Nexa SpeechThis is a guest post from Martina Di Gioacchino, B.A. (H.), M.CL.SC., S-LP(C), a Speech Pathologist at Nexa Speech. Martina strives to help clients resolve their communication difficulties, which may be a result of foreign accents, stuttering, speech and language disorders, brain injuries, or other disorders. Her goal is to improve her clients’ communication skills in both business and social settings, so that they may experience a significant boost of confidence in their professional and personal interactions. Follow Nexa Speech @nexaclinic, or email them at info@nexaclinic.com.

Are you the parent of a child with a speech (articulation) or language delay? If you are, then you know how hard it can be to do the weekly homework given to you by your speech therapist. It can be impossible to find 20-30 minutes of down time to sit with your child one-on-one and practice speech sounds or teach new words and reading skills. However, daily speech practice is the key to successful speech therapy.

Lucky for you, your child’s daily routines are filled with opportunities to sneak speech homework into his/her day. Even children who don’t have speech or language delays can benefit from frequent exposure to new and increasingly complex language. Daily routines, such as bedtime routines, provide a wonderful platform for practicing newly acquired skills. Your child’s routines take place within an environment that is familiar to the child and which has a lot of structure built into it. Children love structure because it reduces their “cognitive load” and makes learning new things a lot easier. That is, when they know what to expect in a given situation, they can focus all of their attention on new information. Bedtime routines are a perfect example of a highly structured, familiar, and daily routine that is perfect for speech therapy practice!

With a little bit of creativity, and not a lot of planning, you can use your child’s bedtime routine to reinforce what he or she has been learning in speech therapy. Here are a few examples:

Bath time:

  • Find and use words that begin or end with your child’s target sound. Every time you say the sound, emphasize it by making the sound slightly longer than you otherwise would. For example, if he is working on the /s/ sound, use words like ssssplash, ssssoak, soap, sink, scrub, step, sit, soft.
  • Practice new grammar structures. For example, if his therapist is working on “-ing” words, choose words like washing, brushing, drying, scrubbing, rinsing, running, combing, and then use the words as many times as you can;
    “He is washing his hair with shampoo”
    “She is washing her hair too!”
    “Are you washing your hair?”
    “Is mommy washing her hair?
    “Who is washing their hair?”
  • Play with foam letters and numbers in the bath. Talk about the “sounds” the letters make (e.g., “B makes the sound buh”) and what words start with those sound (e.g., “What word starts with buh? Banana starts with buh”).

Brushing teeth:

  • Practice numbers by counting teeth.
  • Teach location words by talking about the different areas of the mouth (e.g., top, bottom, left, right, inside, outside).
  • Use prepositions to discuss how he is brushing his teeth (e.g., the toothpaste goes on the brush; the brush goes in your mouth; the bubbles go between your teeth, etc).

Putting on Pyjamas:

  • Encourage requesting by laying out all of the things your child needs for bed, and then have the child ask you for each one. Wait until the child either points to the object or says the object name (depending on the child’s age) before handing over the object.
  • Teach sequencing by discussing the order in which you are undressing and dressing your child.  e.g., “First, you have to take off your slippers. Then you can take off your socks. Next, we will…”.

Reading Stories:

  • Find books that are loaded with your child’s target sound. While reading, emphasize or draw out the target sound every time you come to a word that starts with that sound. e.g., “This is a story about a silly silver snake”
  • Practice Wh- questions: at the end of each page, ask your child about the events on that page. e.g., “Who is wearing the red pants?”; “What did the little boy take off the table?”; “Where are the children playing baseball?”

Tucking in:

  • Learn a new song that contains words that start with the child’s target sound; when you come to a word that begins with that sound, pause, and let the child fill in the missing word.
  • E.g., Mom: “Twinkle, twinkle, little ….”  Child: “Star!”

Finding time to do speech and language homework doesn’t have to throw a wrench in your day. Your child’s nightly routine provides many opportunities for parents to slip in an extra 10-15 minutes of practice, and you’ll enjoy the extra quality time with your child. What are your family’s daily/nightly routines? How can you build in extra practice time with your children?

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