and hearing loss. It can also result from head trauma or a medical condition.
  • Cognitive-communication disorders. Difficulty communicating because of an injury to the part of the brain that controls your ability to think is referred to as cognitive-communication disorder. It can result in memory issues , problem solving, and difficulty speaking , or listening. It can be caused by biological problems, such abnormal brain development, certain neurological conditions, a brain injury, or stroke.
  • Aphasia. This is an acquired communication disorder that affects a person’s ability to speak and understand others. It also often affects a person’s ability to read and write. Stroke is the most common cause of aphasia, though other brain disorders can also cause it.
  • Dysarthria. This condition is characterized by slow or slurred speech due to a weakness or inability to control the muscles used for speech. It’s most commonly caused by nervous system disorders and conditions that cause facial paralysis or throat and tongue weakness, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) , amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) , and stroke.

What happens during speech therapy?

Speech therapy usually begins with an assessment by an SLP who will identify the type of communication disorder and the best way to treat it.

Speech therapy for children

For your child, speech therapy may take place in a classroom or small group, or one-on-one, depending on the speech disorder. Speech therapy exercises and activities vary depending on your child’s disorder, age, and needs. During speech therapy for children, the SLP may:

  • interact through talking and playing, and using books, pictures other objects as part of language intervention to help stimulate language development
  • model correct sounds and syllables for a child during age-appropriate play to teach the child how to make certain sounds
  • provide strategies and homework for the child and parent or caregiver on how to do speech therapy at home

Speech therapy for adults

Speech therapy for adults also begins with assessment to determine your needs and the best treatment. Speech therapy exercises for adults can help you with speech, language, and cognitive communication.

Therapy may also include retraining of swallowing function if an injury or medical condition, such as Parkinson’s disease or oral cancer has caused swallowing difficulties .

Exercises may involve:

  • problem solving, memory, and organization, and other activities geared at improving cognitive communication
  • conversational tactics to improve social communication
  • breathing exercises for resonance
  • exercises to strengthen oral muscles

There are many resources available if you’re looking to try speech therapy exercises at home, including:

  • speech therapy apps
  • language development games and toys, such as flip cards and flash cards

How long do you need speech therapy?

The amount of time a person needs speech therapy depends on a few factors, including:

  • type and severity of the speech disorder
  • frequency of therapy
  • underlying medical condition
  • treatment of an underlying medical condition

Some speech disorders begin in childhood and improve with age, while others continue into adulthood and require long-term therapy and maintenance.

A communication disorder caused by a stroke or other medical condition may improve as with treatment and as the condition improves.

How successful is speech therapy?

The success rate of speech therapy varies between the disorder being treated and age groups. When you start speech therapy can also have an impact on the outcome.

Speech therapy for young children has been shown to be most successful when started early and practiced at home with the involvement of a parent or caregiver.

The bottom line

Speech therapy can treat a broad range of speech and language delays and disorders in children and adults. With early intervention, speech therapy can improve communication and boost self-confidence.

Last medically reviewed on May 9, 2019

How we reviewed this article:

  • Aphasia FAQs. (n.d.). https://www.aphasia.org/aphasia-faqs/
  • Black LI, et al. (2015). Communication disorders and use of intervention services among children aged 3–17 years: United States, 2012. https://www.aphasia.org/aphasia-faqs/
  • Expressive language disorder. (2016). https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/expressive-language-disorder
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Dysarthria. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dysarthria/symptoms-causes/syc-20371994
  • McLaughlin MR. (2011). Speech and language delay in children. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6897/4c7db002182e5dbf00270b97eefd474059a7.pdf
  • Roberts MY, et al. (2011). The effectiveness of parent-implemented language interventions: A meta-analysis. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1044/1058-0360(2011/10-0055)
  • Speech sound disorders-articulation and phonology. (n.d.). https://www.asha.org/Practice-Portal/Clinical-Topics/Articulation-and-Phonology/
  • Stuttering. (2017). https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/stuttering

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Speech Therapy at Home: Top Tips for Parents

Is your child showing signs of speech delay ? Are they mispronouncing words too frequently? Do you notice signs of stuttering or speech-language development delay in your child?  Several children exhibit speech and language issues early in life. As a parent, you have every right and reason to worry. You may worry about their quality of life, education, and career prospects. But, just worrying won’t get you anywhere. You need to take action.

