Speech and language therapy concern the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and advocacy of communication and swallowing disorders. Every individual’s experience with therapy is different based on their own communicative needs and development. While attending your scheduled therapy session is important, another crucial piece of the puzzle is the idea of ‘generalization’. Understanding this concept is vital for a speech therapy team which includes the speech language pathologist, the client, and their loved ones.
The term generalization is the ability to integrate learned skills from one setting to other various settings and situations. For speech therapy, this means taking skills learned in a therapist’s office and using them throughout one’s daily life. Whether at school, in home, or out in the community, successful generalization shows the client is not confined to being successful with certain skills in just the therapy room. As stated, this is a vital piece of the therapy puzzle.
Generalization is the cornerstone of a successful speech therapy program. It is empowering to see clients utilize mastered skills out in their daily lives, seamlessly integrating therapy and clinical skills into everyday communication. For example, a child learning how to ask clarifying questions in therapy would be able to use the skill to not only interact with their friends, but also develop their self-advocacy skills when needing to ask the teacher on how to do assignments properly.
Although generalization is important, its understandably challenging and never straightforward. I often compare it to when you are learning to ride a bike without the training wheels. It requires patience, self-awareness, and consistency. As an SLP, I know how challenging it can be to transfer skills from a seemingly quiet and undisturbed therapy room to a world that is more often the opposite than my office. For parents, I understand it can be confusing as to where to start with generalization. I posted a list of activities families could do over the summer, but I feel a more foundational approach is needed.
Everyone plays a role in supporting generalization. Here are a few tips for caregivers:
Reinforce Learning: Use opportunities in everyday life to practice speech therapy exercises. You don’t have to think outside of the box every time! Incorporating speech and language skills in already established routines can help reinforce their importance.
Be Patient and Positive: Encourage efforts, no matter how small, and celebrate improvements. Start with small and achievable goals. For example, if practicing articulation sounds, ordering at a restaurant or a fast food joint can help as the scripts for ordering are more routine and these skills are paired with a preferred meal or drink.
Consistency is Key: Regular practice in diverse settings helps in solidifying new skills. Not only can practicing in different settings be vital, families can also incorporate skills into highly preferred activities like board games, video games, YouTube videos, etc.
Generalization is a cornerstone of effective speech therapy, bridging the gap between learned skills and everyday communication. Understanding and supporting this process is crucial for everyone involved in a patient's speech development journey. Let's embrace the challenge and be part of this transformative process!
For more information on speech therapy, generalization activities, or other questions, check out our website at www.soraspeech.com!
Till Next Time,
Speech Geek :)