In addition to participating in speech therapy sessions with a speech therapist, kids can also do speech therapy exercises at home with the assistance of parents, siblings, or others willing to help. These exercises can reinforce what the speech therapist does during therapy sessions by strengthening and transferring those newly learned skills at home.
Like most kids, those with speech and language challenges can benefit from playing matching games. These typically consist of some type of large card depicting various images, and then separate cards with the individual matching images. The individual cards could be face up, or face down for a concentration type of game.
These matching games help with eye-to-hand coordination, as well as critical-thinking skills. For kids with speech and language challenges, playing matching games can help them develop improved speech and communication skills. Parents or others in the home can encourage kids to say the names of the objects, describe them, or otherwise practice communicating attributes of the images on the cards.
The use of picture cards is a key aspect of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) developed in 1985 by Dr. Andrew Bondy and speech pathologist, Lori Frost, CCC-SLP. Picture cards are considered a form of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).
The basic process involves asking the child to place in the hand of a “communication partner” (such as a parent or sibling) a card with a picture of a desired item, such as a favorite toy or food, or an activity, such as watching TV. The communication partner then rewards the child with the item or the activity. Eventually, the communication partner encourages the child to say the words identifying the items, and compose sentences or questions including those words.
In the home, parents could take pictures or ask their kids to draw pictures of items in the home, or depicting activities. Parents could then create picture cards and laminate them, and engage their kids in the exercise of communicating and speaking using these picture cards.
Parents can also use picture cards to create a variety of picture games. Kids can practice saying the words depicted on the cards.
For instance, parents could create a game using picture cards of various objects, as well as cards with a big “X” and cards with smiley faces. This could be a “yes-no” game in which the parents ask questions, and the kids respond with “X” cards for no answers and smiley face cards for yes answers. One picture, for example, might be of the sun and the question would be if the sun is hot; the child should respond with the smiley face, obviously, for a yes answer.
You can use picture cards loaded with your target sound to play “Go Fish” or “Memory”. These two very well known games can be used to work on sounds at the word level, phrase level, or structured sentence level. Of course conversation during these games can target the sounds in a more unstructured situation.
Kids usually love puzzles and they can serve some of the same functions as the matching games. In addition to eye-to-hand and fine motor coordination, puzzles are another component in speech therapy exercises used to encourage kids to speak and identify shapes, colors, and images depicted on the puzzle pieces and completed puzzles.
Practice, Repetition, and Reinforcement
Practice might not make “perfect” for kids involved in speech therapy, but repetition of these and other speech therapy exercises provide reinforcement of valuable speech, language, and communication skills. In addition, kids engaged in these exercises might not even realize they are learning and overcoming speech problems even while they are playing games at home. Practice at home may not make perfect during the practice but it does help it become permanent.