Firstly, you need to find out the type of speech problem your child has. You may want to speak to a speech-language pathologist (SLP) or speech therapist. They have the training, knowledge, experience, and tools necessary for correct diagnosis.

Next, you can begin practicing speech therapy exercises at home with your child. When parents engage speech therapists online, help children practice certain exercises, or use cutting-edge speech therapy apps like Stamurai , there are ways to increase the overall effectiveness of speech therapy. Here are the 18 tips from our speech therapists for parents.

1. Use Your Speech as a Model

Never use telegraphic speech while talking to your child. It applies to all parents irrespective of their child’s age. Always speak in grammatically correct sentences. Its one of the most imporant aspects of any speech therapy strategies for parents at home.

Speak slowly, stress on the correct words, and pronounce every word correctly. Do not say, "Wabbit" instead of "rabbit" because that's how a child says it or because it sounds cute.

Serve as ‘the source of learning correct speech’ for your child.

2. Expand On What They Are Saying

If your child is old enough to say two–word sentences, try to add to their speech.

For example, if they say, "Mommy, go." Depending on the situation, you can say, "Yes, let's go." Or "Yes baby, you want to go? Do you want to go watch TV?"

3. Work On Name Recognition

Once you have decided on your baby’s name, greet them by their full name at least once whenever you see them. At other times, use their nicknames.

Once your child is around 6 months old, they should be able to look in the direction of the person calling their name. They should also babble in response.

Also, point at people and mention their relationship to your baby. For example, point and say, “Uncle Sean,” or “Grandpa.”

4. Parallel Talk

To master Parallel talk, begin by using child-friendly language. Then, narrate what your child is doing. Describe what they are seeing, touching, hearing, eating, or smelling.

For example, when they are playing with a toy, describe the toy in simple language. Say things like, “Oh! You are playing with the car. It’s a red car. The car goes vroom. Ooh. That is a fast car.”

5. Use Visual Cues

The visual cues can be tangible objects, photos, or symbols. It can be as simple as pointing toward an object and naming it. For example, if you have a toy car in front of you, you can say, "that's a car. A red car."

If your child is a little older, you can expand on this. For a 2 to 3-year-old child, you can point towards their shoes and say, "we put on the shoes, then we can go outside."

You can use the same strategy to draw their attention to a person’s feelings or emotions. You can use photos or picture cards for this. Sit with a collection of emotion/feelings cards. Show them a happy face and say, “That man’s happy.” Show them a crying face and say, “that man is sad and crying.”

6. Offer Two or More Choices

Your child should understand the concept of choices from a very young age. Make sure not to give them directives or commands at all times. Give them choices.

For example, when it is time to go out, lay out two sets of clothes and ask your child, “Which t-shirt do you want to wear? The blue one or the green one?”

Try to apply this technique in every aspect possible. It will strengthen their ability to make decisions for themselves and boost self-confidence in the long run.

7. Practice Expectant Waiting

Suppose you have asked a question to your child. Now, it’s time for you to wait. Don’t rush them. Wait for a response. If your child becomes distracted, ask the same question differently. There’s always a chance that your child hasn’t understood the question.

Waiting can be difficult for grown-ups. However, it is the most critical skill parents need to learn to teach their children timely responses.

Another way of exercising expectant waiting is to reverse the roles. When the child points towards an object, wait for 5-seconds before handing it over. Yes, they may lean over, and try to grab, but at the same time, they will feel eager to say the name of the object they desire.

8. Provide Positive Reinforcement

Whenever your child says a new word for the first time or pronounces a difficult word correctly, provide them with verbal reinforcement. Saying, "Wow. That was a difficult one, but you said it correctly!" or "Good job Max" can help build your child's confidence and self-esteem.

Do not discourage your child when they mispronounce words or misarticulate word sounds. Repeat the word correctly for them in your response. For example, your child says, "Look, mom, a wed bawoon." Respond by saying, "oh, yes. That's a big red balloon."

9. Use Self-Talk

Even before your child is old enough to babble, they are ready to learn. So, whenever you are around your infant, moving about, finishing your chores, engage in self-talk.

Use child-friendly language to narrate whatever you are doing around the house. You may be watching football on TV, doing the dishes, or washing dirty clothes. Just keep describing your actions to your child.

