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Summer without speech therapy?!

With summer approaching, it’s time to make an honest assessment and a decision: is there enough time for speech therapy in your family’s summer schedule?  As an SLP, I’m biased, so I would naturally and quite emphatically say, yes.  However, some of my most devoted families sometimes need to take time off during the summer months.  The truth is, for a select group of families who are heading off for extended vacation out of the state or even country, taking a break from formal speech therapy may be necessary.  It’s OK (it’s not ideal, but OK…).   In most cases, we can put together a plan to employ mastered skills and behaviors to assist in maintaining skills so that all is not lost during the several month hiatus from services.

Now let’s get to the nitty gritty… Can speech therapy really be put on hold for the summer months? 

No. Not really.  The momentum that is built and utilized to make effective gains is lost during the summer break when a child does not have regular, consistent speech therapy appointments on at least a weekly basis.  It’s a challenge to make gains without a skilled, dynamic and hierarchical intervention methodology in place; however, the summer time can serve as a temporary “pause” from services, if needed.  This break typically does not contribute to monumental progress during the summer, but we work to prevent regression.   

During the summer months if you find yourself away from your child’s speech therapist, rest assured that there are some simple things that you can do to help maintain skills until you return in the fall. 

Here are some ideas for maintaining articulation goals:

  1. Practice what your child is already good at!
    Before you leave your speech therapist for the summer, get some written or digital “homework” assignments to complete over the break.   Ask your child’s SLP about the specific skills that your child has already mastered in therapy.  For example, if he or she is working on “th,” find out level your child is working on and has mastered (e.g., word level, sentence level, spontaneous level) and the word position (i.e., initial, medial, or final).  Once you have pin-pointed the skills that your child already has , you can begin to maintain it over the break.   Being specific about exactly what to work on can help to focus your home practice efforts and make them more effective.  Disorganized practice can be counterproductive [why?]; therefore, it will be important to get this information before the break starts.  Try to avoid spending too much time on new skills that will require an SLP to accomplish.  I encourage you to continue to build skills as your child is successful, but try to resist the urge to put the carriage before the horse and over correct him or her in everyday speaking situations if they are not yet ready.  By practicing skills they already have, you strengthen the foundation for progress in the future by building automaticity and comfort with the production of the target sound in a manageable way.   
  2. 5 minutes a day!
    Short bursts of practice will help your child remember how he/she produces the target sounds and keep the new motor movements fresh in his/her mind and muscle memory.  Daily practice can provide just enough input to help maintain learned skills during their summer break.    Provide opportunities for practice in small units of time (about 5 minutes) at the same time every day.  For example, you may decide that in the morning before breakfast, he/she can practice before beginning the day.  The consistency of a set time dedicated to speech therapy  will help to remind you of when to complete the practice.  A regularly schedule practice time also demonstrates the importance of this practice by setting aside time to work hard on speech within your day.  Before long, it will be second nature to complete the practice tasks.
  3. Enjoy the break
    It’s summer vacation, so vacation.  If you are busy, have a full schedule and cannot devote the appropriate, regular attention to speech home practice, I’d recommend skipping it.  Poor practice habits which potentially reinforce old motor patterns of behavior are less desirable than no practice at all.  If you don’t have ample time to practice, give it a break until it’s time to return.  You could be hurting more than helping if you cannot devote the time and attention that is needed develop positive, productive practice patterns.  

    Enjoy the summer…If you cannot make it in for speech therapy with your SLP, consider an informal, no stress practice plan for your child.  If you can make the time to complete regular practice to maintain your child’s skills, go for it.  When executed correctly and regularly, this can be a great way to hold on to your child’s gains from the school.   Take it easy, though, it’s summer.  Simply set aside a few minutes every day.  It will make all the difference. 

    If practice is not realistic, skip it; take a break, get refreshed, and return in the fall ready to work again!