Understanding the Benefits of Group Speech Therapy
Whether we realize it or not, our speech and social skills are closely linked. The ability to communicate effectively in a social setting is often overlooked but it’s a necessary skill for children to learn. Some children may have no issues playing, sharing, or communicating with classmates and teachers; while other children may have such a difficulty that it inhibits their ability to perform well academically and socially.
Working through Pragmatic Language Difficulties
Pragmatic language skills are the social language skills we use in everyday communication. Children who are shy, who measure on the Autism spectrum, or have Asperger’s may struggle with the social skills needed in language. Group speech therapy often builds on language skills, such articulation, in addition to pragmatic language skills.
Group speech therapy sessions provide children with an environment that might mimic their day to day within a social setting such as school or a friend’s house. As the children within the group learn from one another they also begin teaching each other useful social language skills.
Mixing Group Therapy with Individual Therapy
Often the speech-language pathologist will begin individual therapy sessions to evaluate where a child is with their language and communication difficulties. They use this time to implement skills and practices that will eventually be utilized beyond a home environment. Individual speech therapy is often a stepping stone to introducing the child into a group setting allowing child and therapist to focus without distractions.
Once the child has reached a level beyond where individual speech therapy is helpful, the speech-language pathologist may begin to incorporate small group speech therapy sessions in order to practice what the child has learned while still maintaining individual speech therapy. One thing to note is that group speech therapy may only consist of one other child and the therapist. The speech therapist will help determine the best option for the child.
Targeting Social Communication
Group speech therapy also targets social communication. For children who may not have attended daycare or preschool, social interactions such as taking turns, beginning conversations, or understanding rules, group speech therapy can not only help them build those critical social language skills but also transfer those skills outside of a classroom. Children who are comfortable interacting with adults but not their peers learn how to form relationships and understand that they aren’t the only one who struggles with making those connections.
Even with hard work and the best speech therapy team, some children are resistant to group speech therapy. It’s important to keep in mind that pushing too far beyond a child’s comfort level may cause a regression in not just speech skills but the pragmatic language skills. In this instance, individual speech therapy may be more beneficial until a child is emotionally able to work within a group setting.