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What is Generalization?

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Have you ever noticed your child (or spouse) will behave a certain way in one setting and a completely different way in another? As an example, your husband may be very proactive with household chores and offering to help when he’s at home, but when visiting with his childhood family, he may revert back to his younger self and not help unless asked.

Here’s another example as it relates to speech and language. Let’s say your child is currently attending speech therapy for difficulty producing the /r/ sound. You may have noticed that your child may be excellent at self-monitoring for articulation errors when attending speech therapy, but as soon as they leave and go home, they’re back to producing errors.

Generalization refers to the state of a skill or behavior that has successfully transferred across environments and settings. When working on any form of goal, generalization is crucial for true mastery of a skill. Our behavior is often shaped or tied to the environment in that we practice that specific behavior or skill within. Whether it’s an articulation goal, a language goal, or a social goal, it is important for an individual to have plenty of opportunities to practice a skill in multiple different environments (home, school, in therapy, etc.). Practicing a skill or behavior across settings better ensures that a child or adult will truly generalize a skill to all areas of their life, rather than one setting. As such, home practice and collaboration is a crucial part of any treatment plan.

If you’re unsure of how to practice a particular goal at home for yourself or your child, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your speech-language therapist for materials, tips, and ideas. 

-Jeff Greenfield, MS, CCC-SLP

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