When they are a little older, describe everything you are doing in their line of sight. For example, when it’s bath time, you can narrate all the actions they can see and hear. “Here’s water. It’s warm water. Pour water. Put some soap/shampoo on. Rinse off all the bubbles. Dry baby off. Aaaand all done!”

10. Use Gestures and Signs

All children use gestures and signs almost naturally. The baby’s first smile, cry, or laughter are also part of communication. These are all parts of non-verbal communication.

It's common for a 1-year-old to point at something they want. Or, use gestures for "hi," "bye," "hungry," or "sleepy." Children who use gestures more frequently are more likely to develop expansive vocabularies when they are older.

You can teach your baby several signs and gestures . These may include – eat, drink, help, milk, hungry, water, please, more, and go.

11. Sing With Them

Is there a song you and your baby love listening to? It can be anything from “Wheels on the Bus” to “Piano Man.” If your child is old enough to speak and hum along with the song, sing with them .

Pick nursery rhymes, children's songs (Baby Shark will definitely do), and whatever you love. Make sure you know the correct lyrics, and that the lyrics are appropriate for a child. Hit the Play button on your phone and sing along!

This exercise is simple and fun. If your child mispronounces a word, correct them during the chorus or reps.

12. Recite Poetry

Reciting poetry to and with your child can boost their language skills. If your child hasn’t said their first words yet, you can read poetry to them. Make sure to emphasize and pause in the correct places. Pronounce the words carefully and correctly.

When your child is a little older, read simple poems and rhymes to them. You can find a collection of limericks too. Recite the short and funny ones with your child multiple times a day. It will help them learn about prosody and articulation organically.

Moreover, they will already know the popular nursery rhymes and children’s poems by the time they enter elementary school.

13. Give Them Simple Directions

Giving your child simple two-step directions (once they are at least 2-years old) serves two purposes –

  • It gives you the idea of whether they can follow simple directions
  • It enhances their comprehensive abilities

Ask them to do something simple, such as, “go to the living room, and bring the red ball.” Or, “Go to mommy and tell her dinner’s ready.”

Once they are older, you can graduate with three or four-step instructions.

14. Allow Them to Give You Directions

When your child asks you to find something, you can ask for directions to the item. For example, if they want their red coat. You can ask, “Can you tell me, how I can find it?”

It is a great way to exercise your child’s analytical abilities and logical thinking. They will also exercise their articulation and spoken language when they explain exactly how you can retrieve an item for them.

15. Get Rid Of the Distractions

When it’s time to sing, switch off the TV. When it’s time to play, put your phone on silent.

If you want your child to sing with you for 15-minutes, you must focus on your singing time. Be in the moment. Don't engage in texting or answering calls when you are spending time with your child.

Spending quality time with your child is critical to their cognitive and emotional development. Sometimes, after a long tiring day, doing nothing but reading to them can help you build fond memories.

16. Read With Them

When your child is old enough to answer simple questions, you should begin reading with them. Don’t just read whatever book you pick for bedtime stories. Make reading-time interactive.

Between reading, ask them simple questions like, "what color is the dog?" or "where did the bird fly?" Of course, these questions will depend upon what you are reading.

After finishing a story, you can try to create your own alternate ending. It is important to explore your child’s fantasies to boost the function of their prefrontal cortex (PFC). Ask “what if…” questions and try to explore the possibilities with your child.

17. Play Silly Games

Play your own version of Treasure Hunt. Get a bucket and put all the toys in it. Then sit down and dig through the bucket with your child. Take turns to pull out a toy, name it and describe it.

Play "Red Light, Green Light" with your child. When you say "Green" your child begins jumping up and down. When you say "Red" they stop. You can improvise the rules on spot. And pick activities they actually enjoy.

18. Name the Facial Expressions

You can teach your child to name or understand emotions from facial expressions. You can download emotion charts, watch movies together and pause to ask what the actors are feeling, or simply use your own face as a canvas.

This simple exercise can help children develop emotional intelligence and comprehend others feelings.

It is also a crucial part of speech therapy exercises for children with autism .

These 18 exercises are suitable for all children. You can do these speech therapy activities at home with your child even if they are late-talkers . However, if your child doesn’t take part or respond to any of the games, you should definitely speak to your pediatrician to get their hearing checked.


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Speech-Language Therapy

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What Is Speech-Language Therapy?

Speech-language therapy is the treatment for most kids with speech and/or language disorders.

