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Suffolk Center for Speech

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Importance of Carryover for Long-Term Speech Gains

The term practice means perfect, may be an over-statement, as nothing in this world can be without imperfections. In speech and language therapy, we can adapt this term to “practice makes improvements”. It can be extremely frustrating for children and adult patients alike to attend sessions, week after week, and feel like there are little to no observable gains. Speech Language Pathologists hear versions of “I feel like I’m not improving!” or “Exactly when will this therapy kick-in?” on a daily-basis. Frequently, our responses can often include homework and carryover to promote further acquisition of goals. “Homework” is often the last thing people want to hear, especially after working hard in a therapy session. But, biology backs-up our statements, as the brain requires consistent input in order to learn efficiently, and more quickly.

Our homework often can be called carryover, which is exactly as it sounds! According to Pam Marshalla (2010) one definition of carryover (in reference to phonological and articulation goals) is “a client’s ability to take an individual speech skill learned in the therapy room and to apply it broadly in all speaking situations.” Although defined from a speech-sound perspective, the concept remains the same across all communicative goals. I often explain carryover in therapy, and the therapy itself, as a “workout for your brain.” The analogy represents the idea of neuroplasticity, or the way the brain forms new pathways and changes over time. In this framework, the more we reinforce a specific goal or action, our “brain muscles” will become stronger and more of a habit.

As Speech Pathologists, our goal is not to bore you with meaningless homework activities. In fact, we aim for functionality to fit in your daily life! We often act as the “personal trainers” of communication, with the end-goal of lasting improvement in your everyday life. Because of this, there are a variety of carryover activities that extend beyond a piece of paper. Depending on the goals, carryover can include, but is not limited to: structured play, socializing, exploring, and engaging with friends, but in a saturated, purposeful way. Some of my favorite carryover activities include gardening, arts and crafts, reading, and planning enjoyable events. All of these fun activities can be adjusted to fit children and adults, with the idea that “graduation from speech,” involves continued improvement throughout your lifetime.

If you want to read more about carryover and creative ideas to target goals at home, read this article from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA): https://leader.pubs.asha.org/do/10.1044/scaling-the-carryover-wall/full/.

– Samantha M

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