There’s no need to break the bank when it comes to finding good sources of therapy ideas. The best lessons in speaking and listening can come from things you already have at home. In fact, I would argue that not only can you find good therapy resources at home, you should! Children need to learn that listening and speaking are not isolated events, confined a weekly therapy session, but part of living, communicating, and enjoying every day!
Magazines and Catalogs are the absolute best source of therapy material. Think of how much junk mail you receive on a daily basis. Most of it just gets tossed out (recycled, hopefully). You’re throwing away an awesome source of pictures to stimulate listening and talking! I like to go through and cut out pictures that fit in different categories, placing the pictures for each category in their own ziploc bag. Sample categories could include: food, clothing, school, jobs, transportation, animals, seasons/holidays (especially can be found in seasonal newspaper inserts). There’s no need to buy pricey articulation flashcards when you have your own “stock photos” just waiting in plastic baggies! Many advertisements also feature unusual situations or dramatic interpersonal scenes. These are great for story and conversation starters (“What do you think this girl is saying? What do you think the little boy is feeling?”, or asking, “What’s wrong with this picture?”). Sorting the pictures into categories can be used as an activity to talk about same/different, different categories, and matching. Clothing catalogs can be cut up and then used to talk about various articles of clothing and to make various outfits (“What would you wear if it was cold?” “What do we wear in the summer?” “Can you find the brown, long-sleeved shirt?”). With furniture catalogs, you can cut out the different items, then draw the outline of a house and its various rooms on a poster board or sheet of butcher paper. Glue each item of furniture in the room where it belongs, talk about what you do in that room, what sounds the various electronics in that room make, and the different parts of each item (“It’s a sofa. It can also be called a couch. The couch has arms and legs, but they don’t look like your arms and legs!” “This couch has three red cushions, they are fluffy” “There are two pillows and a blanket on this sofa”). And what child doesn’t like to look at a good toy catalog! So, go to THIS site and sign yourself up for some junk mail therapy materials!
Telephone Games are lots of fun, too! For children learning to use the telephone (a critical skill, for independent living… and for middle school), hide something (or yourself!) somewhere in the house, then call the child on the home phone via your cell. Give them directions to find the hidden item. This can also be good practice of prepositions (behind, under, in front of, next to, etc.).
Library. A public library card is free and a powerful key to loads of information. I highly recommend this article, “Ten Books a Day”to give parents an idea of how important their role as a literacy model is in their child’s life. The library can also be a source of picture books to pre-teach concepts and vocabulary for other trips out into the community. Have a doctor’s appointment coming up? Check out some books. Going on vacation? Check out some books. Almost your birthday? Check out some books.
$1 Okay, so this doesn’t exactly qualify as “free”, but dollar stores are awesome sources of small toys and other things to use for therapy. Note that I said therapy, NOT bribes. A toy shouldn’t be the “reward” for sitting through a greuling hour of therapy, it should be part of a fun experience of learning to listen and speak through play! If what you’re doing is so boring, the child needs an incentive to participate, you’re doing it wrong! You should have fun, too! Also, how exciting is it to have your very own dollar to spend on anything you want! Work with your child on ways to earn extra money through chores, talk about saving and earning money, talk about what he might want to buy before you go, talk about evaluating various options, etc. Use a digital camera to take pictures for an experience book and add text (“Here I am cleaning my room” “Next, Mommy gave me some money” “After I saved my money for three weeks, I had one dollar” “I took my dollar to the store” “Should I buy a doll or a jump rope?” “I decided to buy the jump rope” “I paid for it and said thank you to the cashier” “Here is a picture of me playing with my jump rope”).