Using Therapy Materials that Match a Student’s Age or Abilities


You have the goals you want your student to achieve.

You have the research-based approach to use in treatment.

What may be more difficult is matching the student’s age and abilities to the appropriate materials.

A common mistake that  a newbie clinician or a student clinician makes is using the wrong material for a student. There are so many things to consider that it can make this a very complex task. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Is it age appropriate?
    •  Do not use activities designed for elementary students with middle schoolers or high schoolers. The Sesame Street video on friendship may be very good but it is not appropriate for a teenager. Look at the characters in the videos and the social situation. What might peers be watching or talking about?
    • For the younger student, some of the common problems I see is that examples used with them to explain a vocabulary word or a concept are too mature for them to understand. ex. you are talking to your friend on the phone or you are driving to the store.
    • Are your conversational topics typical for the age group that you are asking? In the younger grades, students don’t typically have subjects defined or they may call them different things. Many younger children have difficulty recalling information from their school.  An open-ended conversation may be very difficult for a student with language difficulties. One thing that I incorporate is a simple good news and bad news as an introduction to my session. In the beginning, it may be difficult for the student to give this information but over time and with you modeling they may begin to open up more. Your modeling could be as simple as ” My good news has I had a great lunch.” ” My bad news is I feel sleepy.”
    • In the clinic, there are some popular materials, one of which is a plastic bowling set. The kids love it. It can make drill work fun and active. HOWEVER look at the age that it is recommended for on AmazonPlastic bowling set. Think of some ways that you could have that same fun but with more appropriate materials for the older child. Sometimes it is as simple as changing the size of the materials. You could take the bowling concept and use it with paper cups and a small ball. Here are some other ideas for articulation practice, review carefully as they are NOT all for the same age child but it will give you some ideas. Articulation Pinterest Board
  • Is it at the appropriate skill level?
    • Many of our students not only have difficulty with oral language but may too have difficulty with written language. The material that you are asking the students to read needs to be at at least at their instructional level and if we are not using the reading material to work on reading skills it is better that the material is at an independent level of reading.
    • Here is a great resource from Reading A to Z that has a number of reading programs and the correlation between reading programs. Note that in the lower grades there are more levels that a child needs to achieve whereas in the upper grades there are fewer. reading a to z]. Just as there are developmental levels for speaking and listening so too are there ones for reading and spelling. PBS has some great resources for this up until the third grade. PBS education, reading, language, reading milestones
    • Writing is a very complex language skill that also requires a complex motor, memory, and organizational skills. If the writing process is something we are not working on then try to limit the amount of information that we require a student to write.
    • If you are working on articulation at the sentence level know that the students may not be able to read the sentence one trick is to have a repeating sentence so that they are only putting in the word that needs to said put the rest of the sentence can easily be remembered or read. I have attached two examples. It is fun to make them funny if you can. Here is an example of how to do this.TH sound I found a Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 5.25.51 PM
    • The child would read the pictures for the picture strip and say I found then take the word card and put it in the blank space. I found a thermos in my bed. I found things in my bed.
  • Does the material as presented match the skill level of the student?
    • There are some fabulous curriculum research-based programs that perfectly align with what the child is doing in school or the standards that the child needs to be proficient in. Many of these materials were written for the average student at that grade level. This means we need to add supports or scaffolding to the material so that our students are able to understand what is being presented. So for example, Scholastic Text Talk is a fabulous resource for using literature to teach vocabulary. It was designed by Dr. Isabel Beck and Dr.McKeown noted researchers in vocabulary development. However, you would need to scaffold some of the learning. This would not mean changing the vocabulary as it is important that ALL children learn tier two vocabulary but it may mean that you would need to combine the instruction with pictures and/or act it out. You may need to create more visuals or go at a different pace or add more concrete information to support the literature.


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18 comments on “Using Therapy Materials that Match a Student’s Age or Abilities
  1. During undergrad, I worked with a client diagnosed with ASD, and his expressive and receptive language were significantly below what was expected for his age. I often had to provide pictures of appropriate social scenes as well as cues/scaffolding in order to help him understand even a very short paragraph. Lots of great information in this blog, read! Thank you Pat!

  2. Read! The suggestion about modeling responses for students with language difficulties was helpful. I also like the idea of modifying certain games and activities, like bowling, to suit older clients.

  3. Thank you for bring this to my attention! Lesson plans will be changed to match the student’s age and/ or abilities.

  4. Thank you so much for these resources! Reading A-Z has provided great structure for me to learn about reading levels and appropriate student materials. Thank you for the fixed sentence materials!

  5. I love all of these ideas to really make sure our materials match our client. It is so important that we are aware of what are client needs to be successful but not forgetting the academic skills they need to be acquiring! Such amazing resources, thank you!!

  6. I plan to implement the good news/bad news idea in my sessions. Also, it is sometimes a challenge to find age appropriate articulation activities for middle/high schoolers. Also, simplifying the Text Talk language makes sense. It can be quite advanced!

  7. I love the “good news and bad news” idea it is simple yet perfect! I appreciate the suggestion about avoiding writing if we are not working on that skill because it is a different complex process. I am using reading a-z with one of my client’s now and I love all the resources available. I am also a fan of Text Talk! Thank you for the resources!

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