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SLP Corner: Ideas for Speech Practice at Home

Editor’s Note:  This is a reprint of a great article that is still so very relevant, especially during this time of teaching and learning at home

by: The Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA)
The Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA) has published this fantastic list of practice ideas for parents to use in the home.

We thank CASANA for permission to reprint this wonderful resource here for our readers.


Over 200 parents were in attendance for the 2006 CASANA National Apraxia Parent Conference, in St. Paul, Minnesota. One very popular lecture session was “How To Help Your Child with Speech Practice At Home.” Children with apraxia of speech need many, many practice opportunities for their speech to improve and become more intelligible. Below are ideas from many parents at the conference concerning how to engage children with apraxia to do that ever difficult task of practicing speech outside of the therapy room.

Practice Ideas

  • During bath time with a net of animals – say the animal name then child repeats the name and then parent says the name again. At the end of the bath, parent and child put animals in the net and say “bye-bye cat” etc.
  • Playing with sibling and repeating the words together.
  • My son likes to wrestle on the couch or bed and have me gently push him to trip and fall back. We work on saying a word or phrase and after he attempts it, I tip him over or wrestle with him a little. The anticipation of getting to fall down or wrestle really pushes him to try the word or phrase. This is a good way to get lots of hugs and kisses back.
  • My daughter loves to play with her babies. So we frequently have “speech therapy” with her babies who have to work on their “sounds” with my daughter’s voice. Since my daughter is nonverbal, the babies also “sign.”
  • Use candy and when the child says a word 5 times, he gets a treat.
  • Our son has a special Rubbermaid box that has toys in it. It only comes out during our speech at home.
  • Hold Oreos near eyes to encourage eye contact during speech practice.
  • Older brother encourages younger child with apraxia to repeat sounds when he’s in the car seat.
  • Choose a toy with many parts – child has to repeat a sound before therapist/parent gives him/her the toy part.
  • Use “Express Train – Conversation Station” CD – 12+ songs.
  • Play Crazy 8s – practice for saying numbers and suits.
  • Cut out pictures from magazines or clip art and place them on another piece of paper (can be in a certain shape i.e. frog). Put them on the floor. The child/parent picks a number and the child walks on that many papers. The child then picks up the paper and tells something about the picture.
  • We talk about what we are doing and get him to vocalize the initial sound of key words i.e., “ba” for “ball.”
  • When they have words, tell stories about what they are interested in.
  • Practice target words outside while shooting baskets, kicking balls, swinging.
  • Play a game that requires turn taking and to clarify “you” versus “me.”
  • Play memory games and we have to say the names of the things as we turn them over.
  • Provide real-life opportunities. Helps with getting own juice. Must verbalize what he is doing (repetition of a task frequently executed).
  • We encourage our daughter to help our son, who has apraxia, say words and phrases.
  • Used music to get child active in working on animal sounds.
  • If your child is musical (just seems to like music) try singing/practicing the sounds/words you want to work on with the child.
  • Practice five minutes per day: Fun bags: Each bag has a target sound (starting the word). I fill the bag with objects/pictures to match. I hide the objects around the room . . . . as the child finds the object, he/she matches it to the pictures (on the table). Say the word three times as they match the object/picture. /b/ bad, /p/ bag, /m/ bag, /w/ bag.
  • Play grocery store: Child allowed to buy stuffed animals (example) with target sound (example – P buys penguin, platypus, puppy, pony, etc.).
  • When child was really young and would make little attempt to repeat sounds, words, etc., we would play airplane. I would lie on my back with my son’s chest/tummy on my feet while holding his arms. (We were face to face). The plane would go up for an attempt and down when he would not make an attempt. He loved being raised up and this was a motivator for him.
  • Mini M&Ms. Each M&M placed on a picture. Child earns one M&M for each word attempt.
  • Use magnets on back of target words to make up stories on refrigerator. These stories can be retold to dad, sibling, etc later for second practice.
  • Develop important play words early such as “come,” “run,” “throw it,” “my turn,” “your turn,” and use the teacher to set up actual practice with another normally developing child.
  • Use Signing Exact English to emphasize the small words, endings, etc. to draw child’s attention to words he was omitting.
  • Reading books, some books have her pictures posted in them. Working on simple sentences. “I want . . . . .,” “Please help,” and “I see . . . . . . “
  • In the car while we drive, see trucks, cows etc. Then prompt with “what do you see, I see a . . . . . . “
  • Incorporate words into daily routines, i.e., shades “up” and lights “off.”
  • Work with my son using his PECS book to tell me what he wants.
  • Make a place mat with the sound of the week.
  • Use a View Master and carrier phrase or predictable phrase, “I see ___”.
  • Take my son to different playgrounds he automatically calls equipment by name and identified for him at other sites.
  • When reading books, I intentionally leave words out of the story (after it has been read several times) to encourage my son to “fill in the blank.”
  • Create a picture book of words.
  • Cell phone – practice calling and talking to people.
  • Use carrier phrase from book: “When You’re Happy and You Know It”
  • My son can say “pen” in reference to writing utensil but flounders over “open.” So I hold up a pen at the end of the word to give him a visual cue (and also a big round “o” with my mouth for “o” – pen.
  • Make phone calls to grandparents, dad @ work and let them have a turn (great to use if older siblings go first) speaking/talking every call. Get an old cell phone for them to use to pretend at other times. This activity as beginning and ending, they see an example/model and they are motivated (talk to dad) in normal environment.
  • Use grocery ad pictures to make magnets for the fridge so she can pick out a picture of what she wants. It is like a homemade PECS system.
