Make it Meaningful!


September 8, 2020

Each week at our ETLC team meetings as we make plans (and continually amend plans) about providing virtual services to our students, we inevitably end up discussing what parents whose children are participating in online learning must be going through right now. Between increased roles in their child’s education and care taking, changing professional settings and responsibilities, and normal pandemic-related stressors, it can’t be easy. Before anything else, please know that the Enrichment team sees you and we are thinking about you. 

As I send out homework assignments related to speech and language, I can’t help but think to myself, “Do parents really have the time or energy to help their kids do one more homework assignment?” It’s not lost on me that this “extra” work might fall by the wayside when students have increased independent work that might require more help and supervision from parents. It made me think about finding other natural ways to help parents to work on speech and language goals with their children. 

Let’s say that it’s Tuesday evening and dinner is being made before kids are ferried off to their various evening activities. There is no time to complete the vocabulary assignment that your SLP emailed to you last week. What can be done? Let’s see if we can find ways to use new speech and language skills during functional and natural communication. 

At the end of the day, improved communication is the goal of speech-language therapy. Therefore, any time that parents can find ways to integrate speech and language goals into situations where they are connecting with their children through communication, we make great strides towards helping our children generalize these skills to actual communication. Furthermore, children actually learn new skills much better when they are practiced in meaningful and motivating ways. For example, a child will likely learn the names of new fruits and vegetables best when they play with a kitchen set and plastic food, or cook with their parents. This type of learning is favorable to learning new vocabulary via drilling flashcards because play is just more fun. When children are having fun, the things they are learning become more salient to them. Just as adults tend to pay more attention when we learn new concepts that we know will apply to our lives, children learn new concepts that apply to their play, or topics that they actually talk about with their family and friends. 

Here’s an example. Some of my students who are working on building vocabulary/word recall by categorizing semantic groups are currently learning about marine animals. Instead of completing a homework assignment where the student needs to work on defining “marine” or using the word in formulated sentences, could you use this word during conversation at dinner? Why not discuss your favorite marine animal and ask your child what their favorite marine animal is? What if you discuss which marine animal scares you the most? You could even try to decide what marine animal would be best to have as a pet! We could also use this concept during play. What if you and your child dig through the stuffed/plastic animal bin and try to find all of the marine animals that you can? 

While this is a very specific example, the concept of applying speech therapy goals during natural, every day communication can be applied to a large variety of speech and language concepts. Your SLP can help you think of ways to target your child’s goals during conversation or play. In these stressful times, we all just want to connect to each other. If we can find ways for parents to work on speech and language goals while they connect and communicate positively with their children, it’s an absolute win-win. 

Please remember to be kind to yourself during this time. Do ST homework when you can, but focus on positive connections and communication with your child. Focus on learning while you connect with them in every day opportunities. 

Suzanne Moore is a speech-language pathologist at Enrichment Therapy and Learning Center.  ETLC has locations in the Iowa City, IA area and Des Moines, IA area.  We provide individual speech language therapy and tutoring as well as offering a unique group Language Enrichment Academic Program (LEAP).  At Enrichment Therapy and Learning Center our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success.  Contact us for more information on how we can help your child succeed. 

1210 Jordan Street, Suite 2

North Liberty, IA 52317


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