What Are Speech Disorders?

A speech disorder refers to a problem with making sounds. Speech disorders include:

  • Articulation disorders: These are problems with making sounds in syllables, or saying words incorrectly to the point that listeners can't understand what's being said.
  • Fluency disorders: These include problems such as stuttering , in which the flow of speech is interrupted by unusual stops, partial-word repetitions ("b-b-boy"), or prolonging sounds and syllables (sssssnake).
  • Resonance or voice disorders: These are problems with the pitch, volume, or quality of the voice that distract listeners from what's being said. These types of disorders may also cause pain or discomfort for a child when speaking.

What Are Language Disorders?

A language disorder refers to a problem understanding or putting words together to communicate ideas. Language disorders can be either receptive or expressive:

  • Receptive disorders are problems with understanding or processing language.
  • Expressive disorders are problems with putting words together, having a limited vocabulary, or being unable to use language in a socially appropriate way.
  • Cognitive-communication disorders are problems with communication skills that involve memory, attention, perception, organization, regulation, and problem solving.

What Are Feeding Disorders?

Dysphagia/oral feeding disorders are disorders in the way someone eats or drinks. They include problems with chewing and swallowing, coughing, gagging, and refusing foods.

Who Gives Speech-Language Therapy?

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs), often called speech therapists , are educated in the study of human communication, its development, and its disorders. SLPs assess speech, language, cognitive-communication, and oral/feeding/swallowing skills. This lets them identify a problem and the best way to treat it.

  • at least a master's degree
  • state certification/licensure in the field
  • a certificate of clinical competency from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)

An ASHA-certified SLP has passed a national exam and completed an ASHA-accredited supervised clinical fellowship.

Sometimes, speech assistants help give speech-language services. They usually have a 2-year associate's or 4-year bachelor's degree, and are supervised by an SLP.

What Do SLPs Do?

In speech-language therapy, an SLP works with a child one-on-one, in a small group, or in a classroom to overcome problems.

Therapists use a variety of strategies, including:

  • Language intervention activities: The SLP will interact with a child by playing and talking, using pictures, books, objects, or ongoing events to stimulate language development. The therapist may model correct vocabulary and grammar, and use repetition exercises to build language skills.
  • Articulation therapy: Articulation, or sound production, exercises involve having the therapist model correct sounds and syllables in words and sentences for a child, often during play activities. The level of play is age-appropriate and related to the child's specific needs. The SLP will show the child how to make certain sounds, such as the "r" sound, and may show how to move the tongue to make specific sounds.
  • Oral-motor/feeding and swallowing therapy: The SLP may use a variety of oral exercises — including facial massage and various tongue, lip, and jaw exercises — to strengthen the muscles of the mouth for eating, drinking, and swallowing. The SLP may also introduce different food textures and temperatures to increase a child's oral awareness during eating and swallowing.

Why Do Some Kids Need Speech-Language Therapy?

Kids might need speech-language therapy for many reasons, including:

  • hearing impairments
  • cognitive (intellectual, thinking) or other developmental delays
  • weak oral muscles
  • chronic hoarseness
  • cleft lip or cleft palate
  • motor planning problems
  • articulation problems
  • fluency disorders
  • respiratory problems (breathing disorders)
  • feeding and swallowing disorders
  • traumatic brain injury

Therapy should begin as soon as possible. Children who start therapy early (before they're 5 years old) tend to have better results than those who begin later.

This doesn't mean that older kids won't do well in therapy. Their progress might be slower, though, because they have learned patterns that need to be changed.

How Do I Find a Speech-Language Therapist?

To find a specialist, ask your child's doctor or teacher for a referral, check local directories online, or search on ASHA's website . State associations for speech-language pathology and audiology also keep listings of licensed and certified therapists.

Your child's SLP should be licensed in your state and have experience working with kids and your child's specific disorder.

How Can Parents Help?

Parents are key to the success of a child's progress in speech or language therapy. Kids who finish the program quickest and with the longest-lasting results are those whose parents were involved.

Ask the therapist what you can do. For instance, you can help your child do the at-home activities that the SLP suggests. This ensures the continued progress and carry-over of new skills.

Overcoming a speech or language disorder can take time and effort. So it's important that all family members be patient and understanding with the child.

