#71 Telepractice Tips 'n Info (Part 4) [Is my child working or just playing games?]
Question: Do parents understand what you do in therapy and why you do it? Realistically, some do but most don’t. And they won’t know until we tactfully tell them.
Why is this important? An obvious answer is to improve home follow through, etc., but an even more important and fundamental reason is advocacy. I want (actually, I need) my therapy-parents to communicate a supportive, positive attitude about therapy to the child, family members, and even other parents.
The attitude and actions of parents and caregivers strongly influence the child’s attitude, cooperation, and dedication to the therapy process.
Conversely, if parents and caregivers believe we simply play games with their child quite possibly their impressions and support—and the child’s success—may not be favorable.
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In the previous Therapy Matters I put myself in the role of a parent with a child in speech-language teletherapy and came up with these three questions:
- Is online speech therapy effective? As effective as in-person therapy? Or are we just spinning our wheels?
- Is the SLP and my child really working or just playing games? It’s sure different from what the classroom teacher is doing online.
- Is the SLP responsible for everything or is there is something I can do to help my child at home?
Last time we addressed parent question #1 [LINK].
This week, the focus is on parent question #2. It’s a good question and probably one that parents think rather than vocalize. Their thoughts and actions can have far reaching influence.
Following are several practical points you may wish to share with parents, and maybe even classroom teachers.
We SLPs know the importance of specificity; therefore, a brief word about semantics. I recommend using the terminology, “I use therapy-games” rather than “I use games in therapy.” Games—formal or informal—are an integral part of therapy, not merely a “fun” supplement. I also like to think that we USE therapy-games, rather than just PLAY games. They’re small distinctions, but important ones, I believe.
Basic Points to Share with Parents
- In essence, the therapy-game is overt i.e., the part the parent or other onlookers see. The personalized therapy content and therapeutic strategieswe implement for each child during the therapy-game are covert. The covert piece is frequently unrecognized and/or misinterpreted by others.
- In addition, the therapy-game is the therapy-tool that facilitates therapy. Throughout therapy we covertly observe, strategize, and shape our verbal and non-verbal communications to best meet the needs of the therapy-child. We analyze and ease the child into speech and/or language improvement. These are the hallmarks of the ongoing, extensive process of therapy.
- Obviously, the children we work with have speech and/or language delays and disorders. Therefore, many of the components of communication are difficult for them. Thing is we humans are not prone to enjoy what we are not good at. Therapy-games help to bridge the motivation gap and proffer challenges in an interesting and fun way.
More Points to Share: Speech-Language Therapy and Classroom Instruction are Not the Same
It should, also, be noted that the focus of the therapeutic process is considerably different from classroom teaching. First and foremost, therapy emphasizes the development of the child’s personal communication abilities that are designed to be applied not only at school but at home, etc., for years to come.
- SLPs focus on long-term remediation characterized by incremental development and change. In contrast, classroom instruction and learning are cyclic; new content and new lessons are emphasized, on average every week.
- There are no grades in speech and language therapy. Everything SLPs do is child improvement centered. Speech and/or language homework, if given, is not considered as a required activity necessary for a grade. It is, however, given as an extension of the concepts covered in therapy to reinforce learning and application.
Therapy-Game Benefits (in addition to speech-language targets)
- Therapy-games offer therapy session structure. In the classroom, stories and worksheets, etc. provide structure for learning and activities. In therapy, however, we dissect, drill down, and focus on speech and/or language target areas. We dissect articulation into sounds and words, etc. We dissect language into parts: semantics, morphology, grammar, pragmatics, etc. Games provide cohesiveness for segmented targets and concepts.
- The SLP controls the pace of the therapy-game. Some children verbally respond quickly, other require extra time to process the question and formulate their answer. Therapy-games allow for each individual child’s processing needs.
- Over and above the emphasis of the speech and/or language targets, the therapy-game enables and encourages appropriate turn-taking, focusing, attention span, interaction, and not to mention, sportsmanship i.e., how to win and lose appropriately.
- Some therapy-kid’s like to talk, others don’t. Talking in the classroom is typically frowned upon; sometimes kids get in trouble for talking indiscriminate. In therapy, talking and sharing is encouraged. Therapy-games provide opportunities for social interaction. The SLP sets up an environment for children to develop appropriate expressive social communication skills. This typically revolves around a therapy-game.
Games are fun, but learning can be even more enjoyable. What we learn helps each one of us live a better life. Games don’t directly enhance living for the long haul, but they can facilitate the learning process.
Next time, we’ll discuss a few ideas and options for question #3: “Is the SLP responsible for everything or is there is something I can do to help my child at home?”
If you wouldn’t mind sharing, I’d love to hear how it goes with your therapy-parents.
Thank youfor all you do for your therapy kids. Hang in there.
With much admiration,