Tips and Resources

Keeping Your Child Motivated for Speech Therapy Practice

Today, I’m sharing some tips for motivating your child in their speech practice–and supporting them when they’re frustrated.

You probably know that speech therapy can be challenging. And some goals may take a good amount of time to reach.

There will likely come a time when your child seems frustrated during speech practice. At that point, we should step back and ensure they’re practicing at the right level of complexity. Not only does this allow them to make the most progress, but it can be super helpful in avoiding frustration.

For instance, if your child is struggling with using a sound, like /r/, /s/, or /l/, in phrases or sentences, they may not have mastered using that sound in words yet. We’re looking for that 90% accuracy level before progressing. Skipping ahead or “leapfrogging” steps can actually set your child back. Think of how it might feel if you just learned how to cartwheel and then were suddenly asked to do a backflip–confusing and potentially frustrating. When it comes to speech practice, slow and steady wins the race! 

So if you’re sensing a lot of tension from your child, scale back the difficulty level of the task. For example, if you’re working on word level, then step back to syllable level. This will likely be easier for your kiddo, giving them a sense of accomplishment and a confidence boost!

Let’s move on to the next tip. As you know, practicing daily and frequently is incredibly important. And as a general rule of thumb, the more practice, the more progress. But, it’s also possible to overdo it. We need to provide a good balance. 

Imagine this: What if someone constantly corrected your speech, or had you say new words, all day long? Would that make you discouraged–maybe even a little annoyed? Most likely! The same is true for your child. As important as practice is, you don’t want to do it to the point of irritation or frustration. 

Here’s a good rule of thumb: Practice 5 to 7 days a week for 20 to 30 minutes per day. Feel free to practice all at once, or break it up into a few shorter sessions. You know your child best, so decide the ideal practice time based on their attention span! 

Outside of these practice times, you can focus on regularly modeling your child’s speech goals. Give them something to imitate! This way your child hears you using sounds correctly, without the pressure of practicing all day long. 

My last tip for motivating your child is one that anyone, at any age, can relate to–encouragement. All of us do better when we have positive support from the people who matter most to us. 

As you practice with your child, no matter if they’re getting every word right, or every word wrong, find some way to encourage or praise them. 

You can provide positive support while still being truthful. For example, if you hear an incorrect production, don’t tell them “Great job!” or “That sounds great!” You want your child to understand right from wrong and correct their own errors.

Instead, you can try:

  • “I love how you’re trying!” 

  • “That’s not quite it, but I see you are working so hard!”

  • “You never give up! Let’s keep practicing. I know you can do it!” 

And of course, on the days your child is rocking and rolling with their speech goals–tell them! The smile on their face when they feel that sense of accomplishment is like nothing else in the world. 

So let’s recap a few of the key ways to keep your child motivated:

  • If your child seems frustrated, step back a level to an easier task.

  • You can also break up daily practice into shorter sessions.

  • And along the way, offer plenty of support and encouragement!

Always remember–you know your child best. Just pay attention to their mood and motivation. Take the time to give them exactly what they need at that moment. They’ll know you’re on their team no matter what! 

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