In a previous article I listed all of the tools I have collected to use in my speech therapy exercises I do with my son. In this article I would like to explain the ways I use my tools for speech therapy. These are just ideas, some of them mine, some of them shared with me over the years by wonderful speech therapists, and some my son made up in a desperate attempt to keep things interesting!
1. Using a tape recorder. We use the tape recorder for a couple different things. It is absolutely my favorite tool for speech therapy. I will slowly and carefully speak the words and phrases we are working on into the tape. Then allow a long enough pause for the child to repeat what I have said. Viola! Speech therapy even when I am not in the room. Resist the urge to use this as a chance to remind your child to clean their room or pick up laundry! You wouldn’t want to use this trick with brand new sounds or words, you need to be there to make sure your child is improving. But, it is an excellent way to practice sounds your child is more confident in pronouncing, and it is nice for your child to be able to control speech therapy at times.
The second use for the tape recorder, as a speech therapy tool, is for your child to tape him/herself speaking, and then listen carefully. This can be fabulous for self-correcting. This is also a nice opportunity for your child to decide which sounds he/she would most like to focus on improving. Please remember to first talk with your child about the fact that no one likes the sound of their own voice on a tape recorder. That’s why, as adults, we make the kids do the message on the answering machine!
2. Using a mirror. The mirror is a super speech therapy tool when you are trying to communicate to your child the need to “hold his mouth” in a particular way in order to make a sound. Also, if you need to show tongue location and motion to demonstrate the making of a sound (I discussed tongue movement and manipulation in another article), there is no better way to do it than with both of you in front of the same mirror. It is almost as fun as making funny faces to watch mom overdo the tongue movements in the mirror! Often children struggle with properly moving their lips, especially when they are so focused on their tongue. Using a mirror as a speech therapy tool allows the child to watch your reflection and copy you. If you are female, you might find that garishly bright red lipstick helps too. This has the added benefit of amusing your husband!
3. Using bubbles and a wand. Any time you need to demonstrate a puff of air escaping to create a sound, bubbles are terrific. Not only are they fun, but they just won’t form without the air. Often, a struggle in speech therapy is getting a young child to understand when they are pushing air out of their mouth and when they just think they are. No air, no bubble. Easy. I love tools for speech therapy disguised as play.
4. Whistles. Using whistles in speech therapy allows the child an opportunity to make noise and have fun while working. The purpose, at first, is the exact same as the bubbles. When you produce a puff of air through your lips, the bubble forms or the whistle blows. After that basic skill has been mastered, you can begin to use the whistle to encourage your child to produce a steady flow of short, quick sounds. This is one simple way to work on controlling the flow of air through lips. In this way, you are using the whistle to work on oral motor skills, tongue manipulation skills, and having fun all at the same time!
5. Straws. Using straws as speech therapy tools is an effective method for working on oral motor skills. Think in terms of using various sizes and shapes of straws. It is more work to push and pull liquid through a “skinny” straw, and less work to push and pull the liquid through a wide straw. If you are just beginning, and need the sucking or blowing into or out of the straw to be simple, the straws at McDonalds are helpful. They are very wide.
6. Balloons. Exact same uses as the bubbles and whistles. I just like to change things around to keep kids from getting too bored.
7. Streamers. Tear them into little pieces and allow your child to blow the pieces across a smooth table.
8. Notebook. Your notebook is perhaps your most important speech therapy tool. Of course you will use it to keep track of words and sounds needing work. But, my favorite use for the notebook is to make the lists of words my child has perfected. When the going gets tough in therapy, it is very empowering to go back and look at the sounds he has already perfected.
9. Small prizes. The use of small prizes as speech therapy tools is self-explanatory. I sometimes use new whistles as prizes (two birds, one thistle).
10. Games. A variety of everyday games is a terrific tool for speech therapy. Any child will enjoy working on speech therapy more if they are playing games at the same time. I wrote another article about how I made our homemade games for speech therapy. Take a look if you need a few ideas. I let my children do all the art on these games.
11. Peanut butter and chocolate frosting. These are indispensable tools for speech therapy when you are working on oral motor skills and tongue exercises. Nothing will get a child to stretch their tongue faster than chocolate frosting or peanut butter. If you are working with children who are not your own, remember to check for allergies.
These are the ways I use tools to work with my child in his speech therapy efforts. It seems like a lot, but other than the games, peanut butter and chocolate frosting, all of these items fit easily into a small Rubbermaid tote. I wash these tools often, and make sure to leave the lid off if I am not 100% certain they are dry to avoid losing my tools to mold. Only you can pick the ideas that are best for your child, I hope you have gleaned some nice options here.