If you are an SLP who works with children with speech sound disorders (SSD), you are aware of: (1) how important home practice is, and (2) how difficult it is to ensure it happens. You send home cute activities and worksheets only to find out they’re never being done. You email parents with suggestions but wonder how much parents actually use them.
Some researchers decided to interview parents about their experiences with home practice in order to better understand their perspective. They wanted to hear from parents how SLPs could better support and encourage their attempts!
The researchers interviewed six parents of children aged 3–6 who had participated in speech–language therapy for an SSD. Several themes emerged throughout the conversations. They boiled them down these:
Evolution over time
Parents expressed that their experiences with home practice changed over time. At the beginning, parents often felt confused, overwhelmed, and unsure of how to complete the activities. Over time, parents felt increasingly confident in the activities and what was expected of them.
Parents saw the SLP as the expert who could provide materials and instruction, but saw themselves as ultimately responsible for supporting their child’s speech and language.
Parents stressed the importance of several things to them: their child’s speech and communication growth, their own role and involvement in therapy, consistent home practice, and rapport with the SLP. They felt that when there was rapport, they and their child were more motivated to do home practice and they saw more progress.
Managing the practicalities of home practice
Parents expressed difficulty with the logistics of home practice. All parents reported that it was challenging to find the time to do the activities and most admitted that they did not complete the full amount of time suggested by the SLP. Parents described receiving activities that were not motivating to their child or did not suit them as a family. They were often also unsure of how to complete the activities or how to do the technical components of therapy.
Taken together, these findings leave us SLPs with some helpful takeaways. First, it’s important for parents and SLPs to have a clear discussion about both of their expectations at the beginning of therapy. These parents spoke about how their expectations did not always match the realities of what therapy looked like and it took a while for them to adjust and figure out the ropes. Second, it may be beneficial to regularly share data about the child’s progress, as parents found that when their child made progress, they were more motivated to continue home practice. Last, SLPs should work with the family to provide family-appropriate materials as well as sufficient training and clear instructions for how to complete them.
Sugden, E., Munro, N., Trivette, C.M., Baker, E., Williams, A.L. (2019) Parents’ experiences of completing home practice for speech sound disorders. Journal of Early Intervention. doi: 10.1177/1053815119828409.