Therapy can be such hard work. A good therapist, though, turns the time spent learning and practicing into a game. I should know, as I have two kids right now in weekly speech therapy! One of my children has an issue with articulation. Currently, there are a lot of “Ch” and “Th” and “St” sounds being made around my house. Plus, plenty of reminders to ‘get that tongue back in your mouth’ where it should go when he says his sounds. Sometimes I think speech delays can sneak up on us. We always thought he would outgrow his and before we knew it he was six and we realized that nobody but our immediate family could really understand him. It has been amazing how quickly he is improving with the encouragement of a good speech therapy program and more at home practice.
I also have a daughter that is on her fourth year of speech therapy, and her progress has been much slower. There have been many times that I doubted if therapy was making a difference at all. But, it is. Its just a gradual difference that is harder for me to hear. In a way her PROGRESS is sneaking up on me and sometimes after not hearing her improvements for a time I will suddenly realize that she has made leaps and bounds. She has issues with articulation and Apraxia of speech. Her articulation and placement issues are a result of having bilateral cleft lip and palate, unrepaired until she was three years of age.
While we waited to bring her home, I remember many people treating cleft lip and palate as if it were “hardly a special need.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. I do not say this to deter anyone. In fact, let me scream if from the roof tops….”Adopt a sweet one with cleft lip and palate!!!!!”
I just ask that you go into it knowing that it is in fact a special need, and may require years and years of encouragement, therapy, surgery, and growth (for all of you!) in order to attain “normal” speech. I wish I had known that, but that is a story for another post. Today, I want to share with you a few speech games that I think are a great way to bring therapy into the home.
These games could be played in the car, at the table, or just about anywhere. They can help with word retrieval and planning so they are appropriate to play with kids that need help with speech practice and also language development.
Pack for Me
This is a fun little speech planning and word retrival game. I tell my children I am going on a trip/errand and they tell me what I need to bring. This helps my daughters practice retrieving words that often get lost en route form her brain to her mouth. For example, I might say, “I am going on a trip to the beach. I can’t remember what to pack for the beach. What should I bring?” My daughter gets into this game and she loves telling me what to do. She might suggest, “A towel, umbrella, sunscreen, snacks, and a swimming suit.”
There are few incorrect answers and the game is very open ended.
This game requires my children to tell me what order to do something in. I usually choose something they are familiar with. For example, “Mommy would like to make cookies but I can’t remember what to do first.” They then use their memory and tell me what needs to happen first. This is a game, so I am not “requiring” that they be correct. I might put the bowl on my head and ask “is this what I do?”…that usually gets them going!
Now that we have made big speech progress in the articulation area we are really focusing in on the word retrieval. There are times when my daughter can not think of the word she is looking for and as a result of her Apraxia, and she often shuts down when this happens. For example, she might be trying to tell me a story about how she brought her brother a drink of water. As she is talking, she can not recall the word for “drink” and so she will stop and stare and in her own frustration she will give up. The synonym game is a no pressure way to practice other words that she can use in a moment such as this. To play this game I will say, “Tell me all the words that you can think off for the word HOT.” Together with her brothers (because they always like to play too) she will connect that word with its likeness “warm”…
Speech is a big deal for our precious children that struggle with making the sounds and finding the words to be understood. The one thing I have learned in the past four years is that getting frustrated as a parent does nothing to encourage my children to overcome the struggle. The best ways for me to be an active participant in their speech progress is to be their advocate and biggest fan, to read aloud to them as often as I can, and to play games that make them think we are just having fun…..no drills or high pressure….games to practice and draw out of them words that they can build on.