What is Appropriate For Speech Homework?

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As certified Speech-Language Pathologists, I think we need to be careful about what we are sending home for homework/home practice. I am a huge proponent of giving students homework (aka "home practice") so they will carry over the skills they learn in therapy to the home environment.

Sound advice from a long time ago

During one of my internships, I was given some very good advice. While working in a local speech clinic a man came in with some voice difficulties. After an evaluation,  he wanted me to just give him exercises to do at home. When I approached my supervisor, she said for me to tell him that I could give him exercises however they were not to be done without being supervised by an SLP. I think the same is true for students that we see in the schools for speech and language therapy.

It's not common sense!

Even though working on different sounds may seem like common sense to us, it isn't. We have had years of education and practice with each of the different sounds so we are the ones who should be teaching the students how to say those sounds, not the parents who have had no education in this area. Think about the placement of the articulators for each sound. I suppose if the average person thought about it they could figure it out. But what if they tell them the wrong way? It's kind of like playing an instrument: if you're taught the wrong way you won't get the good tone that the instrument should have. If you don't learn the correct fingerings that instrument is going to be a lot harder to play.

Practical Suggestions

We go through all that training for a reason: because it's not common sense. Here are some suggested guidelines for homework/home practice:

1. Make it simple. Remember, we may have some parents who may or may not have graduated from high school.

2. Make it short. I rarely give more than 10 words/sentences to my students because parents just don't have time.

3. Have the students return a sheet with a parent signature. This creates ownership for the students and it also keeps them accountable for working on their sounds.

4. Review the homework before you send it home. Even if it's just a quick review make sure that the students know what the pictures are. If they're having trouble saying a certain word or sentence you can review it with them before they practice it at home. I may send home notes on the page for tips that I use during therapy to get them to say they're sound right (for example for a /k,g/ I might write a note that says "make sure to tell them to open their mouths wide when they say the /k,g/ sound".

The Importance of Homework

Homework/home practice is just that: practice. We wouldn't expect an attorney to tell us how to draw up a will on our own or a dentist to send x-rays home with us so we can determine how to fix our teeth, so why should we expect parents to teach their children how to say their sounds correctly? That is exactly why, on my homework sheets that I make, I have an option that reads "After your helper says each word, tell where your sound is (beginning, middle, end)". If a student is working on the sound level, I don't want the sound to be practiced incorrectly, so I have discrimination worked on instead. At Eligibility Meetings, when parents ask what they can work on, I tell them to read to their child and let them hear how to say the sound correctly. I explain about the homework at that level and tell them they will be able to tell by the homework how their child is progressing.

Homework/home practice helps create ownership, responsibility, and helps with carryover to environments other than the speech room. Yes, it takes a little bit of planning each week, but aren't your students worth it?

picture of a woman puckering her lips, sitting with a little boy. Caption below: How to know what's appropriate for Speech Homework.

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