by M. Cohen-Schoenberg CCC-SLP
Involving siblings during in-home speech therapy can be a fun challenge. When I was a child, my sister had a chronic illness and often had a home teacher. Many times I stood on the sidelines with a tinge of jealousy. I fondly remember those days when the teacher included me in the lessons. When the home teacher gave me some attention, I simultaneously felt cared for and actively involved in my sibling’s progress.
Fast forward to 2016. Some of my clients’ siblings also want to be included in sessions. This is not group therapy for two children with speech disabilities but a way to enhance carryover between sessions for the client.
Here are some “Do’s and Don’ts” for sibling involvement.
- Do set rules for siblings’ participation and explain why.
- Model what you want them to do with lots of praise for being a good helper.
- Encourage your clients to watch their siblings’ faces when they say the target word slowly. You can go around the circle practicing.
- Teach siblings to positively reinforce the new correct sound productions.
- Use game playing and turn taking as you explain the rules and goals carefully.
- Do set limits for the sibling. One sibling wanted ALL of my fabulous cupcake stickers. I told her I would let her know how many she could have after her sister finished her lesson.
- After you get to know the interaction dynamics between the children, plan how much time you want the siblings to be involved.
There are different ways to set up their participation.
- Include them for a few minutes at the beginning.
- Have them participate for a few minutes at the end, when your main work with the client is completed.
- Involve them throughout the session as models as long as they can follow the rules of “Client First”. This may depend on the personality of the sibling.
- Teach the parents to involve siblings in homework and carry over activities. This can work to reinforce goals just before or just after treatment. If you are delayed in traffic, you can call and encourage the siblings to practice.
Just a Few Don’ts
- Don’t let siblings take over and steal the spotlight from the client. Bring some alternative activities for them for those moments.
- Don’t let them be distracting. If the sibling is too rambunctious or distracting, cue the parent to take the sibling into another room and keep them occupied with something else.
- Don’t include the sibling if your client is having a difficult day. If your client is tired, overwhelmed, starting to show illness symptoms, or stressed about something else, give your full attention and creative energy to your client. The parent will understand.
With fun, age-appropriate turn taking games and clear limit setting, siblings can learn to become helpers to make therapy more enjoyable and enhance carryover between sessions. Carefully planned sharing of treatment activities lets both siblings shine, feel special and be appreciated. You can create an atmosphere where everyone feels included and speech practice is a positive family activity for all.
Please share your creative success stories with us about how you include siblings in your speech treatment!