This is part two in our series of what speech therapy activities should look like for children. In part one, we talked about activities for infants and toddlers. Here we’ll focus on preschool and kindergarten-aged children. Just like in the previous post about working with toddlers, speech therapy should consist of more than flashcards and worksheets. As your child enters preschool and kindergarten, play should still be an important part of the therapy process. Play keeps the learning fun. But as kids spend more time in a group setting that involves more and more structure, speech therapy will look like it is balancing play with structured activities.
For all types of therapy, activities should work toward functional skills, which include academic-based skills, but should also still be fun. Preschoolers are still spending a lot of time in play, so activities will still involve a lot of fun activities and pretend play. A speech therapist should balance play-based therapy activities with structured activities. Children in preschool are starting to work on focusing on a task for 5 to 15 minutes at time, so the number of activities per session may start to decrease as the amount of time a child is expected to focus on a single task is starting to increase. Your child’s SLP may still include a lot of pretend play to help your child practice his or her skills in what will resemble real-life activities. Pretend play can often lend itself to creating a “script,” which will help kids remember what they are supposed to say in a familiar routine. More structured activities will also be included, such as activities with flashcards or worksheets at times – as these lend themselves to being take-home activities that children can practice outside of therapy. However, looking at books and other early academic activities – such as matching tasks and other early board-game type activities will also be included. Early board games are often included at this age because they lend themselves to learning to take turns and other academic skills. Learning numbers, colors, shapes, and letters may be addressed in some of the games, but speech therapists will often focus more on vocabulary such as names of familiar objects, verbs, and early concepts – including descriptive words, location words, and opposites. Your child’s classroom teacher will usually be the one to focus on the numbers and letters.
Speech therapy activities for preschoolers and kindergartners will also start to include opportunities to use their speech and language skills with peers and in social settings. In a clinic setting, this may simply mean creating opportunities for your child to talk with other kids in the waiting room. In a school-based setting, this may include one of two types of settings: pull-out or push-in formats.
Pull-Out Speech Therapy
Speech therapy may be done in small-group settings in what is called a pull-out format for therapy. A small group of children will be pulled out of their classroom to work on goals together in a mix of play-based and structured activities. The SLP will often find this format useful because no two children are alike, so they can all learn something from each other. For example, one child who needs to work on their speech sounds may be paired with a child who can say those sounds and be a good model, but is working on a different language goal. The small numbers in this setting will still allow for the SLP to facilitate the group as needed.
A speech therapist may engage in what is called a push-in format for therapy. This is where the SLP comes into the child’s classroom to see how the child is using his or her communication skills in a more natural setting. This allows the therapist to work not only with the child, but also to team with the classroom teacher to implement strategies into the child’s daily classroom routine. In a push-in setting, the SLP may also work with or model language with multiple kids in the classroom, which can take some of the focus off the children with communication delays and make it seem more like the SLP is a second teacher helping all the kids in the classroom. In a push-in format, the SLP may help your child with practicing sounds, using particular vocabulary, following directions within the context of the daily classroom routine, or even using their language to socialize with peers, all without the kids even realizing they are working on it. The SLP may help create a lesson plan to practice some of the goals your child has, from picking a particular book for the teacher to read at story time, to coming up with a theme for the pretend-play area of the classroom. Just like play-based activities are developed to keep learning fun, push-in activities keep the learning from feeling so much like “work” to kids and keep them learning without getting frustrated. This keeps the learning focused on being friend-oriented and fun. In a push-in format, the SLP and teacher really need to team together to make a push-in format work.
No matter which format or setting your child is receiving therapy in, make sure to keep in touch with your child’s SLP to keep up-to-date with your child’s progress and to find out activities you should be doing at home with your child to help them transfer their new skills to home. Sure, this may include some flashcards and worksheets, but make sure to ask for more activities than just these. There’s nothing more frustrating than hearing all the great things your child is doing at school, but not seeing those skills with your own eyes. The more time you take to practice those skills with your child at home – while keeping in mind to balance the work with the fun – the more likely you will get to share in your child’s progress as well.