Struggling to fit a Speech Home Programme into your life?

So you want to help your child make steady progress towards improving his or her speech but…..

Another week has passed by and you haven’t managed to do much practice at home.

Most parents, carers and educators we work with as Speech Pathologists come to us with the very best of intentions for completing practice in between speech pathology appointments.

The truth is that very few manage to do so!

How do you fit a speech pathology home programme into your life?

If you want your child to get the most out of intervention and to work towards achieving their speech, language and communication goals…home practice is just an unavoidable ingredient in getting there.

Home practice doesn’t have to be something that both you and your child dread.

It can and should be a positive addition to your week.

Here are some tips to make it happen.

Be realistic

Start by taking a good look at your week and your ‘must do’ commitments.

Block out the times in your weekly calendar or diary where you are otherwise committed.

Now that you have a visual on your specific situation, decide how many home practice times you are going to commit to doing with your child.

Be realistic and remember that a small amount of regular, well-done home practice is a great place to start. You are more likely to be able to build upon this so start small.  Maybe look at 3 times/week and keep your practice times to 15 minutes.

Remember, even for our school aged children…speech pathology home practice needs to be guided and supported by a parent, carer and/or educator so resist the temptation to try and ‘squeeze’ home practice into too many days when you are unlikely to be able to provide your full attention and support.

Book those times into your calendar.  Choose the times of the day that will be more conducive to home practice.

Times where you are likely to be less distracted by other children. other tasks and other stimuli in your environment.

Ideally, the times for home practice are those where you can dedicate your entire focus and presence towards your child.

These times need to be positive.  That doesn’t mean that you need to pull out all of the bells and whistles but ideally these times are enjoyed by both yourself and your child.  For younger children, a box of stickers and stamps as rewards for effort can work a treat.  For slightly older children, there are plenty of fun cause/effect games that can be incorporated into therapy.

Pop up Pirate , Greedy Granny, and Phil the Fridge some of our favourites.

Discuss what needs to be happening in your child’s home practice times in detail with your child’s speech pathologist.  It is really important that home practice doesn’t feel ‘too hard’ for your child and that you have some good strategies to assist at these moments in order to keep your child motivated and engaged.  We discussed some ideas to help encourage your child at these moments here

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Kicking Goals in Early Childhood Communication

So now you have profiled a child’s communicative strengths and challenges

and have some ideas brewing for where you would like to start.

Things can get pretty overwhelming at this stage so here a few helpful suggestions for communication goals that can be targeted in early childhood settings during natural routines and play:

“What will make the most difference to this child’s life?”

When looking at your profile of communication strengths and challenges, this is a vital question to ask as you sit back and reflect upon where to start.

SPEECH:  What speech sound difficulties are those that are most impacting intelligibility and clarity for this child?  These might be good sounds to start working on if developmentally appropriate.

RECEPTIVE LANGUAGE:  At what times of the day does the child’s difficulties with understanding language most impact his or her capacity to engage with activities, routines and play?  Perhaps it is when needing to follow instructions during transition times.  Maybe it is when required to listen and respond during story time on the mat or when responding to questions for early morning circle time.

EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE:  Are there situations where communication breaks down because a child is unable to effectively convey his or her ideas using words or short sentences?  Does this ever result in frustration for you or for the child?

SOCIAL COMMUNICATION:  Have you noticed particular patterns of challenge related to the child’s difficulties in understanding and using the many unwritten rules of social interaction and play.  Perhaps the child is struggling to understand the concept of turns or does not seem to comprehend when his or her actions have upset a playmate.  Maybe the child’s ability to play has stalled and the child is yet to play with a variety of items in a reciprocal and imaginative manner.  This may be restricting their ability to positive engage with peers.

Take Small Steps to Achieve Communication Goals

As I have often said…my advice is that less is more.  Choose no more than 3 small things to start working towards the child achieving in your early childhood setting.  Choose goals that are important, that have meaning to the child, are developmentally appropriate and that will make a significant difference for your child.

Keep goals small, really specific and achievable to target in natural early childhood routines.

Achieving these small goals helps the child to inch towards achieving those big, longer term goals whilst being motivated by small wins and success along the way.

Some examples might include:

XX will understand and follow 2 step instructions during lunch time e.g. “Get you lunch box…..and get your hat”.

Remember to also note the supports that you are going to infuse into these goals to set the child up for success.  In the above example it might be that you will call the child’s name first, get down to their level, place yourself face to face with the child when giving the instruction and slow your speech down.  You might also include gestures such as pointing and pictures of the items that the […]


Is your child a Gestalt Language Learner?

