Watching your child apply themselves to speech therapy can be a true joy. Maybe you watch as trouble articulating the “L” sound fades to the background. Or maybe your kiddo learns to more ably pick up on auditory cues, making simple dinner table conversation possible. There’s a simple excitement that comes from watching your son or daughter make real headway. But success also generates a real question: Knowing your child is done with speech therapy?
While having a finish line in sight can be a great motivator, the reality is that there’s no set time frame for finishing speech therapy. Instead, most speech therapists will use specific performance benchmarks to gage when your child no longer needs regular therapeutic visits. How quickly kids tend to hit those benchmarks is difficult to predict, as progression depends on a wide range of factors.
The Timeline for Finishing Speech Therapy
Speech therapists can address a wide variety of speech and communications issues. For some children, the underlying causes are physical; in other cases specific disorders such as autism may create difficulties with speech. As a result, each child will receive a personalized speech therapy plan depending on their specific needs. The time it takes children to finish speech therapy will vary depending on the plan devised, as well as any roadblocks or breakthroughs that may occur during sessions.
In terms of developing a timeline, here’s what parents can generally expect:
Younger children learn faster
Starting speech therapy as soon as possible can typically produce faster results. This isn’t true in every case, of course–but it’s a good rule of thumb. Younger children often adapt faster and the lessons will usually be more easily ingrained. Starting speech therapy sooner can minimize the amount of speech therapy needed. Which means finishing speech therapy may occur more quickly.
Chronic speech issues may require consistent therapies
Some speech issues may require consistent and chronic speech therapies. In those cases your child may never be “done” with speech therapy; though, kids may reach the point where they require less frequent sessions and interventions.
It’s important to emphasize that most speech issues exist on a spectrum. As a result, pulling children abruptly out of therapy on the assumption that met proficiencies equate to a cured condition can be damaging to long term results. What’s usually recommended instead is a tapered approach, where therapy sessions grow shorter or less frequent as symptoms improve.
How Do You Know When Your Child Is Ready to Be Done With Speech Therapy?
Because all kids are unique, the specific benchmarks that define a completed program will vary. However, you can generally assume that speech therapy may be ready to begin tapering appointments when:
- Your child has met previously established benchmarks and goals. For example, in preschool kids diagnosed with articulation disorders, speech therapists generally look for sustained improvements in speech sound productions before making the decision to start scaling back therapy.
- Social skills begin improving. When your kiddo is better able to carry on conversations with other children and adults or when these conversations cause less anxiety, that could be a sign of success. Once those social skill benchmarks are met, your kiddo might require less frequent speech therapy sessions.
- Speech sound production improves. Some benchmarks are relatively straightforward. For example, when a child with pronunciation challenges is able to make articulations without error, especially of difficult to pronounce phonemes most speech therapists will consider benchmarks successfully met.
There are, of course, a couple of caveats to keep in mind. First and foremost, conversational adeptness will not always be a good marker of a complete speech therapy treatment program. A child that experiences challenges with the production of the letter “r” phoneme /s/ may switch up their vocabulary in order to avoid that particular sound.
For a variety of reasons, it’s recommended that speech therapy not be ended abruptly–even on seemingly successful terms.
How Can You Help Your Child Succeed Faster?
How long finishing speech therapy takes will vary considerably depending on the severity of symptoms and the underlying causes. However, there are some things you can do as a parent to ensure that results are achieved as quickly as possible:
- Practice at home: Often, speech therapy relies on immersion. If you’re able to surround your child in everyday terms with the practices recommended by your speech therapist, results will often be achieved more quickly and be more robust.
- Make sure your child regularly attends speech therapy: Getting your child to and from speech therapy sessions is also especially important. Missing a session could mean a setback in terms of your timeline.
Ultimately, it’s also important for parents to provide space to fail–to not place such strong expectations on their children that those same kiddos feel debilitating pressure to perform. Your speech therapist will be able to provide you with positive and supportive ways to help your kids with speech challenges at home.
If you have questions about how long your speech therapy might take, schedule a free fifteen minute chat with a speech therapist during our virtual office hours. Otherwise, you can contact The Center for Speech & Language Development to schedule an appointment.