Why Thematic Therapy Works- 3 Reasons for SLPs

Do you like doing thematic therapy with your younger students?  Holidays like Halloween are themes that definitely get them motivated!

Why does it work to have a theme in therapy all month long?


1- It gives enough practice time for students to get to understand and use the vocabulary for the holiday before it arrives. Plus, it is fun!

2- Skills can be built and practiced over multiple months if you choose your materials correctly. When the students see the new theme, they feel like they are doing something different, but you know that you are consolidating their skills!

3- Kids like things that are familiar, especially if they have autism or are dealing with anxiety problems. By incorporating a holiday theme to work on their areas of need, we are helping them understand what will happen on that day and what will be expected of them. Helping out with functional skills is always important!

I’m not a fan of just teaching vocabulary, however!  Students get a lot of
Why to use themes in speech therapy! Tips from Looks Like Language!
vocabulary development in their classroom, and single words just don't give as much communication power as word combinations do. But if you use a theme to build their skills, you can accomplish two goals at once!

How can I do thematic therapy?

1. Find toys related to the season or holiday and use them in play in conjunction with functional everyday life vocabulary. Take a peek at the pairings in the picture for some ideas.

2. Use pictures, toys, or paper pieces for the seasonal/holiday theme but address sentence structure or syntactical rules and categorizing skills with them.

3. There are great books with holiday and seasonal themes. Answer questions and review classroom vocabulary while reading the book, but work on narrative and sequencing skills after!

4. Use open-ended seasonal/holiday games and activities to review classroom taught vocabulary, stay festive and keep motivation up, but base the actual 'work' around the IEP goals.

What do you think?

5 Reasons to Keep Open Ended Games Around


Have you ever walked into a therapy session, all planned, to have your students say, “No way! I’m not doing that!” Maybe they just put their heads down, their hoods up, or their bodies on the floor and refused to communicate at all. It happens, especially when students have special needs, and all your planning goes out the door. What to do now?

Open ended games are a therapy must have!
Try having some open-ended monthly thematic activities around! Why?

1- For holidays, it gives you a chance to build communication skills before the day arrives, which can lead to a calmer holiday when students understand the event.

2- The same skills can be learned and generalized over multiple months if you choose your materials correctly. When the students see the new theme, they feel like they are doing something different, but you know that you are consolidating and expanding their skills!

3- Kids like things that are familiar, especially if they have autism or are dealing with anxiety problems. By using a theme to work on their areas of need, we can help them understand what will happen and what will be expected of them. Working on functional skills is always important!

Whether you are planning to use them or not, open-ended games are great to keep around!

WHY? There are lots of reasons, but here are the 5 that come to mind:

Open ended games are a fun way to review.
1. When you have some extra time after your planned activity, you can quickly review.

2. When you are doing a makeup session and the goals of the group don’t jive, this will help you out.

3. When your planned activity bombs (yes, that can happen to anyone!) you have an emergency back up plan ready made.

Colorful games make great bulletin boards.
4. If you hang them on a bulletin board, they make cute double-duty decorations. 

When kids are having fun, they are engaged in learning.
5. Students who request a specific game that they see will likely be more invested in that session, and you can make open-ended games work for most goals.

Plus, it is just plain funWhat is your reason?

Enjoy!

When Grief Strikes- 9 Tips for Helping Children

My heart was breaking with grief as all of the signs began to add up that something was terribly wrong with my little girl: startling at every little sound, being too floppy to learn to sit, crying inconsolably, gaining skills and then losing them.

The long, drawn out, terrifying wait during series of doctor’s visits and hospital stays to find out what the problem was. The slowly diminishing loss of hope that she would ever be okay.

When my son was just about to enter kindergarten, my daughter was diagnosed with a fatal, degenerative genetic disease. While I was trying to cope with my grief, watching my one year old deteriorate until she didn’t recognize me any more, I was also trying to keep my bright, inquisitive 5 year old feeling safe and growing up as normally as possible.

It was a very long, unimaginably difficult 3 years watching my daughter slowly go into a comatose state until she passed, while still working and attempting to keep a normal home life for my son.

What SLPs can do when their students are in tough times.
Whether you are dealing with a personal tragedy, going through having a child diagnosed, or dealing with the after effects of massive storms or terrorist attacks, the world just doesn’t seem as safe anymore.
If we feel this as adults, how does it affect the children we work with? 


What did I learn that can be helpful to you?


1. Be sure to keep your young child’s comfort toy, blanket or security item with you. This is a good parenting tip even when your life is calm!

2. Young children get their sense of security from the adults around them. The better you are at accepting the changes and keeping as much of their routines intact, the more likely children will continue to feel secure.

3.  Children do not grieve the way adults do. They can be playing, seemingly happily, and then run to you for comfort or to ask a question. Remember their attention spans are short, so answer questions briefly and factually.

When they have received the information they were looking for, or the hug they needed, they will run back to whatever they were doing as if it had never happened. If you see your child’s eyes glaze over or they start to fidget, they are telling you, "Too much!"  So give the important information first!

4. If you are having problems coping, your child will, too. This is totally understandable when dealing with major issues. Just be sure to reach out and get help for yourself when you need it.

What about if you are working in the schools with children affected by drastic  events?


1. You are part of their safety net, so try to keep your school routines as close to usual as possible. When you can, laugh over the minor things you are having to do to cope with changed circumstances. Laughter is needed!

2. Listen and respond calmly and factually when students ask a question or bring up a difficult topic. If they go back to work right after, then you have met their need at the moment.

3. It is okay to respond that you don’t know, but you will try to find out for them.

4. It is okay to just acknowledge how difficult this is, and how they must be feeling. Pay attention to the child's body language, facial expression and tone of voice. Then, specifically label the emotion that they are feeling, so they have the language for it.

5. If some of your students are more withdrawn, more emotional, or just somehow not right compared to the general population, be sure to reach out to get them help. The whole family may need support to help them through this tough time.

While I wish we weren’t experiencing difficult times, I hope these tips will help you cope. And I am so very grateful to say that my son did grow up to be a wonderful adult who works helping others. I am thankful every day for my healthy children.
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