Thursday, March 8, 2018

Therapy Tip: How to Make Flashcards more Useful

It's therapy tip Thursday here at Special Purposed Life.

On Thursdays, I share an activity, idea, or advice based upon my experience as a pediatric speech-language pathologist and having a child with special needs. Today I'd like to discuss:

Flashcards: How can we make them more useful?  

I will be honest--I love flashcards for vocabulary building and articulation work. Many therapists despise them saying that pictures of objects are poor substitutes for the real thing. I do agree with that, but I do feel they can be useful. Using flashcards for a few minutes in a therapy session can be productive.

You can use flashcards in speech therapy to address several skills. First, flashcards are great for building expressing vocabulary by allowing children to work on naming pictures of objects. Next, by using 2 or more flashcards at once, you can ask the child to identify a picture to work on receptive language. Finally, targeting words in flashcards with specific sounds allows us to work on speech clarity (articulation), which is probably the most common use of flashcards in therapy. 

Let's back up though and talk about how I choose flashcards.

I prefer flashcards of pictures of real objects or real people, especially when teaching vocabulary. I occasionally use cartoon or drawn cards, but these are not my preference. Photographs are more accurate of the real thing than the drawn cards. These cards are fairly easy to find. I buy my cards at dollar stores, big box chain stores, and online at educational or therapy websites. These are some of my favorite sets:

Now that you have your flashcards, the next step is engaging the child.

If you are building vocabulary, then pairing a real object with the flashcard is a great activity that is usually fun for the child. I have thoroughly explained how to do this activity in the post First Words Activity. This takes flashcards to a different level, and I have found it helpful in therapy. But, you don't always have time or the materials available to make this happen.

So how do you make flashcards more entertaining when you are using them with toddlers or young children? 

There are some small children that will happily sit through naming and looking at each picture. Most children need some extra motivation to go through a short set of cards. I have found some pretty easy and motivating things to use with flashcards to make the kids more interested. 

Here's my favorite 3 things to use with flashcards.
1. A Basket: When the child says the word, they can drop the flashcard in the basket. Simple, I know, but this little trick works. It also teaches the child to focus on one picture at a time.

2. The Magic Box: This is a shoebox that I covered in wrapping paper. I made a small slit in the top of the box for a flashcard to slide through. Toddlers and preschool children tend to love this one. They say the word, then they get to put the card into the magic box. As you can tell, my box is well used. 

3. A Holder: This is a flashcard holder that I purchased through a therapy website. This holder is a little difficult for the toddlers I work with to do on their own. The cards slide right in the holder, and the pictures stand up. The flashcards in this holder are ones that I made myself using my digital camera and laminating machine.

If you have flashcards that you use in therapy or at home with your child, I hope this helps you understand how to make them more motivating and useful in therapy. 

This information is provided for educational purposes and not intended for therapeutic advice.

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