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How to Do Speech Therapy at Home

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Like any other skill acquired in childhood, learning how to communicate clearly—both in terms of how you speak and the words you choose—is one that develops over the course of many months and years. Some kids begin babbling away early in toddlerhood while others remain the strong and silent type until they’re more comfortable with speech patterns.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), most children begin talking between 1 and 2 years of age. By age 2, most kids have a vast foundation of words to work with (think “ball,” “dog,” “Mama” or “Dada,” “cup,” “eat”) and are often putting words together into two-word questions and sentences.

If your child doesn’t seem to be falling within the range of normal for speech, it may not be a sign of a speech or language delay , but it also may be appropriate to begin engaging in some simple speech exercises with your child at home.

At-home speech therapy can be especially helpful for kids who aren’t easily frustrated and who have only mild delays or articulation errors, said Massachusetts-based pediatric speech therapist Alyssa Gusenoff. More serious problems, like speech regressions, should be brought up with a licensed speech therapist.

Here is a guide to performing basic speech therapy at home with your child, from first steps all the way through seeking outside help.

Assess Your Options 

There’s no reason to go it alone when it comes to speech therapy if there are resources in your community that can assist you. First, you should consult with your child’s pediatrician if you feel that your child has a speech delay or articulation issue. A pediatrician can share developmental milestones for speech and let you know if your child is actually struggling.

“It’s important to know what’s developmentally appropriate for speech and what’s simply parent-preferred,” Gusenoff said. “Parents without a pediatric background may not realize that 4 year olds don’t need the 'r' sound yet.”

Gusenoff said that many communities offer early intervention services for children who aren’t yet school-aged. If your child is already enrolled in school, your district may employ a speech therapist who can help you, too. Don’t be shy—ask around to see what’s available. Many services are provided free of charge for town residents.

Assess Your Child

If you’ve decided to try at-home speech therapy (either in lieu of professional services or, perhaps, while you wait for a therapist to become available), what works for your child will depend on several things.

Younger children will have a hard time focusing and concentrating on anything you call “therapy.” You can try to keep things fun and light, but a child too little to understand he’s making speech errors may not be receptive to correcting them. An older child can be more motivated to improve their speech because it means they will be better understood by peers and caregivers.


Again, kids who are not easily frustrated are more likely to work on speech with a parent. Kids with a low frustration tolerance may view therapy as a negative experience.

Type of Speech Involvement Needed

There will be different approaches to therapy if your child has a speech delay (they have far fewer words than they should at their age) versus an articulation problem (they make a “t” sound instead of a hard “c” sound). 

Co-Existing Conditions

If your child is simply behind in this one area, it may be easier for you to slowly catch them up over time at home. If a speech issue occurs along with another developmental condition, like autism, you may want to seek professional help.

Experiment with At-Home Methods

Once you’re ready to forge ahead, you can try a variety of approaches to helping your child improve their speech. Here are some of Gusenoff’s favorite strategies.

Stop Anticipating Your Child’s Needs

It’s tempting, we know, to jump for what your child wants whenever they simply point at it—but doing so doesn’t encourage them to use their words. Give them a chance to ask for the pretzels, Gusenoff said, rather than grabbing them as soon as your child points to the cabinet.

Minimize Pacifier Usage

If your older toddler or preschooler is still using a pacifier, it can be very hard to break the habit , but it’s also very hard to talk with a pacifier in your mouth, so continuing to use one when speech is developing can interrupt the process.

Offer Choices

Instead of saying, “What would you like to drink?” ask your child “Would you like milk or juice?” A child struggling to build vocabulary will benefit from hearing the options and being able to choose one, rather than being expected to pull the correct word out of thin air. 

Increase Visibility

“When you say the name of an object, hold the object up towards your mouth so your child sees your mouth move,” Gusenoff recommended. This creates an immediate visual connection between the object and the way the word for that object is formed in the mouth.

Take turns repeating words to each other (example: “I’ll say ‘apple’ and then you say ‘apple.’ Ready? ‘Apple.’ Your turn!”). Peek-a-boo games also encourage speech by keeping a child’s attention, as do hiding games. Gusenoff said hiding objects around the house, like hiding small objects inside playdough, and keeping objects reserved inside containers can all encourage kids to ask questions, make exclamations, and request assistance.

