The more you practice a movement, the stronger your muscle memory gets, until the movement becomes habitual. This concept applies to both gross and fine motor movements as well as to the movement of the articulators: the jaw, tongue, and lips. If a child focuses on practicing speech sounds once a week, they will progress. However, if the target sound is practiced every day, the child will demonstrate even faster progress.
Think of doing a jumping jack. We all learned that jumping jacks are done by jumping up and spreading your legs apart horizontally while clapping your hands above your head. Now try doing a jumping jack by jumping up and spreading your legs front/back while clapping your hands above your head. (Caution: you may feel very uncoordinated!) It may be difficult at first, but after doing it a few times, the movement becomes easier. Because you were taught the traditional way of doing a jumping jack, trying to do it another way is difficult. Keep this demonstration in mind as your child similarly tries to re-learn how to pronounce their target sound.
Tips for carry-over activities at home
- Repetition: make it a point to set up times throughout the day to practice target sounds (For example, driving home from school or before you brush your teeth).
- Encouragement: I see children that try their very best and still just can’t quite get the sound right. Offer positive encouragement and only prompt the child to pronounce the target word/sound three times before moving on to the next item.
- Acknowledgement: Mention that you know the child is doing their best and recognize how challenging this is for them.