  • My son likes to play on the glider on his swing set. We catch and hold the glider up until he attempts the “magic word” for that day and then he is rewarded with our giving the glider a push to make it go higher. This can be repeated several times during 10 minutes on the glider.
  • Wordsmart CD. Five-set CD cartoon based. Has some good visuals on how to make various sounds and words.
  • Use signing for something he wants. He likes popcorn and work on the sound “pop” as we sign “popcorn.”
  • In the morning working with her on puzzles and her words and sounds. Having her use any sounds in identifying shapes, colors, objects.
  • Throwing a ball, going down the slide, or pushing the swing and have my child say “ba” or “da” each time.
  • We bake cookies, and she helps with the ingredients. I have her say the words before we add to mix.
  • Play card games such as Old Maid. Have her say her matches when she gets one.
  • Our son loves the alphabet and we let him come up with a word that corresponds with the letter. We draw the word he says (i.e. A – apple) and then he repeats it.
  • We read books together. She will repeat the words. She also will look at pictures and tell me what they are.
  • Go to beach, playground. Do things that are fun and work on sounds that apply. Sand, ocean, waves, swim, slide, swing, etc.
  • When working on multisyllable words, I (the parent) breakdown the word and have my son repeat each syllable for me. Then at the end, I say “now put it together.”
  • Practice ten repetitions to get what you want (Playstation). Incorporating it into play (role playing with Barbies, animals).
  • While doing everyday things if he wants something and cannot say the word, I use the opportunity to practice. This approach helps because it is not so structured and he is rewarded with whatever it was he wanted.
  • My son is 6 years old so I use books to help work on sounds and reading words. It keeps him positive and he feels great that he read a book. (These are small, one sentence booklets).
  • Practice speech with my child while he is on the swing, balance ball, etc., so he is moving (being active) and practicing speech.
  • Playing Caribous or Uno to work on conversational speech.
  • Using the alphabet sponge letters w/paint. Practice “buh buh buh” for B; “duh duh duh” for D while she presses the letter to the paper.
  • Playground – sports and balls. Use gross motor play to practice “game” language – “push, oops, my turn, your turn, yeah, great job, throw.”
  • I ask lot of questions about everything he eats/plays with. (i.e. Ice cream: “Is it white or purple? Is it hot or cold? Is it wet or dry” Is it yummy or yucky? Do you put it in your mouth or ear?”) Lots of laughter and speech.
  • Playing Go Fish or Memory with target words.
  • My son loves Thomas the Train. Each time he would attempt to say train or track or the name of the train – he would get another train or track. We would have it built when we were done.
  • Elefun game – turn on, big nose, up up up, down down down, colors. Blowing bubbles – pop pop pop.
  • Playing with trains, cars, and airplanes – practice making sounds that they make and say what they are.
  • My daughter is practicing the “s” sound. She trails her finger from my elbow to my hand while saying ‘sssss” sound (like a snake). I catch her snake in my hand. We do this 10 times a night while settling for bedtime.
  • I take a box or ice cream pail with a cover and cut a slit on top and the child gets to put the word or poker chip in the box/pail after they say target word/sound.
  • Photo books of real life experiences (zoo, rodeo) – cloze activities.
  • I play with my grandson with his Disney figures with a pirate ship, playhouse, cars, and pretend they have a party, go for rides in the little cars and go “in” and “out” doors of playhouse or garage. We use words to name and describe what we play with.
  • Play Monopoly and say the numbers and she counts. Reading and have her fill the word on simple words.
  • After he repeats a word or phrase three times, he bowls his super heroes over. We set them up like bowling pins and bowl them over with a ball.
  • I have him catch me doing speech errors.
  • Use cards and slide under a door to another person as soon as utterances or verbal goal is met.
  • Easy button (from Staples) as an instant reinforcer.
  • Building a puzzle, piece by piece, after repeating, initializing, or spontaneously using the correct sounds or words.
  • Make up “silly” sentences using a series of cards spread out on the floor. (working on sentences).
  • Word bingo with Cheerios.
  • Integrate sounds into a song (old Macdonald, wheels on the bus)
  • Popsicles – my son has to say “pop” to get a taste. It’s the only time he gets to eat popsicles, when we are practicing.
  • Race car truck. Roll the dice. Say a word or sound that many times and race to the finish.
  • Writing stories to go along with a picture and then saying the words and practicing the sounds. Making up songs. (first grader)
  • Sequencing. Dress a snowman. First – show complete snowman – made by an adult. Then – make small parts hold by adults face. Then – hold second part (near face to get eye contact). Finally, complete the snowman – put all three parts together then put together facial parts. Choose target words you are working on. Practice putting three to four cards together then depict making a snowman. Practice dressing the snowman and share the snowman story.
  • Incorporate the youngest child into the activity that is happening with the oldest ones activity. Make it a family effort.
  • My son gets to lick a lollipop in between repetitions of his words. Five words then a lick. He knows he has to put it down when it is time to work. Sticky but it works.
  • Match target sound with appropriate toy – “jump” while moving action figure.

Featured Organization: The Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA)

We thank CASANA for allowing PediaStaff to link to their resources. Apraxia-KIDS is the Internet’s largest, most comprehensive and trusted website for information on childhood apraxia of speech (verbal dyspraxia, developmental apraxia of speech) and children’s speech and language topics, including evaluation, speech therapy, research and other childhood communication topics. Invaluable for parents, speech language pathologists, teachers and all those who care about a child with apraxia. For more information about this organization please visit CASANA

PediaStaff hires pediatric and school-based professionals nationwide for contract assignments of 2 to 12 months. We also help clinics, hospitals, schools, and home health agencies to find and hire these professionals directly. We work with Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational and Physical Therapists, School Psychologists, and others in pediatric therapy and education.


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