Prompt and Withhold (Within Reason)

If your child is struggling because they simply haven’t had a lot of opportunities to practice various types of speech, you’ll have to learn to get comfortable making them feel mildly un comfortable sometimes. Don’t push your child to the brink of tears, but it’s okay to pause or hang back to see if your child can eventually solve their own problem when they need something.

For example, Gusenoff said you can help your child put on one shoe—then get up and walk away. Does your child call after you to get your attention? If so, ask him what he needs (you know the answer, but pretend like you don’t!). The goal here is to encourage your child to communicate for himself, rather than always relying on you to do all the talking.

Most children learn best when things are repeated over and over (and over!) again, and that’s often true for speech as well. When your child says a word correctly, repeat it back to him in a positive tone. If your child makes an articulation error, Gusenoff said, repeat it back to them incorrectly so they can hear what they actually said versus what they think they said. Some kids may not realize they’re making an error until mom or dad repeats it back to them!

Make Lots of Observations

Now that you’re spending dedicated time at home on speech therapy, it’s important to start tracking your child’s progress. Gusenoff said it’s easy to forget or overlook where your child is starting out when learning a new skill, meaning you can underestimate the amount of progress they’ve made. Keep a record or log so you can visually track your efforts.

Gusenoff also recommends paying attention to what words you can understand from your child compared with what a grandparent, for example, and a total stranger can understand. There will be differences between those three metrics (i.e. you can understand 75 percent, your mother-in-law can understand 50 percent, and a stranger can understand 25 percent), but there shouldn’t be enormous gaps between each tier. According to Nemours, most people—regardless of how well they know your child—should be able to understand the majority of your child's speech by the time they turn 4.

Know Your Limitations

It’s important to understand that you may be able to guide and assist your child at home, helping to develop much-needed skills, but you may not be able to correct more significant problems without a professional. It’s one thing to help your child say his “d” and “b” sounds more clearly, but it’s another thing to teach him how to form more complex sounds involving the tongue or back of the throat.

Gusenoff added that kids who are very frustrated by their speech problems, who regress or don’t make any progress, who grope for sounds but are unable to move their mouths, and kids who experience quality of life issues because of communication errors or delays are not the best candidates for at-home speech therapy and would benefit from professional help.

If you’ve reached the limit of what you can provide for your child yourself, try not to take it as a personal offense. Instead, do what you can and then reach out for more help. Your child’s pediatrician is a great place to start—they often know all of the local resources and can point you in the right direction.

American Academy of Pediatrics. Language Delays in Toddlers: Information for Parents .

Nemours Foundation. Delayed Speech or Language Development .

By Sarah Bradley Sarah Bradley has been writing parenting content since 2017, after her third son was born. Since then, she has expanded her expertise to write about pregnancy and postpartum, childhood ages and stages, and general health conditions, including commerce articles for health products. Because she has been homeschooling her sons for seven years, she is also frequently asked to share homeschooling tips, tricks, and advice for parenting sites.

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how to do a speech therapy

9 Ways to Make Speech Therapy Homework Work for You

 6 min read

There are many benefits of doing speech therapy exercises at home. More practice usually means faster improvement 1 , and therapy with software 2  at home or with a volunteer 3  has been shown to be effective.

how to do a speech therapy

But do you or a loved one find yourself going home from the speech therapist’s office with the best of intentions only to lose enthusiasm after a day or two? Don’t get discouraged! This may be the first time you’ve had to do “homework” in years and you may need to (re)establish good homework habits to set yourself up for success. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Schedule a Time

Put homework on the calendar like any other important appointment. Pick a time of day when you have energy and can focus. Schedule your speech therapy exercises for that time every day to establish a habit. If your goal is an hour of practice every day, don’t feel that you have to do it all at once. You can break up homework into 20- or 30-minute chunks to help prevent mental fatigue and boredom. Remember: consistency is what matters.

Just 20 minutes a day for 4 weeks — that’s all it took for every single participant with aphasia to show improvement using our  Language Therapy 4-in-1 app  at home in a  research study at Cambridge .

Make a Plan

If your speech-language pathologist (SLP) doesn’t give you a specific set of exercises, it may be up to you to decide what you’re going to do each day and when. It’s a good idea to make a “sandwich” of difficulty. That is, start with something that’s not too challenging to warm up the brain, then move to the harder tasks, then finish up with something a bit easier to leave yourself feeling confident.

