All speech language pathologists target articulation and speech development but not all speech therapists target motivation. I was talking to a colleague of mine about working on the /r/ sound. This is the most challenging sound in the English language to teach because it is produced inside the mouth without visual cues and the sound changes depending on the vowel it is paired with. I told her I loved working with children who needed support working on the /r/ sound. She asked me what my main trick was with teaching this sound. I said, “motivation.” This wasn’t the answer she was expecting. Speech language pathologists are very goal focused that sometimes we forget to work with the “whole child”. So instead of oral motor therapy or PROMPT cues, I said “motivation.”
I believe this is the most important factor in /r/ therapy because I have seen so many clients experience therapy burnout. They are used to the standard speech therapy drill paired with board games or other waste of time activities. The speech therapist is so focused on the goal and puts all of the focus on correcting the errors. If a child keeps hearing they aren’t doing it right over and over again and without making progress then they just stop trying. They stay in therapy because they aren’t meeting their goals and therapy isn’t productive.
I told my colleague about two clients I wrote about in the ASHA article I was featured in. I worked with two /r/ clients around the same time. One was around 11 years old and he was in therapy for years to address his /r/ sound. He had obviously made some progress but continued to produce the sound with distortion. He was used to playing games in therapy while he targeted his goals. I started my sessions with him like this since this was what he was used to. I needed to build rapport before I completely changed the system. As soon as he built a relationship with me I addressed his motivation. He didn’t have any. He didn’t try during the sessions. Instead of my /r/ goal being a priority, I put motivation first. We talked about it every session. He liked basketball so I used that as an analogy. I told him he would never make a basket if he didn’t try. He needed to focus on where he wanted the ball to go and really go for it. We talked about how our goal was to get him out of therapy. Soon he agreed to use more of the session time focusing on his speech rather than wasting time playing games. A few months later he no longer needed speech therapy.
The other client I worked with was traumatized by his speech therapist he had in school so his parents took him out of school therapy and enrolled him privately. He said all she did was tell him he wasn’t saying it right. He was not stimulable for /r/ at all when I first started with him but I got him out of speech therapy in 3 months! This client had the motivation coming in and we didn’t play games. We focused all of our time getting the sound right. After 2-3 sessions, he was stimulable for /r/ and he was trying to say it during conversational speech. Because of our work together, and with parent training he was out of therapy the quickest I've ever seen for /r/ therapy. Instead of focusing on what he wasn’t doing right all the time, I praised all of the progress he made. It was such a joy to see him make such quick progress with a sound that takes some clients years of work!
If your child isn't making progress with the traditional speech therapy approach or if your child says he/she hates speech therapy give me a call today!