What to Practice at Home

By Pam Marshalla

Q: When it comes to giving homework in articulation therapy, should the SLP wait until the student masters it in the speech room?

I view learning new phonemes as the process of learning new movements. Therefore, I only have kids practice at home what they can do with 100% accuracy with me in the therapy room. I am a very picky and exacting teacher!

Rigidity such as this is not critical when the client has a general articulation delay. When speech movement skills are simply absent, the client always will be improving a little bit when he practices – even if the phoneme is not quite right. The old timers in our field called this using “sound approximation”.

But remember, some of our clients are using incorrect oral motor patterns. Practicing what he is doing wrong will take his skills further into his disability. The client will continue to develop, but he will be developing along the wrong path.

For example, consider the client who is using a bi-lateral lisp. Instead of forming his tongue into a midline groove, the client humps up the middle of the tongue and blocks the air channel. If he practices his sibilants at home with his tongue humped, he will never reach correct production, no matter how much homework he does. Therefore the client should NOT be practicing these phonemes until he learns the correct motor pattern in therapy. Once he learns the correct motor pattern, he can practice it at home.

Therefore, I only assign for homework that which the client can do correctly in therapy. I want my clients practicing what they are doing well. I do not want to reinforce incorrect movement patterns.

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