Pick a Good Spot

Find a place in your home that’s comfortable, but not  too  comfortable to do your work. If the couch or a recliner leaves you too relaxed, your focus may relax too. Sitting at the kitchen table or at a desk is a good idea, as it can put you into a work mindset. Of course, if sitting upright in a chair is physically uncomfortable, you won’t be able to focus on your work either.

Minimize Distractions

Background noise makes it difficult to focus, so turn off the TV or radio when you do your homework. Silence the alerts on your phone and computer. Pick a time when family members aren’t all in the same room. Sometimes a peaceful background of music can help you focus, so experiment with what works for you.

Have a Helper on Hand

A communication partner can be a big help with speech therapy exercises. A helper can let you know whether an answer is correct or clear, provide cues when you’re stuck, or engage in conversation to help you practice a strategy. They may be able to offer technical help, should you need it, if you’re practicing with a computer or tablet. Having your helper attend some of your  speech therapy sessions  can be useful too. The helper will learn tips from the therapist that they can reinforce at home. Homework helpers can join you via Skype, Facetime, or phone as well, so your loved ones can still support you even if they don’t live nearby.

One way to start is by using  Conversation Therapy , an app designed to be used by two or more people. The interesting topics and structured questions encourage discussion and back-and-forth communication to help you work on speech and language goals at home. Even couples who can seemingly read each others’ minds will find something new to talk about using this app.

Watch Out for Frustration

If you find yourself getting angry or frustrated while you’re practicing, stop. Take a break. Breathe deeply and calm down. Practice is supposed to help you get better. If the speech therapy exercises leave you feeling frustrated, they’re probably too hard or you’re too tired. Ask for help. Or pick an easier activity or setting. If you start to associate homework with negative emotions, you probably won’t stick to your schedule. You need to watch out for negative feelings, and change what you’re doing the instant you feel them.

Reward your Effort

It’s important to set goals for yourself, and just as important to reward yourself when you reach them. Simply sticking to your practice schedule is a huge achievement, so give yourself credit for that. The number of items you get correct doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you’re trying. Your efforts will pay off over time, and that can be its own reward.

Use your Skills Outside Homework Time

Younger brains tend to change faster than older brains, but improvement is possible at any age.

The point of home speech therapy exercises isn’t to get good at home exercises—it’s to improve your thinking and communication skills while you’re engaged in activities that matter to you. This is what SLPs call “carryover.” It isn’t always easy, but carryover is the goal of any exercise.

Practice your homework strategies throughout the day. If you’ve been working on describing words, for example, try to describe the words you can’t think of during dinner conversation. Ask family and friends to encourage you to use your strategies as you go about your day. Nobody likes being corrected all the time, though, so it’s okay to set times when you want reminders and times when you just want to be left to speak as you please. Make sure you’re clear with friends and families about which times are which.

Use Good Tools

Practicing one skill can result in improvement of a related skill.

Try combining these tips with an app that’s specifically designed to help adults recover their language skills after a stroke or some other type of acquired brain injury. Tactus Therapy apps are designed by a Speech-Language Pathologist to allow you to practice the same skills you work on in therapy, at home.  You can trust that the speech therapy exercises are based on techniques known to help adults with acquired communication disorders. We want you to succeed!

With a Tactus Therapy app, you can get in more repetitions and practice between therapy sessions—and this can help speed up your progress. Answer a few simple questions and you’ll be shown the best apps for you with our  App Finder  wizard. Then you can try them for free!

Do you know someone who would benefit from receiving these homework success tips? Download them now along with a practice schedule and daily notes template.

how to do a speech therapy

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1: Bhogal, SanjitK., Robert Teasell, and Mark Speechley. “Intensity of aphasia therapy, impact on recovery.”  Stroke  34.4 (2003): 987-993.  Full Text 2: Palmer, Rebecca, et al. “Computer Therapy Compared With Usual Care for People With Long-Standing Aphasia Poststroke A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial.”  Stroke  43.7 (2012): 1904-1911.  Full Text 3: Brady, Marian C., et al. “Speech and language therapy for aphasia following stroke.”  Cochrane Database Syst Rev  5 (2012): CD000425.  Full PDF

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Megan S. Sutton , MS, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and co-founder of Tactus Therapy. She is an international speaker, writer, and educator on the use of technology in adult medical speech therapy. Megan believes that technology plays a critical role in improving aphasia outcomes and humanizing clinical services.


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