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Tutorial Topic: Child Language Therapy
No matter what theory(ies) of language development you hold dear, there is an internal
desire for humans to communicate and to communicate with each other. Many factors
contribute to how we learn language, but for children who are behind in their language
development something is "different" about their language learning history or
style. The following are suggestions for helping those children in therapy:
- Structure your language activities to facilitate learning--use scaffolding, auditory
bombardment, concept building, repetition, task sequencing, activity familiarity, as ways
to increase the content and structure of your tasks. Simple modeling alone is not enough!
- Be aware that drill work has no place in language therapy!
- Use various materials and activities to accommodate different learning styles--be sure
to utilize visual, auditory and tactile activities within the same "unit."
- Use themes to provide a "common tie" between tasks and to facilitate
scaffolding, but keep in mind that the same theme should not be used for more than about 4
weeks (or less).
- Develop symbolic play skills to enable children to see their words at work (or play).
See Carol Westby's Symbolic Play Scale Checklist1
- Create a "need" or a reason to communicate. See Wetherby & Prizant's
Communicative Temptations--great communication motivators.
- Work on goals that are meaningful to the client so that they are motivated by their
- Organize your activities with environmental cues (see Wetherby & Prizant) so that
you have a built-in mechanism to enable you to fade out your applied cues.
- If you are using external prompting to facilitate language, develop a prompt hierarchy
so that you train yourself not to over-cue the client. Give your "least
invasive" (or least helpful/most general) cue first and if needed work from there
toward giving a complete model. Remember to use cues that are helpful to the client! That
may sound obvious, but that means you have to step into their shoes (i.e., probe) to find
out what helps them. Besides verbal cues, you can use visual cues, tactile cues and
combinations of these.
1 Westby, C. (1980), Language abilities through play LSHSS,
Note: The LSHSS (Language,
Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools) Journal is an ASHA publication.