How to get students to complete independent practice? Why independent practice is so important? How to talk about it with team members?
For most children, practice outside of the therapy room will be an essential element of intervention, enabling them to more quickly meet their annual IEP goals. However, SLPs often struggle with how to get students to complete independent practice. One way to get buy-in is to discuss practice with the child’s support team at the annual IEP meeting. Here we will discuss why independent practice is so important, how to talk about it with team members, and suggestions for incorporating the practice into the IEP.
What is Independent Practice and Why is it Important?
Independent practice means a practice that the SLP assigns for the student to complete outside of the therapy room. The practice may occur in a school location such as the special education room or in the general education classroom. It may also be sent home to be completed with caregivers as speech homework.
There are several reasons why independent practice is both necessary and important for your students’ progress toward their communication goals.
Some of these are:
- Providing home practice facilitates the relationship with families. Communication with caregivers regarding the planning and delivery of school-based therapy services is mandated by federal guidelines. (1)
- Providing home practice is essential according to ASHA. Facilitating and encouraging parents’ involvement in their child’s speech-language therapy is considered within the speech-language pathologists’ scope of practice. (2)
- and a required component of service delivery for students of all ages. (3)
Independent practice leads to more improvement. When children practice outside of the speech therapy room, they are able to carry over the skills to other settings and progress more quickly. (4)
- Independent practice increases the amount of time a student practices each week. Research shows that an increased frequency of practice trials (5) with shorter session durations for speech sound disorders is best for improvement. (6)
- When practicing at home, students feel more involved in their therapy. Children are more likely to practice and take ownership of their progress when parents are engaged. (7)
- SLPs believe that practice activities outside the speech therapy setting are critical to improved outcomes. (8) Over 75% of SLPs feel that providing self-practice is essential to students’ progress, and nearly one-third of SLPs reported “lack of parental involvement or support” as one of the largest workplace challenges in the 2014 ASHA schools survey. (9)
Students can achieve their IEP goals more quickly when given the opportunity to
practice outside of the therapy setting
The best place to discuss the implementation of independent practice is at the student’s IEP meeting. At the IEP meeting, you can discuss the above reasons to establish the importance of independent practice. You can then outline your independent practice program and make a plan with the team for implementation.
Here are some talking points that you can use when discussing your independent practice program at the IEP meeting:
- Review with the caregivers and other team members how you will support the student’s practice and describe what practice items you will be giving to the student or sending home.
“I will be providing (daily/weekly/periodic) (online practice games and activities/digital or paper worksheets/a practice schedule). Your (student/child) will access practice activities from (their student login or app/an email that I will send/a homework folder).”
- Define how often and where you would like the student to practice and get your team’s input.
“I ask that students practice (at least two times per week/once a week/when I send practice home). Let’s make a plan for facilitating increased communication progress by deciding where and when (the student/your child) will practice. Some good places at home are (at the kitchen table/in the car on the way to and from school/as part of the bedtime routine). At school, some ideas are (in the general education classroom during independent work time/with a paraprofessional in the special education classroom/at the before or after school program).”
- Describe any reward/incentive program that you use:
“I have developed a reward program for students who meet their goal of practicing outside of therapy sessions. This program includes (a homework chart that will be sent home weekly/a speech log to keep track of practice sessions/monitoring the frequency of practice on a web-based program).”
Incorporating Self-Practice into the IEP
Many professionals find that additionally outlining self-practice in the IEP document helps drive clarity and accountability. Here are some examples of wording that can be included in the Supplementary Aids and Services or Notes section of the IEP document:
- Pacing of instruction needed (e.g., breaks, more time, home set of materials)
“Home articulation practice sheets and/or articulation practice website access will be provided to the student and parents.”
- Self-management and/or follow-through are needed (e.g., calendars, teaching study skills)
“Weekly calendar with (speech/language assignments/practice) will be provided to the (student/parents)” or “The therapist will provide the student access to self-practice as a therapy extension.”
- Support and training for relevant school staff
“(Teacher/aide/paraprofessional) will be educated to provide speech/language carryover activities as directed by SLP.”
Students can achieve their IEP goals more quickly when given the opportunity to practice outside of the therapy setting. It can often be a struggle for SLPs to get their teams to reinforce practice both at home and in the school setting. Discussing why self-practice is so important and setting up a program can be accomplished when the entire team is together during the annual IEP review meeting. Adding self-practice to the IEP itself can also aid in adherence to the program to ensure the student’s success.
Independent practice is a built-in component of the Amplio platform, allowing for increased practice intensity. Students are able to access the platform anywhere at any time to practice the skills assigned to the student based on the SLP’s clinical judgment. The ease and accessibility of the Amplio platform allow for increased opportunities for practice, resulting in improved student outcomes.
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 (2004). https://sites.ed.gov/idea/statuteregulations/
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2016). Roles and responsibilities of speech-language pathologists in schools [Position statement]. http://www.asha.org/policy
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2018). 2018 Schools survey report: SLP caseload characteristics. https://www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/Schools-2018-SLP-Caseload-and-Workload-Characteristics.pdf
- Allen, M. M. (2013). Intervention efficacy and intensity for children with speech sound disorder. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 56(3), 865–877. https://doi.org/10.1044/1092-4388(2012/11-0076)
- Tambyraja, S.R. (2020). Facilitating Parental Involvement in speech therapy for children with speech sound disorders: A survey of Speech-Language Pathologists’ practices, perspectives, and strategies. American Journal of Speech Language Pathology, (29)4, 1987-1996. https://doi.org/10.1044/2020_AJSLP-19-00071
- Byers, B.A., Bellon-Harn, M. L., Allen, M., Saar, K. W., Manchaiah, V., & Rodrigo, H. (2021). A comparison of intervention intensity and service delivery models with school-age children with speech sound disorders in a school setting. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, (52)2, 529-541.
- Pappas, N. W., McLeod, S., McAllister, L., & McKinnon, D. H. (2008). Parental involvement in speech intervention: A national survey. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, 22(4–5), 335–344. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699200801919737
- Justice, L., Ezell, H. (2002). A needs assessment: Perceptions and practices of student speech language clinicians regarding parent involvement. Contemporary Issues in Communication Science and Disorders, (28), 64-73. https://doi.org/10.1044/cicsd_28_S_64
- Tambyraja, S.R., Schmitt, M. B., Justice, L.M., (2017). The frequency and nature of communication between school-based speech-language pathologists and caregivers of children with language impairment, American Journal of Speech Language Pathology, (26)4, 1057-1306. https://doi.org/10.1044/2017_AJSLP-16-0235