Speech therapy games to use at home
You can spend a lot on speech therapy games, or you can use familiar games you probably already own as part of your home program.
A speech therapy home program: the difference between progress and stagnation
If your child takes piano lessons, your job is to make sure she practices. When your child starts school, it’s your job to see that she does her homework, and help her with it at times. Even if it’s not your child that’s involved, there is almost no example of being able to hand a job over to an expert and having no responsibility for assuring success. I take my car to the mechanic for repairs, but once I get the car back I still need to monitor the fluid levels, watch the warning lights on the dash, clean the salt and grime off it to prevent it from rusting, and so on.
There are 168 hours in a week. If I see a child once a week for half an hour, that gives the child 167½ hours between sessions for the brain pathways we just spent 30 minutes building and reinforcing to atrophy from lack of practice. A daily speech therapy home practice program can go a long way toward maintaining the progress a child makes in therapy, and can make the difference between noticeable improvement and month after month of therapy with little or no change.
A home program does not need to be a major time commitment on your part, but it is important. Usually, I ask parents to try for 15 to 30 minutes a day, but even five or ten minutes every day will benefit your child more than an hour once a week.
If your child’s SLP gives you a home program, do it! If not, ask for one.
Here are some sites with lots of free activities you can download, print, and use with your child. Ask your child's therapist to tell you which ones would be helpful.
A guy once asked his dentist whether it was really necessary to brush and floss every day. “Of course not,” replied the dentist. “You only need to do that with the teeth you want to keep.” I’ve come up with my own variation on that advice for speech therapy home programs: “You don’t need to work with your child every day—just on the days you want her to make progress.”
The good news: home practice can be fun!
Unless you’re a dyed-in-the-wool language geek like me, there’s nothing fun or exciting about sitting at a desk for 45 minutes practicing your “snake sounds,” naming opposites, or making your subjects and verbs agree. Luckily, nature has provided a wonderful and incredibly effective way for intelligent creatures to learn effectively without being bored to death. It’s called play.
Don’t tell my employers—I don’t want them to get the idea that I’m enjoying myself enough to forgo a raise—but one of the reasons I love my job is that I get to spend so much time playing speech therapy games. It sure beats working for a living!
Grown-ups sometimes get caught up in the idea that work is work, and play is play, and ne’er the twain shall meet. Playing is the reward you give yourself after you’ve put in your time at your job. What we too often forget is that playing is a child’s job. It's how children develop and learn. Take a quick look around the animal kingdom, and you'll notice that it’s the intelligent species that play—the cats, the dogs, the primates, and of course the dolphins. Lizards and slugs don’t play.
When I do speech therapy, games are some of my most important tools. Developmentally appropriate games are incredibly valuable tools for shaping the growth of your child’s developing brain, including language development. They also provide a setting for practicing appropriate interaction skills (what we language nerds call pragmatics), cooperation, and sportsmanship.
The purpose of this page and the links below is to help you find ways of playing with your child in ways that increase speech and language skills. I will be focusing on speech therapy games that you and your family can play together. Some of these games are already well-suited for language development and can be used ‘as is’ for a variety of goals. Many have inherent value for language development, but can be even more beneficial with some adaptation; I’ll share with you some ways you can modify them and increase their effectiveness. Then there are games which, by themselves, do not have an obvious effect on speech or language development, but can be combined with language activities to increase your child’s interest level, focus, and learning.
Speech therapy games specially developed for speech therapy
If you have access to catalogs that market materials and supplies to speech-language pathologists, you may find products specifically designed as speech therapy games and targeting speech and language goals. Both my students and I have tended to be disappointed with these. In most cases, they were designed by speech-language pathologists, and they’re just not as engaging as games professional game designers. Creating a really good game is harder and more time-consuming than many people realize, and the big companies--the Milton Bradleys and the Parker Brothers--have whole departments of people working full-time to develop their products, testing them on focus groups, tweaking and re-tweaking them before they go on the market. We speech-language pathologists, on the other hand, do this kind of thing—if at all—in our spare time and usually don’t have access to the resources and expertise that the “big boys” have. As a result, most of my SLP-designed speech therapy games sit on the shelf gathering dust.
Of course, the big companies are focused on selling their products and making money, so some of their games are short on educational value and long on entertainment. My aim here is to discuss how I use a number of commercially available products—some of which may be on your shelf already—so that you can get the most bang for your buck.
Off-the-shelf games to make into speech and language activities
Below are reviews of some games that I use in my practice with young children. Check back here from time to time (better yet, subscribe to my RSS feed), as I will be adding games to the list, along with full descriptions of how I transform them from ordinary entertainment into speech therapy games.
Trouble board game
Original Memory game
Make your own Go Fish deck and other speech therapy materials
Please note that I have no financial relationship with the manufacturers of these games and they are not paying me or compensating me in any way to promote their products (although, if they'd like to send me a check, I'll accept it graciously). If you are the sort of person who prefers to create your own speech therapy games,
click here for some ideas.
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