By: Kelly Connor, CCC-SLP
One of my favorite questions to hear from a parent is “what can we do at home?”
Many parents have experienced a time when their child’s therapist has discussed how great they did with skills in the session, but at home, they struggle to use these skills. Or, a family may want to learn how to support their child during daily life. Home practice and carryover are an essential part of occupational, physical, and speech therapy to maximize progress and learning. If you think about the big picture, a child is in therapy for typically 30 minutes to 2 hours a week. On the scale of a week, which is 168 hours, 2 hours is not a lot. Consistent practice at home allows a child to work on skills more frequently. Research has shown home practice can lead to improved outcomes for children in speech therapy (Sugden et al., 2019).
Home practice does not mean sitting down for hours working on endless worksheets; it can look many different ways. For occupational therapy, therapists may provide hand strengthening ideas, handwriting practice, or social-emotional activities. A physical therapist might recommend a strengthening routine or gross motor activity. For speech therapy, a therapist may give a target word to practice at home or an activity to complete. For older children, it may include worksheets to practice speech sounds. Home practice can at times seem overwhelming to a parent; there’s enough on your plate without having to carve out more time for “homework.” But, this practice can have a profound positive impact. In one study, parents found that while it took some initial effort to build home practice into the daily routine, it became easier as time went on, and parents reported improvement in their child’s skills (Sugden et al., 2019). Home practice is given to expand and reinforce a child’s skills to see consistent gains in therapy. It also provides time to engage directly with your child to better understand their skills and needs.
The purpose of home practice is to encourage carryover. Carryover is the ability for an individual to take a skill learned in therapy and apply it to different situations and contexts (Marshalla, 2010). Carryover is extremely important because it helps a child use their skills outside of the therapy room. Carryover is what makes a child successful in everyday situations, and makes it possible for a child to use their new skills across environments and people. A child may be able to use their /s/ sound accurately in therapy, but if they can’t use it at home or in school, then they have not yet mastered that skill. Or, your child who is a late talker may be using words in therapy that they don’t use at home. Carryover is a sign of improvement and independence with skills.
At the end of the day, we are all in your child’s corner. Parents and clinicians want to foster growth in the child. Home practice and carryover will help your child maintain and build on the skills they need to thrive.
Marshalla, P. (2010). Carryover Techniques In Articulation and Phonological Therapy.
Sugden, Eleanor & Munro, Natalie & Trivette, Carol & Baker, Elise & Williams, Lynn. (2019). Parents’ Experiences of Completing Home Practice for Speech Sound Disorders. Journal of Early Intervention. 41. 105381511982840. 10.1177/1053815119828409.