Play and the Speech and Language Therapist

ChildfarmSometimes our therapy can seem like we are just ‘ playing’  with our students, however, the reality is that we are employing therapeutic skills that assist in the development of language skills.

In play we:

  • Balance turn taking:  Give the students some opportunity to be the lead. If you are playing a shopping game let them be both the buyer and the seller.
  • Imitate:  When you imitate the child’s play we are telling them that they are communicating with us and we are understanding what they are trying to tell us. We can imitate something that they are doing to also enhance joint attention. 
  • Label things:  Make sure that you are not just labeling the nouns in play but also the actions or verbs. Expand the labels to include adjective, adverbs and prepositions to assist the child in learning these.
  • Interpret:  If we a child pointing or saying some sounds and we know what they want we can give them the words to help them bring this communication to the next level. 
  • Expand and recast:   When  the child says ‘truck’   you can expand on that by saying, “Yes, a big red truck.” If the child says, “me goed there,” you can recast his grammar by saying, “You went there”. Use stress and intonation to highlight the words you want your child to focus on. ” You mean…….”
  • Comment and describe:  Instead of telling the child  what to do during playtime, comment on what is happening.  Say, “You are buying some carrots. You are going to give them to your pet rabbit” The child might not be actually doing that, but you have given them a suggestion on how to expand their play. 
  • Validate attempts:  When we comment on what the child is doing in a positive way there is more of a chance that this will continue. ” Oh, you are putting the babies to bed. They look like they are very sleepy.”  ” I like the way that you are coloring that picture.”
  • Make contingent responses:  Respond immediately to all attempts to communicate, including words and gestures. This validates the importance of communication.
  • Label praise:  Instead of just saying “good job,” put a label on that praise. ” You said the names of all the animals.”
  • Stimulate articulation: “MMMM the food looks good”.

For graduate students in the procedure section of the lesson plans you should be putting some of the ’therapy’ strategies that you are using to assist the students in the development of language. So if you are playing with the child I am seeing some great therapy and that should be reflected in your procedure section. This will help you when you are writing up your progress note and will also give you information for the families to assist them in their play with their child.


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