What is Generalization?

If your child or loved one is working in speech or language therapy, you may have heard the term "generalization:" but what does this mean? Generalization means expanding targeted communication skills to new settings, activities, and communication partners. If your child is working on following complex directions, for example, he or she may be able to do so in therapeutic sessions but struggle at home, or vice versa. Generalization of skills to new contexts and levels is one of the ultimate goals of therapy, but it can be complex and nonlinear.

Generalization applies to speech skills, as well. In one study, researchers analyzed single-word and conversational samples for 10 children with a phonological disorder, before and after speech treatment and 3 months later. Results suggest that for most of the children in the study, there were system-level improvements in both single-word and conversational samples after 3 months, showing that the children were able to extend their correct productions to the conversational level without direct instruction. In other words, the children generalized their single-word speech skills to a spontaneous level.

If you're wondering how you can boost your child's carry-over skills, consider targeting some of their goals at home or in other settings for a brief period of time (e.g., 10 minutes) each day. You can do this and focus on quality time together by playing games or reading aloud from books, among many, many other ideas! By expanding these skills into new settings and with new communication partners, you're helping to expand your child's communication horizons.

Have questions about other activities or goals? Reach out to a Sidekick therapist today.


Generalization to Conversational Speech | Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders (asha.org)