Guidelines for Home Practice
For children with CAS to make optimal progress, home practice is essential. Attending speech therapy is important, but is not the full picture. Overall, home practice should be positive and successful. Here are some guidelines for practicing at home with your child:
Acknowledge, Repeat, ModelIt's always a good idea to acknowledge your child's communication throughout the day. Their communication might be speech (even if the words are not clear) or AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) such as signs, gestures, or a device. A great way to acknowledge your child's communication is to say what they communicated, using a correct model. This achieves multiple goals at the same time. Your child knows they were heard and understood, plus they hear a correct model of what they are communicating. For example, if your child communicates that they want to eat (by pointing, signing, using pictures or a device), you can say "Yes, you want to eat" or "It's time to eat." The point here is to acknowledge and provide a correct model - not for your child to repeat or try again. If they do repeat, that's a bonus!
Carefully correctYou may select a few times per day to correct your child's speech. This should be done sparingly and only for carefully selected words. The words should be ones that your child has been working on successfully in therapy. A new word that they are not yet able to say successfully is not a good choice to correct. Rather, select a word that your child has been working on in therapy with lots of success and only needs a small amount of help to correct. Hopefully you are able to observe your child's therapy sessions so that you know what words are good choices for correction at home. Talk with your speech-language pathologist (SLP) about what words are ready for home practice and correction. Once your child says the word correctly, if possible, ask them to say it 3-5 times. Correct repetition of a word is an important part of learning new speech movements for children with CAS.
Pick a dedicated time to practiceIn addition to the above two guidelines, you might consider setting aside a dedicated time to practice speech with your child. Talk with your SLP about what words or goals you can practice at home and make sure you know any strategies needed to help your child practice successfully. Negative practice is when a child is practicing a word incorrectly and should be avoided as it can make it harder for a child to learn the word correctly later. Try to pick a time when your child tends to be well-rested and in a good mood and you and your child will not be distracted.
Keep practice positiveWhether you are practicing a few times throughout the day and/or setting aside a dedicated time, keep it positive. Select words or goals that your child can do successfully with the help you can provide. Talk with your SLP if you need ideas about this! Remember to avoid negative practice. Not only is this discouraging for you and your child (since they are saying a word wrong), but it is also harmful for motor learning. If your child isn't able to say the word correctly after 2-3 times, even with your help, acknowledge their effort ("Good try!") and move on. You can always acknowledge, repeat and model rather than asking your child to try a word that they can't say correctly. Always try to end on a positive note!
Avoid power strugglesYou can't force your child to talk, so don't get caught in a power struggle because you will lose! Focus on keeping things positive. Don't try to practice speech when your child is already tired, upset or not cooperative. Keep it fun! (See ideas for activities in the next section below.) End the practice - whether it is a couple of repetitions or minutes of dedicated practice - on a positive note. If your child is practicing willingly, congratulate them on their hard work before they get tired of it and are ready to move on.
Quality over quantityRepetition is very important for children with CAS to learn new movements for speech. Success and avoiding negative practice are equally important, so go for quality over quantity. It's better to have three successful repetitions of a word than incorrect productions of the word! So if your child is successful but then ready to move on or loses focus, that's okay.