Did you know that speech therapy doesn’t always need to include sitting at a table or using flashcards to be effective? In fact, play-based therapy is actually more beneficial for many children!
Benefits of play-based therapy
Play-based therapy is beneficial for many, many reasons! First of all, it supports the therapist and child/family in building a strong relationship and rapport. When therapy is fun and enjoyable, it results in less frustration and the therapist can spend more time targeting language rather than targeting structure or compliance. We love when the children we work with want to come to therapy and are excited to participate in activities or games!
In addition, following the child’s lead and interests results in targeting more meaningful and relevant vocabulary. Maybe learning food names is more meaningful for one child, while vehicle names are more functional for another. Research shows that it takes many repetitions for a child to learn new skills and new vocabulary words, unless they are targeted through play, in which case they learn them much more quickly.
What is play-based, child-led therapy?
Play-based, child-led therapy involves setting the therapeutic environment up for success and then letting the child take the lead while interacting during the session. In contrast to traditional, table-based therapy, the therapist does not always show up with a structured plan but rather keeps in mind the child’s goals and functional needs while responding to what the child is interested in and motivated by. The therapist integrates knowledge and goals into whatever the child is interested in.
How can parents and guardians help with this?
Follow your child’s lead at home! Discuss what they are doing and looking at, and try to comment more than question. Don’t hesitate to provide suggestions to your therapists about what your child loves and is interested in. Do they love playing with animal toys? Do they get excited every time they see firetrucks? Mention this to your therapist. While they are targeting goals with favorite toys in therapy, you may learn some ways to model vocabulary at home with a similar activity. Don’t hesitate to ask specifics about how language is being targeted and what goals your child is working on!