A couple of weeks ago I asked you all for some input about "age appropriate" errors and whether, in your experience, they resolve on their own for a child with a history of speech problems that needed intervention. After reading all the comments and emails I received from you I decided to relax a little with Michael. His only remaining errors are with /th/ (and some slight gliding of /r/ and /l/ which doesn't concern me at this point).
Before I asked you all for your input I was planning a major push on /th/. I was going to work with Michael on /th/ for 45 minutes x2 a week in the waiting area while Ava was getting her Tu/Th speech therapy. I've decided he doesn't need that much. In fact, pushing too hard might be counter-productive.
Instead, I need to work from his strengths. Michael is an early reader. Letters have always spoken to him. He learned his alphabet really early. He learned letter-sound correspondences early. He was just interested. Reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom taught him the alphabet. Playing with the AlphaBlocks website taught him the correspondences. Bob books and the Usborne Early Readers taught him to decode CVC words. He likes it. So, I'm going to sneak in raising his awareness of the difference between /f/ and /th/ through reading. (I'm also going to do a little traditional artic work on it, but I'll get to that in a minute.) The reading work I've done with Michael so far hasn't dealt with any of the digraphs (th, ch, sh, etc.) so he hasn't had the opportunity to realize that "thumb", for example, is actually not spelled "fum." I'm going to do activities that focus on reading words with "th" and "f" and see if that does the trick.
I also came across the concept of 5-minute speech therapy at some point. I don't remember exactly where, why, or when, but it's been floating around in the back of my head ever since. I find the concept intriguing. It would allow an amazing amount of personalization in a school setting. Essentially, instead of grouping students into twice a week 30-60 minute sessions, you see all of the speech children on your caseload for 5-7 minute individual sessions heavily focused on drill in the hallway. Just pull them from their room for a few minutes several times a week and do heavy drill on their specific target phonemes at exactly the level they need to be working at. I find this idea tempting for straight artic kids. Done right, they could get as much practice in 5-7 individual minutes as they do in a 30-45 minute group session. They lose much less classroom time. Your schedule is more flexible and make-ups would be much easier to squeeze in. But I digress...
I thought I'd use that concept with Michael. Instead of working /th/ for 45 minutes twice a week I'll do an intense 5-7 minute drill twice a week. Then we'll move on to some other activity. Once a week, we do his weekly preschool homework. The other day we'll do some reading taking the time to highlight every example of "th" that occurs in that reading.
And that's my current speech plan for Michael. In large part, that's due to the input I got from those of you saying that it would probably be fine to relax a little about the /th/. So, thanks!