For Parents: A Speech Therapy Session, Explained

Therapist and Child During Sitting on Floor for a Speech Session

You’re concerned with your child’s speech or language skills.

So you get the referral from your child’s pediatrician, schedule an evaluation with a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), and it’s recommended that your child start weekly Speech Therapy.

Great! You’re ready to tackle this.
But, wait. What exactly happens during a Speech Therapy session?
As ready and willing parents are for their child to receive Speech Therapy if that’s what is recommended, many enter the process with questions.
Those questions often include these:
  • What does a typical session look like?
  • Will I be involved during the sessions?
  • What am I expected to do in between sessions?
  • What skills will my child be working on?
  • How long will my child need Speech Therapy?
  • How do I know if he or she is making progress?
Even parents whose child may already be receiving Speech Therapy may be wondering these things, as they aren’t always explained in detail by the therapist.
Sessions can look a little different depending on the individual needs of your child. But, here are the nuts and bolts of what Speech Therapy entails.

Establishing Goals

When your child is first evaluated by a Speech Therapist, the SLP will establish goals for him or her.
These goals are based on the results of their initial evaluation.
The information gathered from that assessment, as well as your personal areas of concern, go into determining goals to improve your child’s speech and language skills. There are long term goals and short term goals.
  • Long term goals are the “bigger” goals.

Example: to improve your child’s expressive language skills to a level that’s considered appropriate for their age.


An SLP may estimate your child will achieve a long term goal in 6 months, 1 year, or another amount of time, depending on a variety of factors.

  • Short term goals are smaller, specific goals that lead to achieving a long term goal.

These are the goals that the therapist is working on week to week during a session. The therapist may target a few goals (typically about 3 to 4) within 1 to 2 sessions a week.

Understanding words, putting words together to form sentences, using certain types of grammatical markers, or articulating a certain sound are all examples of possible short-term goals in speech therapy.

How does a child meet a goal? When he or she demonstrates that skill a certain number of times or in a given percentage of opportunities, like 80%, the goal is considered met for that session.

The therapist’s goal is typically for the child to meet that same goal for a total of 3 sessions in a row.

Examples:

The child will improve their vocabulary by imitating 10 words during a session, for 3 consecutive sessions.

The child will accurately produce the /s/ sound in the initial position of words with 80% accuracy over 3 consecutive sessions.

Targeting & Tracking Goals

Once the SLP has outlined long and short term goals based on your child’s needs, the therapist will work on these goals during a therapy session.
If you are present for the session, the SLP may actually tell you or the child what the goal is prior to targeting it.
Other times, the therapist may jump in and begin working on the goal within an activity.
Parents and caregivers should be aware of what is happening during a session and what the child’s current weekly goals are.
If you have any questions about what goals your child’s therapist is working on or why they’re working on a particular skill, it’s important to discuss that with the SLP.
How does the therapist address your child’s goals during a session?

For younger children, a play-based approach is typically used to work on speech and language goals. In children of all ages, the therapist will likely target a certain goal through games, books, and other fun, motivating activities.

The SLP will track data during the session. This means they will be taking note of how many times your child correctly demonstrated that skill within the session.
Sometimes, they will take that number and divide it by the number of opportunities (or chances) that were provided, to come up with a percentage of accuracy for the skill.
At the end of the session, the SLP will complete a short document reporting on the child’s performance that day. This is often called a Therapy Note, Progress Note, or Daily Treatment Note.
In this document, the Speech Therapist will state which goals were addressed, the data the child achieved for each goal that day. The treatment note will state whether or not the child met that goal during the session.
Once a certain goal is met over a given number of consecutive sessions, the therapist will likely introduce a new goal to work on a different skill.

A Parent’s Role

Research shows that parent involvement in Speech Therapy can lead to more success.

When first starting Speech Therapy, it can be helpful to have a discussion about this with your child’s therapist.
Talk about whether you’ll be present or actively participating in sessions, if home assignments will be given, and what you can do to continue working on therapy goals at home.
You can ask about how to view treatment notes from sessions. The SLP will also complete periodic re-assessments of your child’s speech and language skills. You can discuss when reports from those assessments will be provided (typically every 6 months to 1 year).

Additional Resources

Parents play a critical role in a child’s progress in Speech Therapy. So it’s important for parents to understand what is happening and what skills are being worked on during therapy sessions.
If you have concerns about your child’s speech and language skills, he or she may benefit from specialized services from a Speech-Language Pathologist. A Speech Therapy evaluation can help determine what difficulties your child is having. Ongoing individualized therapy can include techniques and activities to help improve these areas.

TherapyWorks offers Speech Therapy, Occupational and Physical Therapy both in person and through teletherapy. If you would like to learn more, or discuss your child’s specific needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to TherapyWorks!

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 Are you interested in services for your child? Founded by Michelle Worth and Erin Vollmer, TherapyWorks provides speech, occupational and physical therapies in-home and via teletherapy.

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