Thursday, December 15, 2016

Therapy Tip: Building Language Functionally During Christmas

Welcome to Therapy Thursday! This is the day that I share a tip based upon my experience as a mother of a child with special needs and a pediatric speech-language pathologist.

I love using different holidays and the d├ęcor that goes with it to build language and change up typical therapy sessions. With Christmas coming up, today's tip is:

Building Early Language Functionally During Christmas

Christmas trees, stockings, Santa, snow, and lights are all signs of the holiday season. These seasonal items give us a chance to practice new words and target concepts in different ways.

But first....Note: If you are a speech-language pathologist or other professional, it's always best to know your audience. If you are working with a family who does not do a particular aspect of Christmas or has other religious preferences, then you need to consider those before jumping in to the activities.

If you are a parent, I think there is a big misconception that language must be built in a structured activity such as book time. But, there are opportunities around us all the time to build language functionally when it does not feel like "work" to yourself or the child.

Here's some ways that you can target different concepts during Christmas:

-Colors: Have a child working on colors? Have the child point to a particular colored light or ornament on the tree. You can simply say things like, "I see a green light," to reinforce colors they are struggling with. If you have some different colored ribbons or bows left, let the child play with them to reinforce colors too. You can have them match up or sort through red bows, blue bows, etc. if you have many bows laying around.

-Spatial concepts: If you have a young child learning spatial concepts like on/off, under, in front/behind, top/bottom, there are several ways you can target this as well. When talking to the child, use spatial concepts to describe where things are. The presents are "under" the tree. The lights are "on" the house. The star is "on top" of the tree. You can ask them questions to check their understanding. For example, "What is on top of the tree? What is in front of the Santa?"

-Vocabulary: Talk about the different holiday items around you to build vocabulary. This can be done in several ways, but there are many new opportunities to work on different words during the holidays. You can simply talk about things around you. "I see Santa." You can check their understanding by asking, "Do you see Santa? Show me." If they need help, show them.
                    I also like to find objects in the room/house that are in multiples like ornaments, stockings, etc. "I see a stocking. Here's one. Can you find another one?" If they can't find one, help them.
                    If your child has a vocabulary of 10 words or under, I like to target noises and sound effects as well as simple words to see if they will imitate anything that I say. For example, I often say "hohoho" for Santa, make clicking noises for a reindeer walking, and "ding-ding" for bells. When a child has under 10 words, getting them to imitate anything is a win!
                   I like going to Dollar stores and purchasing some inexpensive items like small stockings, rubber Santas, a plastic ornament, or light up snowmen to practice vocabulary with objects that are safe for children to play with under adult supervision. These too give opportunity to focus on vocabulary in play.

Look around! Language opportunities are everywhere!

Therapy Thursday is for educational purposes only and not intended for therapeutic advice.

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