How can you plan successful auditory verbal sessions for clients birth to elementary school using only* the contents of one small bag? Read on…
Parents should not feel that they need to break the bank for special, fancy toys to teach their child to listen and talk. For some families, that is just not a financial reality. Even if you have the money to buy these gadgets, the excess is simply unnecessary. It sets up the expectation that the toys, not the interaction, make the difference. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Professionals, too, can fall into this trap. Having better toys does not make you a better therapist. Planning elaborate activities doesn’t necessarily lead to elaborate language. Having goodies doesn’t make you good. It’s easy to hide mediocre therapy behind bells and whistles, but pare it down to the basics, and you’ve really got to get your brain working!
Simple toys also encourage child language by limiting distraction and noisemakers. The second a perfectly good dollhouse turns into a dollhouse with buttons to press that make the phone ring and toilet flush, chances are you’ve lost your little one in an endless cycle of push-noise-push-noise-push… It creates a horrible acoustic environment and is highly distracting to the child with very little language payoff.
Here are the contents of my Therapy Go Bag, an canvas tote that is just slightly larger than an 8.5″x11″ sheet of printer paper and contains most of what I need for any therapy session.
Sound-object association toys for the Ling Six Sound Check. For new young listeners or others who, for whatever reason, are unable to imitate the sounds of the Ling Six Sound Check to ensure equipment function, the sound-object association toys serve as a way to reinforce behavioral response for detection (e.g. the child turns his head when he hears /a/ and sees the airplane). The toys can also be used for discrimination tasks, for example, showing the child both the ice cream cone (/m/) and the train (/u/) and asking him, “Which one did you hear?” to sort out low frequency confusion.
A variety of Learning to Listen Sound animals and vehicles, two of each. I like to have at least two of each LTLS object for critical element
tasks. The objects can vary in size, color, texture, etc. as long as there’s some attribute that makes them different enough for listening tasks. Having more than one of each object also allows both parent/therapist and child to have one to hold (for little hands that must be kept busy), and helps when working on plurals and possessive forms (“We have two cows” “This cow is yours, this one is Mom’s“). These objects can be used for the very youngest listeners working on detecting and imitating Learning to Listen Sounds, as props for stories, examples of various language structures, and more.
A glue stick. Stick glue beats liquid glue for almost every situation. It is far easier and less messy for little hands.
Child safe scissors.
Colored pencils. I find colored pencils to be more durable than crayons (which snap too easily) and markers (which smear, especially for lefties like me). Colored pencils can be used to illustrate experience books, draw examples of new vocabulary, or create crafts.
Scarves, some opaque and some sheer. Scarves can be dress-up accessories, props in repetitive verbal routines (like up up up doooooooown), used to hide objects (working on where questions, no for nonexistence, etc.), for games like peek-a-boo, and more.
An inflatable beach ball. Sadly, mine just bit the dust (literally… a child bit it and it punctured), so it’s not pictured here. A ball is great to have for verbs, turn-taking games, a good gross motor break, and a variety of other goals. I like an inflatable ball because it’s easier to store (remember, this Go Bag is tiny!), blowing up a ball is a great conversation starter and opportunity for participation in verbal routines (one, two, three… blow! and requesting more) and partially inflating the ball makes it easier for little hands to grab.
Bubbles. They’re almost a universal crowd pleaser. All of us (parents and therapists included!) need a bubble break every once in a while. Bubbles encourage requesting behaviors, participation in verbal routines, conversations about popping, floating, and blowing, discussions of nonexistence/cessation, and whispering to acoustically highlight the tiny little sound of pop, pop, pop.
Pop Tubes. These colored tubes are simple and fantastic. They make a great sound and expand to lengths that will amaze (and quiet) even the busiest toddler! They can be used to work on verbal routines (one, two, three… gooooo!), push and pull, as a marble chute, necklace, crown, telescope, and more. I don’t know what it is about these things, but they’re a hit! Though I got mine from an educational supply company, one of my my parents suggested that they might be easily found in the plumbing section of a home improvement store.
*And that’s it. I can honestly say that 80% of what I use for EVERY session I do (infants to grade schoolers) comes from this one bag. All you need on top of this is a library card, some construction paper, and a tub for sensory experiences (water, sand, beans, etc.). What else would you add?
Remember, the magic is in the talk, not the toys!