Most teachers have had the experience of having a child pulled out of their classroom for a speech therapy session. How is this time spent and what does the format of the session look like? While sessions invariably differ depending on the teacher, the age of the student, and the type and severity of their disorder, the following is a brief description of a typical in-school speech therapy session. Note that this description is of a session geared toward elementary age students.
Speech therapy sessions typically take place outside of the classroom in a separate room (often that of the special education teacher). The pathologist generally meets with students in small groups of 3 or 4 grouped according to their age and the severity of their disorder. While most students take speech class once or twice a week, children with more severe speech disorders may meet as often as five days a week. Sessions last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
Most sessions begin with an informal conversation between the students and teacher about any problems they might be having in class, especially problems that might be linked to their disorder. This conversation gives time for speech muscles to loosen up as well as gives those students that might be socially withdrawn (often due to their disorder) to engage in informal conversation.
The rest of the session is usually spent doing an activity such as acting out a skit, arts and crafts, singing, and playing games. These activities, while fun, are specifically geared toward improving students’ speech abilities using a series of techniques. Among these are:
• Speech strengthening exercises such as pushing the tongue against a tongue depressor and through repetition practicing making certain sounds.
• Using tape recorders, mirrors and other auditory aids in order to improve communication between the brain and the body. Students can look in the mirror as they make sounds in order to ensure that their tongue, teeth and lips are in the right place.
• Performing breathing exercises in order to improve fluency.
Finally since improving speech requires an enormous amount of repetition and practice, students are often given homework assignments in which they must go home and practice making certain sounds/saying certain words with parents through games and coloring activities.
By Emily Banks