How often does this happen to you? You send home practice homework consistently and it doesn’t come back? You sit in an IEP meeting and the parent is not sure what their child is working on, or they do know exactly what their child needs to work on but they never saw the homework so they are not sure how to help? I have sent home interactive homework notebooks and a variety of speech and language crafts with some success. Usually the students who are motivated to get out of speech are most likely to do it and bring it back. The rest… well, they just are not there yet. No matter how we tackle building take-home practice opportunities. So what do we rush to do when we have the parent that really wants to help their child and maybe their child is just not so motivated? How can we bridge that gap without making it seem like more work (or a HUGE take-home packet)?
1. Make it Meaningful and Practical!
Children are more likely to retain (like the rest of us) when it has meaning. For my students working on following directions, I suggest to the parent that they work on following directions while targeting chores! Ask Johnny to “First unload the plates and cups before putting away the utensils.” Have Johnny work on repeating back the instructions before completing the task. If Susan is working on /r/ and you need her to clean her room, have her say aloud the words that start with /r/ that she finds in her room as she cleans it! I am a parent so targeting independent skills (such as chores) while targeting speech and language is a WIN-WIN!
2. Make it Fun. Go Ahead and PLAY with your Child!
Yes, in therapy, we often play games. I’m not ashamed to admit that I pull out my Open-Ended Games a lot! It is a way to reward good behavior, manage behaviors, and make mixed groups a bit more cohesive. Game Night with the Family CAN still be enjoyable. Unfortunately, I find that many kids no longer pull out those game boards at home or even get family game night. I suggest that parents play when possible. You can still target speech and language skills while playing a board game. Parents can target the social language aspect (“Can you please hand me a card?” “Oh, it is your turn now!”), receptive and expressive language (“You moved one spot. You need to move four more spots?” “Who rolled snake eyes?”), articulation (Does the number on the dice or the card they just pulled have their sound?), etc.. If their child is not old enough to play board games, I suggest that parent’s get down on the carpet with their child and actually play whatever their child wants to play (coloring pictures, dolls, cars, building blocks).
I sent my friends on my email list a handout that I share with parents about building language at the park while engaging in functional play! I use a lot of familiar language and build onto it by creating opportunities that require children to initiate and/or attempt communication by using expansion and/or having them direct my actions. If you would like to get this handout, you can download it below.
3. Create Opportunities for the Child to be the Teacher. Be Silly and Be Wrong.
My students LOVE to catch me in a mistake. It is okay to make mistakes and I want my students to know it is okay to not always have the right answer. Therefore, I make mistakes a lot (some just plain silly mistakes that are easy to catch too!). I have found that by allowing myself to make mistakes I am not only modeling for students that mistakes are how we learn but that we can all help each other. They will quickly tell me what I need to do to fix my error and blossom when they get to be the teacher. The biggest reason I enjoy making obvious mistakes is really the laughter. It fills me with joy when I am silly and the students laugh and then correct my error using their speech and language skills. I love it because it doesn’t seem like work to them at that point. Plus they get pleasure from the silly interaction, demonstrate their skills, and typically smile with pride that they could teach me something.
If you would like to get my Functional Play at the Park handout to share with your parents, complete the form below and I will send it to you!