Speech Sounds

How to Practice Speech Sounds at Home

Both children and adults can benefit from speech therapy to speak more clearly. If you’re working on improving your speech articulation, or you’re helping your child speak more clearly, you might be wondering exactly how to practice. Read on to learn why, how, and when to practice your speech sounds at home.

Why practice speech sounds?

The goal of speech therapy is to be able to master your new speech sounds so you can use them in all kinds of conversations. This is called generalization. It helps you communicate more clearly day to day, whether at school, work, or socially.

Why is home speech practice so important? Practicing between sessions helps reinforce what you’re learning in speech therapy. This way you can keep moving forward with each session, rather than having to spend time “relearning” things from the last session. 

In a nutshell, more practice leads to better progress. You’ll reach your goals more quickly, which means less time in speech therapy. Speech therapy is a commitment of time and money. It makes sense to want to make the most of that investment! 

How to practice speech sounds at home

It’s important to practice exactly what your speech therapist says to practice. For example, if your therapist wants you to practice your sound in syllables or words, don’t rush ahead and practice it in sentences. Articulation skills are typically learned in a hierarchy. You typically need to master your speech sound at each level of the hierarchy before moving on to the next. Those levels are as follows:

  • Isolation level

  • Syllable level

  • Word level

  • Phrase level

  • Sentence level

  • Conversation level

Let’s say you were working on the /s/ sound. It would look like this:

  • Isolation: /s/

  • Syllable: so

  • Word: soup

  • Phrase:  eat soup 

  • Sentence: I eat soup for lunch.

  • Conversation: I had soup for lunch. It was a new soup I’d never made before. This soup had lots of vegetables and tasted delicious.

How long should speech practice take?

How long should you spend practicing speech? You may be wondering if longer or shorter practice sessions are best.

Shorter, more frequent bursts of practice are actually better. This keeps the person learning and practicing the correct sound often, which can lead to faster improvement. Aim to practice 5 to 10 minutes a day. These bite-sized sessions will go a long way!

When to practice speech sounds at home

Your speech therapist will also recommend when to start practicing. Before you begin, you need to be able to make the speech sound correctly. This way you’re practicing a correct motor pattern, and not reinforcing a pattern of saying the sound incorrectly.

So if your speech therapist hasn’t assigned any homework yet, don’t panic. It’s likely that you’re at the beginning stages and still need a few more sessions before beginning practice on your own. Ask your speech therapist how you’re doing!

You can work on practicing speech sounds throughout your daily routine.

You can work on speech sounds throughout your daily routine. Try sneaking in some practice during activities like:

  • While getting ready for the day

  • The drive to school or work

  • Right before bed

  • While cooking or doing the dishes

Just try to choose a time and place with limited distractions. This will allow the person practicing to really focus and listen to how they’re saying the sounds.

For kids, it’s especially fun to work on target words during playtime, such as while playing make-believe with toys. Games are great tools, too. For each turn of a game, the person can practice their target sound. Board games, card games, even shooting hoops or kicking a soccer ball back and forth–anything that’s motivating can work here.

4 tips to help with speech practice at home

1 Find a practice partner

When possible, it’s helpful to practice with a partner. Whether you’re the parent or caregiver of a child in speech therapy, or you’re an adult with a spouse or friend who can help, practicing with someone else is always beneficial. The partner can provide feedback and offer help and prompts as needed.

2 Keep practice positive!

Articulation practice can feel tough sometimes. And you may not always feel motivated to practice every day. Try to keep it as positive as you can. If you’re a caregiver of a child, praise them when they say sounds correctly. Reassure them that you see how hard they’re working. Saying “Great job!” or “I know you’re trying hard on this!” can really go a long way.

If you’re an adult in speech therapy, be proud of what you’re accomplishing! It isn’t always easy to set time aside to improve how you speak. You’re making an investment in yourself. Remind yourself that consistent practice will pay off in the long run.

3 Give your child constructive feedback

It’s OK, and necessary, to let a child know they didn't say a sound quite right. Keep feedback positive yet honest. You can say things like, “That’s not quite it. Let’s try it again!” or “I can tell you’re working so hard. Let’s keep at it!”

4 Be patient

Remember that changing a speech pattern takes time. You can think of unlearning a speech pattern somewhat like changing a habit. Habits can be hard to break! Improving speech patterns is by no means impossible, but it takes time and diligent practice.

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to home speech practice, but the main thing is to be consistent. Remember, your speech therapist is there to support and guide you every step of the way.

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