Our Bad

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by Lori Riggs, MA, CCC/SLP

I think we forgot to tell you something. At least, we didn’t tell you enough.

What We Did Tell You:

  1. Having a very structured, targeted home program with specific frequencies and durations is an extremely effective way to facilitate—and remediate where needed—your child’s development.
  2. These structured activities are addressing specific developmental “pieces,” which all work together to produce results, including in language development.
  3. Improving your child’s sequential processing is fundamental to language development. So all of those sequencing activities you are doing are really important.
  4. Language Photos, Talk About Picture Books, My First Encyclopedia, etc.—these are all structured activities you may see on your child’s program for language building. They give you a very specific way to devote time each day to language, especially language input. Yay for these activities!

What We Mentioned But Didn’t Stress Enough:

Language therapy happens all day long!

The structured program activities are great, but they aren’t the end-all, be-all. You must have plenty of time throughout your day for regular, normal, this-is-just-how-people-talk-to-each-other interaction. If your planner is so scheduled that in order to have a normal interaction with your child you need a box for that, we have a problem. Interaction, communication, modeling functional language—these are things that should happen simultaneously with everything else you do. Every moment with your child is an opportunity for language therapy. But therapy doesn’t have to look like therapy. Let it look like play time, mealtime, relaxed-hanging-out time, riding in the car time, “you-have-my-full-attention-and-I-can’t-wait-to-see-what-you’ll-try-to-communicate-to-me-next” time. Language therapy happens all day long. You don’t need a box for that.

For a child with delayed language skills, we do need to have specific language goals that are addressed in a structured way. For example, perhaps a child doesn’t yet have the verb form “—ing” in his repertoire. We can practice that. Or maybe he omits small words like articles and prepositions. We’ll address it. But just as important as the 2-minute activity where you drill these forms, is your awareness of them so that you can target them in your typical interactions. Functional contexts—that’s where the value lies. That’s where the most learning takes place.

And Yet…

Not every moment has to be a teaching moment. (Did she just say that?) Not every syntax error needs to be corrected. Not every /r/ has to be cued. Not every single pragmatic faux pas needs to be pointed out. Talk with your kids. Interact with them. Build the parent/child relationship apart from the parent-as-teacher/child relationship. Have some rapport-building quality time. Have some fun. And guess what? Secondary to what you just accomplished as one human being relating to another, you just did language therapy.

Reprinted by permission of The NACD Foundation, Volume 28 No. 1, 2015 ©NACD