Speech Skills in Conversation
In the world of speech therapy, the ultimate goal is for the student's speech to be correctly produced in conversation. We start with mouth movements, single sounds, words, sentences and finally conversation. The key to success at the conversational level boils down to two simple concepts: responsibility and routine.
Responsibility: Recently, I sent home one of Crazy Speech World's carryover sheets with a 6th grader. He is working on R, L and Th in conversation. When I saw him the next week, he told me he had lost the sheet. This prompted a brief conversation about organization, which is challenge for many students. So who is responsible here? Ultimately, the student must be responsible, however the parent must also be involved. Over nearly three decades, I have heard nearly every excuse from both students and parents about why practice does not occur at home. The reality is that speech is simply not a priority. However, for elementary students, the parent is the "bottom line." If for whatever reason they do not take responsibility for practicing speech at home, carryover will likely not happen. Once in a while, the student will spontaneously begin using error sounds correctly in conversation, but usually that is not the case--especially with older students. Once a student gets beyond 6th grade, they must assume at least part of the responsibility. If you have a student and/or parent who is willing to be responsible, then what do you do?
Routine: The obvious answer to the above question is practice! But how, when, where? The two best ways to accomplish practice in connected speech are:
1) paying attention while talking at the dinner table;
2) reading aloud with correct speech production as the major goal.
If you have a student or parent who is willing to take responsibility for working on speech, then you can use a checklist similar to the one provided by Crazy Speech World (sponsor of this linky). I ask students to read aloud for 5 minutes every night. Similarly, I ask students and their families to pay attention to speech at the dinner table for 5 minutes every night. They can do one or the other or both! There will be more success if you ask for manageable amounts of participation.
Nothing works: This all sounds good, but what do you do when none of these ideas work? Yes, been there and done that more times than I care to remember! I tell students and parents: it is YOUR responsibility! If they do not follow through, then we continue to practice in speech--during conversation and reading aloud--so I am modeling what I want them to do at home/in the car/etc. Yes, I have had students who get to this point and do not make progress in conversation. Yes, I have had to dismiss students for lack of progress--which does not make one feel good about the job--but sometimes there is nothing else you can do. Right now I have a student who is a SENIOR in high school and still has not taken on responsibility for speech in conversation. Often, emotional issues are the underlying cause and if those are not addressed successfully, then responsibility becomes a greater challenge.
Fortunately, most students do make progress and are eventually exited from speech successfully!
Exit criteria: Recently, I have begun discussing exit criteria during IEP meetings(for articulation students). What are your exit criteria? Reply below!