5 Reasons We Don’t Usually Use ‘Speech Rules’
We love organized productive speech therapy sessions. But, we don’t typically use speech rules in our sessions. It’s not that we are inherently against ‘behavior speech rules’ but overall, we don’t use them. Here are some of the reasons why:
- We use meaningful language activities. We try to use meaningful, fun, and engaging activities so learners want to participate. Even when we think an activity is enjoyable and it is not, it becomes enjoyable and meaningful to “stop” the activity. It is helpful to think about meaningful and fun from the learner’s perspective and not just ours. For example, having a pleasant conversation about awesome pretty pictures would be enjoyable for many students. However, if conversation is difficult, maybe not so much. It’s not that we would not work on conversation, but the activity structure may involve clear beginnings and endings to the conversation, a ‘take home poster’, and/or a talk time snack, not just the conversation.
- We use visual supports. Visual supports show boundaries and expectations so the students know the expectations of the session. The expected behavior comes from the support not from a power struggle between ‘my’ rules and the students.
- We are not good at NOT giving prizes. Usually with ‘speech rules’ there is a prize at the end of the session based on behavior. Since, our goals focus on communication and language, it seems counterproductive to give reinforcement based on behavior. It is very hard to look at a student after a session and not give them the prize. We often see SLP’s giving the child many chances to ‘earn’ the prize back (which is great but what does that teach?). Only on the rarest occasion have we seen a student not leave with the prize. When this happens, the session usually ends with tears or worse, no care which means the ‘prize’ is meaningless to goals and objectives (learning). There are a group of students who do LOVE prizes and that is awesome, it just seems that there is a more meaningful language activity to getting a prize than a set of behavior rules (e.g., requesting, negotiating, playing store, etc.).
- We Give Choices– With the power of choice, students often will participate more readily and appropriately. Sometimes, the choice may be a different activity, or different materials, or even not liking any of the choices but choices change the dynamics of behavior immediately.
- Our focus is communication. The purpose of a speech-language intervention session is to improve communication and language skills, not to improve behavior. We serve as communication partners, not ‘bosses’. We are aiming for improved communication not perfect compliance. When we see ‘speech rules’ the focus often is about compliance. Another aspect of a communication focus is authenticity. We like to model appropriate pragmatics or social use of language. In typical social communication and conversation, there is not an arbitrary rule about sitting, or having feet on the floor etc. Therefore, by adding ‘behavior speech rules’ we are distorting the social rules of communication and this often does not help our students accomplish their goals and is not authentic or real. Additionally, if communication is not enjoyable and sustainable on its own and because of the interaction, it will not be maintained outside the ‘speech room’ and that would not help anyone.
What are your thoughts on behavior speech rules?
Filed under: PrAACtical Thinking
This post was written by Robin Parker