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Speech Language Therapy- Three Common Factors For Lack Of Progress

I am often asked the question from well meaning people “How do you teach a child to…” with various endings to the question. If the question has to do with speech and language disorders very often it is not an easy question to answer, especially in a social situation. When it comes to getting a child to speak the answer is very complex and depends on so many variables. That’s the art of speech-language therapy, and what separates the good from the great. Being able to read and treat each situation differently according to the variables.

With any therapy the final goal is carry-over and independence. When it comes to articulation errors, the complaint I hear most often from parents coming from other speech therapists is that they did the work they were supposed to be doing at home yet their child did not make progress.

There are several factors that play into this scenario of frustration and failure.

The First Factor
The first being lack motivation on the child’s part. It is difficult to blame the child for this because as speech therapists we must learn to motivate even the most difficult child.

The Second Factor
The second factor is parents not having the time and/or patience to do the work sent home. Again, this is not always the parents fault as sometimes they read their child’s reaction to frustration and failure and avoid the activity leading to these feelings. Typically this is caused by the speech therapist giving the wrong homework.

The Third Factor
The third and most likely factor leading to lack of progress is the speech therapist and her inability to read and treat the situation properly. If there is no structural, medical or physiological reason for a child to not speak clearly, they can and should learn to speak perfectly clear.

In private practice children often come to me who have been receiving speech-language therapy elsewhere for many years but still have the same lingering speech errors. I always ask parents to bring in their homework book to try to figure out the problem.

A Mistake Speech Language Therapists Frequently Make
What I find most often is that the child had been working on the wrong thing. I also typically find that the homework they were given is almost always several steps ahead of where it should have been.

For example a child with a lateral lisp is given sentences containing the “s” sound to practice at home. I have even seen a child asked to make up stories with “s” vocabulary words. Not surprisingly, when probed, the child is unable to make the “s” sound in isolation.

If your child has an articulation disorder, or even an articulation delay, trying to teach him how to use a sound in a sentence before he can use it consistently in isolation is like trying to teach him to run before he can stand. It will just never work.  When it comes to articulation errors a child will never carryover or gain independence given this scenario.

Not Unique To Speech Language Therapists
Unfortunately trying to move too fast is a mistake that is not unique to speech therapists. For example, my daughter Maya has some developmental articulation errors that we have been working on. She can’t say her “k” or her “g” sounds and whenever we get around family or friends someone will always ask her to correct her speech with unrealistic expectations. I find that very frustrating. All it does is lead to frustration and make her less willing to try.

The same can be said of bad speech therapy. When a therapist has unrealistic expectations and places unreasonable demands on the child it frustrates him and makes him less willing to try.

As a Speech Language Pathologist it is my role to bring all parts of the equation together. I must know where to start and how to motivate each and every child. I must give appropriate homework which is achievable and leaves parents and their children feeling successful. I have to judge the pace accordingly and not move too quickly. When all these pieces are put in place then and only then, independence can be achieved.

Note: Should you have concerns about your child’s progress you may call 914.488.5282 to request a confidential consultation with Isa Marrs.

About the author: Isa Marrs is a board-certified speech-language pathologist who specializes in articulation, pragmatic language and feeding disorders in children. She is an expert in the field who is frequently sought after by institutions and therapists to provide training for working with these and other disorders. Isa also served as a guest expert on Nickelodeon’s ParentsConnect.com, and has been quoted by numerous top media such as Disney’s BabyZone.com, LoveToKnow.com, and Univision. She can be reached at 914.488.5282