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Therapy should look like play

Therapy should look like playThere seems to be an expectation that “intervention” should look like work. That flashcards and worksheets which focus on specific targets and drills are the way to boost our speech and language delayed kiddos. But let’s reconsider.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that “It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them.” In fact, the ability to demonstrate early academic skills like “circle the foods” does not emerge until 4-5 years in typically developing children. So using these activities with delayed kiddos is setting both of you up for failure.

By using play in therapy, we can:

  • Meet children where they are developmentally
  • Maximize the opportunities for success and carry over
  • Model activities for parents to do at home

Research is showing that children of all ages have less unstructured time than they used to—recess continues to be dropped or decreased from classrooms and parents are pushed to provide structured enrichment activities after-school to “keep up” with others.

We are seeing a rise in social communication deficits and screen time continues to increase which means lots of kids need support with how to play. Parents need to see how it works too.  Your therapy session is an ideal environment to provide this support and empower parents to nurture interaction and curiosity in their child.

In my sessions, I chose easily accessible toys that families are likely to have or can easily acquire with a minimum of expense. I make a list of my target words or concept(s) and create a structured play scenario that allows us to play while having lots of repetition of my targets. In addition to meeting my goals, the buy-in I get from my kiddos decreases behavior or non-compliance issues. And because it looks like fun, parents are willing to give it a try at home too!


Kim Swon Lewis, M.Ed., CCC-SLP is a pediatric speech-language pathologist in Greensboro, NC, and author of the popular Activity Tailor blog. You can follow her on Instagram for daily inspiration!