11 Tips to Engage Your Child During Online Speech Language Therapy
Online speech language therapy can help children at any age. And let’s face it, since COVID and the instability is causes may be here to stay for a little bit longer, virtual learning might still end up being a part of your child’s school day. In this article we wanted to suggest some tips that could help keep your child motivated and engaged during their online speech therapy session.
1. Motivate Your Child With What Interests Them
Take the time to speak to your speech therapist about what your child’s personalized online learning plan could be for their speech language therapy session. Is it tailored to them or a program that without any real specialization.
Consider what motivates your child. Is it technology, art or learning about science? You can include YouTube science videos on a variety of topics for your child (including the burning question of: How an Igloo Keeps You Warm or the YouTube Channel How to Think Like a Coder from TedEd).
Does your child like to make movies with their smartphone? There are speech language therapy based activities to work on at home or during a session to target different goals (like following directions or increasing vocabulary). If so, you can include these types of “How To” Videos on making a easy film into your speech therapy session.
Is your child a dancer or an athlete? You can add a dance or sports video – like when Blippi visits a baseball stadium or this video with kids being interviewed about what their favorite sport is.
2. Balance Parent and Therapist
When a very young child needs speech language therapy and it is provided online, they should not be expected to sit in front of the screen for the whole session. Parents play a vital role in keeping them engaged and the speech therapist will use a parent coaching model to help learn and use the strategies that should integrated into everyday activities to increase speech or language skills.
If during the session, the child hears directions from both therapist and parent, it can get intense and overwhelming. Parents and therapists can alternate working with the child and can even follow their lead to see where the child’s interests and attention is going.
For example, if the young child is not paying attention to the screen, your therapist can suggests activities that are in the environment and not online while observing the interaction between you and your child. It is common for toddlers and young children to refer physical toys so this type of situation gives parents the chance to learn what the therapist would like for them to integrate into home practice.
3. Encourage Their Interests During Speech Language Therapy Online
One of the most effective ways to engage a child is to motivate their interest. An often overlooked way to do this is to use fun games, online challenges and activities, or even the simplest pencil drawings! Provide Easy Ways for Them to “Play” Online Use child-friendly virtual platforms. This is especially important for younger children.
Encourage your child to sit and learn with an easier than expected form of content. Think Pajama Time and in-depth tutorials. This way you allow your child the choice to learn how much they want and to jump on and off. Start with Less for Older Children and Using YouTube.
4. Use Real Toys
There is a misconception that only educational games are effective for children learning, however, that is not true. Speech therapists always use games and toys that a child likes to play with. Speech language therapy online is no different.
During sessions online, young toddlers getting speech therapy with us, have asked us to “hold on!” while they go to their room to get their favorite toy. You can encourage your child to do the same during sessions online. You child can bring:
- Favorite storybooks, comics, board books
- Arts and crafts activities like drawing or beads
- Farm or doll houses
- Musical instruments
Anything can be integrated as long as it is not too distracting. Your speech therapist will be able to provide more specific feedback in case an activity or toy is not suitable for therapy.
5. Create a Schedule
Children thrive on a routine. When your child knows that speech therapy starts after lunch, it’s an easier transition. This is especially important when a child has a speech or language delay and may not understand when you tell them (with words) that they will soon need to transition to a new activity.
Schedules can be communicated verbally or visually if your child is more of a visual learner (as children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder sometimes are).
6. Engage In Active Learning
Children need to understand how what they are learning applies to their lives. These skills are called active learning, and they include a critical-thinking skills and social-emotional competence. Learning in this way involves the child questioning why they are learning something, whether they actually need to learn it, and identifying any negative consequences for not learning.
The more active learning the child engages in, the more likely they will be to remember what they are learning. At the end of each school day, it is important to engage in active learning. This could involve talking about what they did that day, writing down what they learned, planning what they are going to learn next time, and then actually learning it.
7. Give Feedback After The Session
As you share your feedback with your child, always tell them how they improved over the last session. This way, you can keep building their self-esteem. For example, if your child is able to reproduce certain sounds, point it out to them. Maybe they could not make the sound in the previous session but in the next one they could, point it out to them. Appreciate Their Efforts You may not be able to celebrate every time your child achieves a goal, but let them know that you are proud of them and happy that they tried their best.
Ask Them For Specific Improvements Let your child know what improvements they should work on in order to improve their skill. For example, if your child knows that they need to try to make their tongue sticks out while they’re talking, talk about it again.
8. Create a Child Friendly Progress Report
There are many ways to track how your child is progressing that can encourage your child, and one way to do this is by creating a progress report for your child. Depending on their age and their goals, you can give them motivators to work on goals like speech sounds or practicing a strategy for decreasing stuttering. Make it child friendly by:
- Creating a sticker chart where earn a special prize (a few extra minutes watching their favorite show)
- Stamping your child’s hand when they are done with the session as a visual reminder of a job well done!
- Giving the child the opportunity to watch a clip of a video after they have practiced a strategy for a set amount of times
Parents should not discount the efficacy of verbal praise, positive comments and of course, hugs. Parents considering using food as a motivator should read the pros and cons of this method.
9. Set Up the Environment
Where your child is sitting for the session is important as well. The space your child is in should be just for that session (at least for those 30 minutes) and that space should be quiet and with minimal distractions.
Toddler and young children can be in a high chair so that they are not tempted to run around. Speech language therapy happen during lunch or snack time.
Background noises like TVs should also be managed so that a child will not be distracted by something that is “easier” to attend to.
10. Change Things Up
Young children have limited attention spans and that is very normal. To accommodate this, your speech therapist can mix up a variety of tasks, activities and how they are presented. During a session, or if you are working on goals at home with your child, change from songs to books to games and follow your child’s lead. You can target any goal with any material or activity (that’s the “art” of speech therapy).
If one activity is better for teaching your child their speech or language target, but they cannot attend for a long time, break it up with music, movement or reading, then transition back. This helps young children remain focused, especially during a longer session.
11. Know When it Isn’t Working
While we provide speech language therapy online, we recognize that it isn’t for everyone. Sometimes treatment delivered online is just not effective and a child’s disabilities, behaviors, or attention span does not allow for them to sit in front of the screen. At this point there are some decisions to make. These might include:
- Using a parent coaching model where the therapist teaches the parent the strategies and how to use them
- Decreasing the amount of sessions or length of sessions
- Changing the time of day for the sessions (after a meal may be better than before)
Therapy Works Together – Online Speech Therapy for Children and Adults
We care about every child and adult achieving their speech, language and communication goals. You can start speech therapy online now with a certified speech language therapist. We’ll discuss your personal needs, develop an individualized treatment plan, and schedule affordable online therapy sessions online at your convenience.