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Speech Therapy: Getting Ready for Your Home Visits

Gordy Rogers, MS, CCC-SLP, TSLD 
Speech-Language Pathologist

You’ve already determined that you’d like to have your child seen by a speech pathologist and have had some of your initial questions answered. Many times your child’s speech therapy services can be delivered in the comfort and convenience of your own home. Especially for younger children (i.e. up to age 5), being “on their own turf” can really help foster rapport between your child and the clinician and make your child feel maximally comfortable as he or she works on something that may be somewhat challenging. This brief post is dedicated to providing primarily parents with a few tips for maximizing the effectiveness of your home visits. The better prepared and knowledgeable you can be as you start the process of your home-based speech therapy, the more likely it is that your child will achieve his or her speech or language learning goals.

Make a schedule and stick to it. You’ve probably noticed that your child, like pretty much all children, is a creature of habit. Routine is one way your child wraps his head around the world. So, as much as possible, schedule your home-based therapy sessions in a particular time slot (or slots) each week. Your child will come to anticipate the session(s) and be a more receptive participant in therapy. Also, as an added bonus, your therapist will really appreciate your commitment to a regular schedule. Your therapist is most efficient and effective when he or she knows exactly when and where an appointment will take place.

Plant the seed before every session. Approximately ten to fifteen minutes before each session, let your child know that your therapist will soon be arriving. This will pique your child’s expectations and simply, get him or her excited for the session. Also, I suggest that parents do their own “warm up” right before a session. This takes the form of sitting down with your child, on his or her level, and getting into a play activity with your child. And this play need only take a few minutes. That is usually all your child would need to get warmed up. I have seen this work wonders in my own home visits to clients, particularly with children up to age five. Often, when the therapist arrives, your child will naturally bring your therapist into the existing play narrative and the transition to therapy then becomes seamless.

Create a play/work space. As a parent of two young children, I can attest to there not always naturally being a clutter or distraction-free work or play space for your sessions. However, it’s a good idea to spend a few minutes creating one. Pick a place in your home that is not a high-traffic area. Your child’s room is a perfect place to start. Make sure it’s not too cluttered as it is really important for there to be minimal distractions and for the environment to foster focus. Also, if your child in therapy has a sibling (or even a social pet), that child should not be included in therapy. Especially if it’s a younger sibling, children love to inject themselves into therapy, sometimes in counter-productive ways. After all, your time with your therapist is limited and precious so it’s important to create a play/work environment that is conducive to being productive.

Parents should participate but not hover. As much as possible, parents should either regularly observe or actively participate in home-based speech and language therapy. As tempting as it is to see this time with your child’s therapist as a chance to get the laundry done or to make a few calls, it is doing your child and the therapy process a disservice to not be involved in sessions in the home. This is especially true of home-based sessions and with younger children in therapy. Your therapist is simply able to impart such useful information and therapy strategies during the session, that is lost somewhat if you just chat about it at the end of the session. Have the therapist take the lead of course and be proactive in asking how you can be most helpful.

Accept that kids behave differently for parents. This is not always the case but I have observed in my own extensive clinical work in homes and in my own children that kids simply don’t behave the same for parents as they do for “strangers”. My hypothesis is that kids know parental love in unconditional and, being mostly egocentric because that’s normal developmentally, they may exploit that a bit. But with a therapist, who at least at first would be classified as a “stranger” most kids are eager to cooperate, to earn the therapist’s affection and attention. So for home-based follow-up work, I recommend using the strategies your therapist imparts to you during sessions. But, keep them a little more passive; let your child feel like the boss and embed these strategies from your therapist into the play. You’d be surprised how effective this can be!

Home visits can be a wonderfully natural and highly effective means to achieve lasting change in your child’s speech and language development. And hey, the therapist is coming to you! What’s more convenient and accommodating than that? These tips above should help you maximize your family’s return from these sessions and help you have fun in the process. I wish you the best of luck as you embark on this journey!