Making your own speech therapy materials: custom card decks

A lot of companies create and supply high-quality speech therapy materials, including a wide assortment of card decks for articulation and language games.

Speech-language pathologists usually have an assortment of these in their therapy rooms, and they can work really well for home practice, too.

There are some potential drawbacks, however. First, they're not cheap, generally $10 and up for one deck. That may not sound like a lot of money, but it's about five or six times as much as a deck of regular playing cards; if you want to train several different skills and need a deck or two for each skill, it can add up.

In addition, the deck you buy may or may not be well-suited to your child's particular needs and strengths. If your child needs help with the /st/ sound combination, but does fine with /sp/, /sk/, /sm/, and so on, a deck of /s/ blends will be mostly useless.

One way to create custom-made speech therapy materials for a lot less money is with 3x5-inch index cards, either writing on them or drawing/pasting pictures on them. Another is to buy card stock perforated for home-made business cards or name tags (available at any office supply store) and print directly onto them from your computer printer. The drawback here is that they don't slide well, which can be frustrating when shuffling and dealing, and they don't stand up very long to the wear and tear involved with card games. Laminating can help, but it drives up the cost and increases the labor involved.

Here's a nice, cheap compromise for making your own cards for language or articulation games. Buy regular playing cards (or look for companies giving them away for free as a promotion). Print or draw your stimulus items (words, pictures, or a combination thereof) onto mailing labels, then peel them off and stick them to the playing cards, one per card. Presto! You've got a customized speech or language activities stimulus deck! With the labels on, the cards may not slide as well as they used to, but they'll be better than index cards or business cards.

Mailing labels come in a lot of different sizes. I like to use a bigger size for pictures and smaller ones for printed words. Many packages of mailing labels come with instructions for creating a table with your word processor that will be the right size to print to the labels. Once you have it set up, it's a simple matter of typing in the words you need, or cutting and pasting pictures, either from the web or from your own photo files, into the cells on the table.

If you want to change the stimulus item on a card, you can peel off the old label and apply a new one, or you can just stick a new label over the old one.

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