The PAW Strategy for Structuring Your Session

Therapists (hopefully!) spend a lot of time carefully planning goals and activities for each Auditory Verbal Therapy session, but professional planning is not enough.  Parent coaching is the heart of AVT.  It is not enough for you, the professional, to know what’s going on.  Parents deserve this information, too!  Below, I’ll detail a strategy I came up with called “PAW” that can help you structure your sessions for maximum engagement.


PAW stands for PREVIEW – ACTIVITY – WRAP UP.  So often in therapy, we professionals launch right into an activity with the goals in our heads without making them audible to parents (the preview) and transition from one activity to the next without any analysis of how the child did and how we might carry over this activity until the next session (the wrap-up).  This becomes especially clear to me when I am watching mentees’ videos (teachers of the deaf, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists who are in the Listening and Spoken Language Specialist candidacy process send videos of their practice to a mentor for coaching).  I always think that if I, who do this for a living, am unclear about the purpose of an activity, what’s a parent, who is new to this, to think?


So I challenge you to think about PAW for every activity you plan in the session.




What does this look like in a therapy session?


P: Today we’re going to have a tea party.  I want to see what Rachel does if we ask her to hand out the things using directions with two details, like “I want the red plate.”  We’ll give a bit of emphasis to the two details to make it easier for her to hear.  This is called acoustic highlighting.

Therapist tells not only what we will do (tea party), but also the goal (In professional jargon, we’d say this is “auditory-only directions with two critical elements, adjective + noun”) with an example (So important!  You cannot assume that the parent will understand the goal, even if you say it in lay terms) and shares the strategy that will be used with its name and an example.


A: Have a tea party

Enough said.  Have fun!


W:  What did you notice about Rachel’s listening in that activity?  You know, today I saw Rachel was able to follow those directions with two parts if we gave her one repetition.  This week, I think we could help her make progress by giving the same kind of direction but saying it only once. What kinds of things at home have two details like that that you could ask her about… ?

At this point, the therapist works to make what’s in her head audible for the parents and collaborates with them to share observations, plan future goals, and brainstorm ways to help the child learn this new skill.


So after I came up with PAW, it took me a while, but eventually I felt quite comfortable with it and was giving myself a virtual pat on the back.  Then I realized… I was only halfway there!  While I had assumed that parents deserved a preview and wrap-up sandwiching each activity… kids do, too!  Yes, you will have to change the wording, but don’t you think that children, like all of us, do better when we know what to expect and what is expected of us?  Taking the scenario above, a “child-size” version of PAW might sound like this:


P: Today we’re going to have a tea party.  Rachel, Dad and I are going to ask you for the things we’ll need, like the red plate or the blue cup.  You get to be the hostess!


A:  Let’s play!


W:  Rachel, today I saw that you gave Dad and me what we asked for and only needed us to say it one or two times.  Your brain is really growing!  This week, we’re going to work on saying it just once. I bet you can do it!  What kinds of directions can you follow at home?


Give PAW a try and let me know how it goes!

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