The overarching goal of any therapeutic activity is for the child or adult to be able to use the targeted skill in any location with any person. Sometimes skills that are learned through therapeutic activities are only mastered in the environment in which they were learned and with the people in that environment. Generalization helps address this therapeutic problem.
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What is generalization?
Generalization is also known as carryover. It is when you can apply something learned in a specific situation to other situations. There are a few ways to identify generalization. One example is when a child learns the name of her favorite toy (kitty) and can associate her toy kitty with a real kitty or associate her toy kitty with a picture of a different toy kitty.
Another example is when a child learns to ask for ‘more blocks’ and then can later use ‘more’ when asking for other toys, crayons, books, food, hugs, etc. For social-pragmatic skills, generalization can be identified when one can greet or interact with people who are outside the usual comfort/security zone (e.g. greeting non-family members or non-classmates from school). For other areas, such as articulation, generalization can be identified when one can consistently produce target sounds not just in single words, but sentences and connected speech.
Why is generalization important?
Generalization and therapeutic change, that is development or facilitation of skills learned in therapy, is marked by progress toward therapy goals. However, change is not only important within the clinic setting. We really want to see this same change, and progress, outside of the clinic setting whether it is at home with family, in school with the teacher, at the park with friends, or the workplace with colleagues.
How can I support generalization?
Families can support generalization by practicing the same strategies the therapists use both in the clinic and at home. In this way, you are supporting the therapist’s work in the session and your therapist will also support you and become your resource for home strategies. You and the therapist can discuss the strategies, how well they work outside the clinic setting, and revise or improve upon them to provide the best support at home.