Gestalt Language Processors

Despite what this term sounds like; it is NOT a term to describe the newest piece of technology on the market!

Several of the children we work with at Learn2Communicate are Gestalt Language Learners. This means that they learn language in ‘chunks’ much easier than they do single words.  Instead of learning single words and then gradually combining these words into short phrases and eventually, sentences, Gestalt Language Learners often start speaking in complete phrases.  It can seem to carers and educators that they have ‘skipped’ the single word stage when in fact they acquire language differently to other children.

Gestalt Language Learners may also, but not always, be diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum.

Some are also hyperlexic; showing a strong interest in the the alphabet and reading well before their school years.

Yes, these children are fascinating!  They are often late to start speaking but then start speaking  in complete phrases before single words have even been acquired.  If this sounds like your child or a child you educate, there is so much you can do to support language to grow.

What is Echolalia?

Echolalia is a term that is used to describe when a child uses ‘copy cat’ speech i.e. words and phrases that they have heard elsewhere.  Sometimes a child will copy a line from a favourite TV show or song.  At other times they might imitate the question you have asked instead of answering the question.  You might notice that your child imitates words and phrases immediately or that these phrases are used at other times of the day.  Often children will repeat the words and phrases in the same intonation each time.

Echolalia is very commonly noted for Gestalt Language Learners.

How to respond to Echolalia

The most helpful way to respond when you notice that your child is using Echolalia is to do your best to first understand the intent of the message.

Is your child trying to convey an emotion?  Happy, Sad, Excited, Frustrated…..

Perhaps your child is trying to comment on something that is happening.

Remember that using spontaneous language can be tricky for these children when they are first learning to use language.  In these early stages you will need to act like a detective.  Look for the ‘clues’ in the scripts that your child is using to help understand what your child is trying to communicate.

Advocate for your child.  Let others who care for and educate your child understand what your child’s most commonly used scripts mean.  This is where our previously discussed idea of developing a Personal Communication Dictionary may be helpful.

Understand the Intent

What is your child trying to communicate?

Interpret the Intent ‘as he/she would if he/she could’

Using simple language with a sing – song voice (as gestalt language learners are often drawn to pitch and intonation patterns in speech), interpret your child’s gestalt / echolalic phrase / script.  Where possible, reduce your use of questions.  Comments that match your child’s intent e.g.  “Oh….feeling […]


My Child is Difficult to Understand

There can be many reasons why your child’s speech may be difficult to understand.

Your child’s age and stage of speech and language development are one of the first things we will consider.

Children gradually become easier to understand.  By school age, we expect that your child’s speech will be easily understood by all conversational partners.  There may still be a few tricky sounds and longer words may still be unclear at times but, as a general rule of thumb, by the time a child starts school we can understand most of what he or she says.

There is quite a wide amount of variety around when children acquire speech and language milestones.  If you have any concerns it is best to seek the advice of your child’s educator as a first port of call.  Educators have the benefit of working with a large group of children a similar age to yours.  If your child is more difficult to understand than other children his or her age, then it may be worthwhile to seek a Speech Pathology opinion.

When do Speech Sounds develop?

Different sounds develop at different stages.  We often refer to the early, middle and late sounds when working with young children.

Most consonant sounds are acquired by the age of 5;0 years (years;months).  The consonants /b, n, m, p, h, w, d / are usually acquired between the age of 2 and 3 years followed by /g, k, f, t, ng, y/ which are heard in child speech by the age of 3;11.  By the age of 5 years, children are using /v, j, s, ch, l , sh and z/ accurately.  The ‘r’ sound is usually used with accuracy by 6 years of age and the ‘th’ sound by 7 years of age.

My child is speaking in ‘gobbeltygoop’!

Some children need assistance to learn how to use words in simple sentences.  When using spoken language is difficult or lagging in development, they may substitute what sounds like ‘gobbeltygoop’ for words at times.  Speech Pathologists may refer to this as ‘jargon’ and it simply means that your child is likely to be using combinations of sounds and syllables to communicate instead of words.  Often children will do so using correct intonation and facial expressions to help the listener understand what is being communicated.  These children often respond well to a focus upon building up their vocabulary and sentences first before focusing upon specific speech sounds.  Our popular ’10 Tips for Talking’ may be an appropriate place for you to start if this sounds like your child.

Tune in and Listen

Are there any particular sounds that your child has difficulty in using accurately?  Perhaps start a little list, noting words that are misarticulated.  You might start to see a pattern.

Do I need to be concerned?

Check out our developmental checklists and further information in our guide available for free download  or contact us  The earlier your child receives assistance; the better […]



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