Incorporating Movement and Sensory Activities into Speech Therapy

Andrea Simpson, MS, CCC-A/SLP is a communications specialist for the Special Education District of McHenry County (SEDOM) Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program in Crystal Lake, IL. She is both a pediatric audiologist and speech and language pathologist.Andrea Simpson, MS, CCC-A/SLP is a communications specialist for the Special Education District of McHenry County (SEDOM) Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program in Crystal Lake, IL. She is both a pediatric audiologist and speech and language pathologist.

The prevalence of Autism continues to increase in our society. The diagnosis of educational Autism also continues to increase within the schools. Current school speech case loads are high, and many children on the Autism "spectrum" make up a majority of a speech therapist's case load. It is important for speech therapists to constantly network with their occupational therapist when working with children with Autism in the school setting. In order to maximize time during speech and language sessions, it is often necessary to utilize a variety of sensory techniques during speech treatment. Quite often, the occupational therapist is the speech therapist's best friend. These ideas are useful for all types of children because movement makes learning fun. Here are some useful ideas that incorporate sensory activities and movement into speech therapy.

Use of a scooter board - When using the weighted vest you can tape pictures on walls up and down the stairs. To incorporate heavy work, have the child wear the weighted vest to climb stairs and identify/match/say the names of the pictures. Also, using pinchers to pick up objects or pictures and carry them up the stairs to drop into buckets is fun.

Use of an obstacle course - When using the obstacle course before seat work a child can often sit and maintain attention to the task for a longer period of time. We use classroom chairs for children to climb under, carpet squares (or colored spots) for jumping over, and tunnels for crawling through. A mini-trampoline can also be used as well as a rocking chair. When these activities are used prior to speech therapy, often a child is more vocal and more engaged.

Use of bitty bottoms for seated work - When using a "wiggly" bitty bottom during speech, a child often can stay seated for a longer time and avoid the need to stand up. Some children need the extra "wiggle" to learn and stay focused.

Use of a wagon or sled - Using a wagon or a sled works best with a small group of two or three children. One child pulls the wagon and the other child sits in the wagon and describes where to find the objects and pictures. Often this is used for work on prepositional concepts by having one child tell the other where to find pictures and objects (over, under, in, behind, above, etc.). Many children benefit from heavy pulling and movement during speech. When incorporating a third child, have that child push the wagon from behind.

Use of a trampoline - When performing this activity do not just allow the child to jump randomly. Have the child sing the ABC's or other classroom songs, count or label pictures. Often, getting the child moving before entering the speech room helps maintain focus and attention to task.

Use of aspects of the drive-thru menu to maintain focus during speech--If a child is off task and having trouble focusing, often a few quick wall push-ups, jumping jacks, or sit-ups can do the trick and bring the child back to the table to continue their seat work.

Using movement and sensory activities keeps children engaged. These activities are fun and take the pressure off of "talking." To maximize progress toward IEP speech goals, now is the time to share ideas and develop a strong professional relationship with your school occupational therapist. An occupational therapist makes for a good treatment partner and best friend.

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