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Importance of Making Mistakes in Speech Therapy

Most SLP would describe themselves as having more of a type A personality.  We don't like to make mistakes, especially in front of others. At least I don't. But I am here to encourage you to point out your errors in therapy. It is helpful for those students you serve who don't like to make mistakes or when they make a mistake do not have to problem-solving skills to fix them. 

You probably have had or will have a student who is a perfectionist. These can be some of my trickiest students.  They may be reluctant to try if they think they can't do the task or if as soon as the student makes a mistake, they may stop participating.  It can make progress extremely slow.  It can also have a significant impact on their academic career. In my experience, they are less likely to become involved in class discussions and may be less likely to ask their teacher for help or clarification.

Along the same lines, a child with difficulty with problem-solving may become upset or not know how to react when they have made a mistake or expect an adult to solve the problem for them.  This also can have a significant impact on a child's education.



There are four strategies I use in therapy:

1. Point out the mistakes you make.  We all make mistakes.  If you are working on articulation, then point out when you mispronounce a word.  Then talk about trying again. Say the misspoken word again.  This should be done nonchalantly as it if it happens.  The tone you correct yourself will show the students that making mistakes happen and it's not a "huge deal." It also teaches students who have difficulty solving problems how to fix it.

2. Talk about how to fix the mistakes students may make.  If they are working on artic, then explicitly teach them how to make the sound.  If old enough, have the students analyze what they did wrong and, if applicable, have them tell you what they need to do to fix it.  If you are working on grammar or vocabulary goals, make sure the students can explain the rules or the steps they use to master the skill.

3.  Start the therapy sessions with an activity or skill that the student experiences more success.  Next, move to the more difficult skills, then end with a skill that the child experiences more success.   

4. Talk about progress.  Have the child use a rating system on how they felt about the activity or the session. Also, keep those and then every so often, go over them with the student to show them progress. As well, I have made comments such as, "Do you remember when this was tricky for you?  Now it is getting easier."

The other thing to think about is to not be afraid of backing off and playing with the hierarchy.  Talking about how you would not make the student do something they couldn't do can also be helpful. Progress will probably be slow but will ultimately be more successful if you have a positive relationship with the student.