Spice up your therapy with these super fun puzzles!
Big thanks to my Occupational Therapist this week for bringing me into the world of Virtual Escape Rooms. I’ve been doing some co-treating with my OT and he led the group through a Virtual Escape Room this week. I was so impressed with how engaged my students were and what they were able to solve! One of my students who has struggled to engage in teletherapy was leading the group in solving the challenge. They can be solved in about 30 minutes, making them the perfect activity for a speech sessions.
They are especially great for targeting social communication and language goals.
As both a school based and private SLP, one of my most important jobs is picking meaningful goals for school-aged students with speech/language delays, pragmatic delays, social communication delays. What I love about being in both public schools and private homes around Portland providing speech/language therapy, is that I get to see through both lenses when looking at how communication delays impact kids. A student with Autism, for example, may have certain communication skills within the structure and routine of school and completely different skills in his home environment.
I just started using a tool called the Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS) and it's amazing. It's not an assessment specifically for SLPs, but that's what I love about it. For my more involved students, it helps me break out of the standardized score mode and developmental language approach and rethink communication from a functional perspective. When there are so many goals we could be working on, how do we pick the ones that will be the most meaningful to that child and their family??
The AFLS has several modules to choose from. Each module looks at a specific set of skills needed for a particular setting. I started with the School Skills module. It breaks skills into the following areas: Classroom Mechanics, Meals at School, Routines & Expectations, Social Skills, Technology, Common Knowledge, Core Academics, Applied Academics. Now, I'm going to be honest. This is a very lengthy assessment...it has something like 300 items to score! But I promise it is so worth the time spent! When completed, you will have a much clearer picture of your client, where they're getting stuck, and you'll feel confident that the goals you select are appropriate and leading to meaningful outcomes.
The thing I really love about this tool is that all members of the special education team can work off this document, allowing them to overlap goals, and assist with generalization across environments, activities and partners. I am currently using this tool to support collaboration between families, private tutors/nannies and school teams. Rather than private therapy and school teams working in isolation, this document provides an overall picture of a child with communication delays and offers highly specific goals with criteria on data collection for everyone to work from. This is a great way to connect the home and school experience for a school-aged child with significant communication needs.
Following a child's lead: This strategy comes down to being responsive to a child's interests and communication attempts. When a child is attempting to communicate, they are motivated to convey their wants/needs/desires. The more successful they feel with these attempts, the more likely they will be to continue these initiations. The strategy is simply noticing what your child is interested in and talking to them about that topic. If your child is coloring, try commenting about their picture, "That is a tall tree." or asking an open-ended questions, "What color are you going to use next?" "Where are you going to draw the puppy?" You can use following the child's lead in combination with all the strategies that are listed to really promote your child's communication skills.
STRATEGY # 4:
Modeling :Simply put, modeling is saying what you would like your child to say. For example, consider your child’s language. What is the next stage in their language that you are hoping they will reach? Are they combining words to make phrases or sentences or using only single words? Are they having difficulty with verb tense or word order? Take for example a 3 year old who hasn’t yet started combining words. Modeling targeted phrases throughout the day in child friendly language can help to promote this skill. Children have a larger vocabulary of nouns typically, so think about adding a new adjective or verb to their single word production. Model the use of word combinations. “Blue truck” “Big elephant” “Run fast.”
LANGUAGE STRATEGY #3: EXPANDING
Expanding: This is simply repeating what your child has said and expanding on it through the addition of more complex or descriptive language. For example, if a child states, “red car” you can easily expand on this phrase by saying “Yes, the red car drives fast.” Expansion is a great language strategy to use, because you are using what the child is already interested in and motivated to communicate about as a teaching tool for providing more language. I love using this strategy when working with my kids with autism, because it lets them know that I have heard them, understood them and am responding. Especially with kids with limited verbal output, I find that difficult behaviors often stem from a sense that they are not being understood. I repeat and expand frequently when working with these kids. This way, they learn that if they attempt to communicate, they will have a reciprocal response.
Summer is in full swing here in Portland and many of you, including me, are probably taking a break from speech therapy...hopefully enjoying days by the pool, trips to the zoo, hiking, biking, all the things. While taking a break from the traditional therapy allows your child a break from the structured routine required during the school year, you'd be surprised by how many opportunities for language development pop up during your summer fun days. So much so, that a couple summers ago I took a couple of my students with language delays on weekly summer field trips around the Portland Metro area. It wasn't technically therapy, but they probably developed more meaningful language skills during those summer trips than during our weekly therapy sessions throughout the school year. Promoting language during activities when your child is highly interested and engaged makes your child more primed, motivated and ready to learn new language concepts. There are 8 basic language strategies that I encourage parents to use in order to promote language. You likely use these strategies already everyday, but research shows that the more frequently and purposefully you use them, the more it leads to language development in young children. Initially, I encourage parents to focus on 1 strategy at a time. Focus on increasing how often and when you use that strategy, and observe what your child's communication response is. The first language strategy is asking open-ended questions.
LANGUAGE STRATEGY #1: ASKING OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS
STRATEGY # 1:
Asking open-ended questions: This is something people do all the time, but being aware of the positive language implications can help us to be more cognizant of how and when we use this strategy throughout the day. An open-ended question is simply a question that allows the receiver to respond in a variety of different ways, thus providing increased opportunities to use rich language. For example, asking, “Is the bear blue?” can only lead to 2 responses (yes or no). Asking, “What color is the bear?” allows for practice with a more varied response and even better, “What does the bear look like?” provides a wonderful opportunity for using new language. Before heading out on your next summer adventure, remind yourself to frame your questions as open-ended questions. If your child is working on spatial concept in therapy, focus on asking WHERE questions. If your child is working on basic vocabulary, focus on asking WHAT questions. In therapy, repeated practice is key. See if you can ask 15-20 open-ended questions during your outing. And remember, asking questions about what your child is already interested in will likely gather the best response and offer the most language practice. Read about the strategy of "following a child's lead," so you can be using 2 strategies at once by noticing where their attention is and asking them an open-ended questions about that point of interest.