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Explaining `Why?´ Speech Therapy to an older child

So you’ve made the decision to bring your child to speech therapy.  Now you want to tell your child what to expect, but you’re not sure where to begin.  Or maybe you’ve already told them that they’ll be going to speech therapy once a week and they’re protesting.  What do you do?  Below are some ideas on explaining the need for speech therapy to an older child.

First, it can be helpful to explain to your child that we all have things we’re good at and things that are harder for us.  We all have strengths and challenges.  No one is a superstar at everything.  What is your child good at?  Maybe they’re a great soccer player.  Maybe they have an easy time making friends.  Maybe they’re a champion video game player or mathematician.   Highlight your child’s strengths.  With that foundation, it can be easier to discuss challenges.  In your child’s case, communication is a challenge, so your child will work with a speech therapist to make that challenge easier. 

Second, emphasize that communication is a skill, and all skills require practice.  If your child wanted to get better at playing basketball, they’d practice dribbling, passing, and shooting.  The more they practiced, the better they’d get.  They’d work with their coach to build their skills.  Speech is the same way.  By practicing with a special kind of coach – a speech therapist – your child can improve their speech and language skills. 

Third, it can be important to remind your child that their speech difficulty is one part of who they are, just one aspect of their unique mix of strengths and challenges.  It doesn’t define them.  They are not just a child with a lisp; they are a child who plays the violin, loves chocolate chip cookies, the Wii, and is working on their speech.  All of those things together make up who they are.

Another way to explain going to speech therapy to your child is this: if they were having trouble seeing the chalk board (or white board or smart board!) in class, you’d bring them to an eye doctor, and they’d get glasses.  Your child is having trouble communicating – so you bring them to a speech therapist, and they’ll get treatment.   Speech therapy is like glasses for their mouth.  The therapy helps their communication be the best it can be.

Finally, when talking with your child about going to speech therapy, you might want to consider these tips to maximize the effectiveness of treatment:

  • Motivation - How hard your child works during treatment sessions is a huge factor in determining their rate of progress.  So encourage them do their very best!
  • Participation - We want your child to be an active participant in treatment, to feel responsible for the outcomes, and to feel pride when goals are achieved.  The treatment is for them and about them.  In fact, your child is the most important person in the treatment room! 
  • Curiosity - Ask questions!  If your child wants to know why we’re doing something, or how long we’ll be doing it for, it’s OK to ask.  We’ve all heard it before – there are no silly questions – and this certainly applies to speech therapy.  Knowing more about the process supports progress.
  • Fun! – Yes, there’s work to be done, but speech therapy should be fun.  Treatment sessions for kids should have a healthy dose of play and a playful spirit throughout.  And fun is a great motivator, so having fun helps your child make progress.

Talking with your child about why they’re going to speech therapy can really pave the way for success in treatment.   And if you have any questions or comments about your child’s specific treatment, please don’t hesitate to talk with us.  Communication is why we’re here.