At Speech & Occupational Therapy of North Texas, families frequently ask about the structure of a pediatric speech therapy session. A treatment session is designed based on the needs of the child, so therapy may look very different depending on the goals being addressed. First, the speech-language pathologist (also referred to as SLP) develops a treatment plan based on a detailed assessment. A good pediatric speech and language assessment is comprised of a thorough case history, as well as observation and standardized or criterion-referenced assessment tools. A pediatric speech-language pathologist frequently assesses receptive and expressive language, vocabulary and articulation. Other areas of a suspected challenge may be assessed, such as oral motor weakness, feeding and swallowing, apraxia, pragmatics, disfluency (stuttering), and auditory processing.

What Happens in Speech TherapyOnce a speech-language pathologist has completed the assessment process and developed an individualized treatment plan, it is time for the fun to begin! A big part of treatment success relies on developing a positive relationship between the therapist and child. So inviting a child into a friendly, fun environment is key to a good session.

The structure of a treatment session is determined by many things, such as the client’s age and the particular speech or language challenges to be addressed. For young children from toddler through kindergarten, treatment looks a lot like play. Games and toys that appeal to young children are used as rewards or as the “tools” to address specific objectives. For example, a marble maze can be used for increasing joint attention, turntaking, labeling, and requesting. Or a child can choose a marble to put in the maze as a reward after completing a series of correct sound productions. Everyday toys and activities are incorporated into treatment to encourage generalization and to enable families to practice home activities in natural ways. For example, therapists can introduce bubbles to address many goals, such as requesting (“I want bubbles”, “open bubbles”, turntaking, (“My turn”, “your turn”, “his turn”) and early bilabial sound production (/b/, /p/), “blow” and “pop”! This is a simple activity that can be demonstrated for families, who then can reinforce specific speech and language goals using age appropriate fun activities.

If you observe a therapy session with the treatment goals in mind, you will be able to see how the SLP uses his or her unique knowledge of communication development (or feeding) and the needs of a specific child to target objectives that will lead to the best treatment progress.

SLPs also have many specialized therapy materials which target specific goals in fun ways. So there may be language based board games, articulation bingo games, and colorful sequencing activities. Each activity is chosen based on the specific goals of a child’s treatment plan.

how to structure a speech therapy sessionOlder children may do some work at a table, particularly when articulation or specific language concepts are being addressed. However, the goal is always to make treatment enjoyable as this leads to better attention and internalization of skills.

Some speech therapists have specialized skills, as with feeding, swallowing or cleft palate. A therapy session may look different for children with particular oral motor needs. However, pediatric therapists have ways to build in fun, rewarding activities while addressing the specific challenges a child may face.

According to EBP (evidence based practices) parent or caregiver involvement is critical for treatment success. At each session, the caregiver should receive information about how treatment went and what kinds of goals were addressed. Strategies and homework are reviewed with the caregiver since consistent practice leads to more rapid success. In some treatment sessions, a parent or caregiver may be present for part of the session. Speech & Occupational Therapy of North Texas welcomes family involvement and will work with each family to determine what works best for the child.

Another important aspect of treatment is consistent attendance. Therapy is approved as a medically necessary service so it is important to be committed to regular therapy attendance. Each treatment session builds on the last one so to make the best progress, it is important to attend scheduled treatments.

For more information about what happens in a treatment session, contact Speech & Occupational Therapy of North Texas. We will be happy to have Speech pathologists answer your questions at no charge.