My initial foray into telepractice speech therapy, was likely much like yours–chaotic, hurried, and disorganized. We got the stay-at-home orders here in Austin, TX, just as Spring Break 2020 was beginning. I gave myself one week to research, prepare, and adjust my schedule, as I planned to resume speech therapy post-spring break. There were then telepractice platform trials and many emails and online meetings between myself and my intern at the time.
As telepractice speech therapy began, we used tons of digital resources–interactive PDFs, Boom Cards, online games, and virtual dice, to name a few. Over time, I grew to miss my tangible toys. I was bringing them out for parent coaching with my early intervention clients and Playing With Purpose Coaching families, but not using my toys with the other kids. So when I entirely took my caseload back over from my intern, I vowed to start using them again.
My telepractice speech therapy style is to choose one toy or activity and “make it work” with all the kids on my caseload. This streamlines my preparation and allows for quick transitions between the children during the day. And while I still pull up digital resources, I have found that both my clients and I enjoy the use of real toys and games.
Sidebar–I was worried the kids would not be interested in my use of tangible toys in telepractice. I feared they would think it was “dumb” when they were not the ones interacting with activity, but they proved me wrong!
My 5 Favorite Tangible Toys for Telepractice Speech Therapy (so far):
1. The ever-popular Cariboo game: I know this game has become a hot commodity, and if you don’t already own one, then finding one is a challenge. None-the-less many SLPs have Cariboo, which is why it’s on my list. I swapped out the included cards and used a set from Rock Chalk Speech on TPT. When I used the game for telepractice, it acted as a reward for my client. Each child completed 5-10 trials of their target word at the level they were working and then got to choose a box for me to open. I took a top-view photo of the game, shared the photo with them, and then marked the box we opened using annotation tools. Once the child had collected all the balls, I live-shared the box opening so they could enjoy that experience. It was a huge hit, and many kids have asked if we could do it again.
(This is the photo I took and then shared with the kids.)
2. Melissa & Doug Latches Board: of my non-early intervention clients, most of the kids I service have a speech sound or phonological disorder. No matter what treatment methodology I am using, I pair all of my targets with a picture for extra cues. With the latches board from Melissa & Doug toys, I hid target word pictures behind each door, and the child got to choose which doors I opened. This activity also served double-duty by providing some language opportunities with the use of basic, descriptive words. Since the latch board only has six doors, I replaced the pictures as we worked to increase repetitions.
3. Prize Wheel: if you missed my post on Instagram last week, you missed my plug for the Buy Nothing Project. In short, it is a hyper-local gifting economy. That is where I acquired my prize wheel. Much like using the latch board, I decorated my prize wheel with target word cards, mini objects from The Speech Tree, or Post-It Notes, depending on the child’s goals and what I have readily available. I placed the wheel on a taller table behind my chair and in-view of the camera so that the child could see each spin. Then we proceed as usual–spinning and working through our targets.
4. Surprise Eggs: you may be sensing a pattern now. These activities are a way to keep my clients motivated and engaged while also using my tangible toys for telepractice speech therapy. I am, virtually, doing the same things I would be had we been working in-person. To add an additional element of fun, I hid the eggs (which contained the target word cards) around my office, and we went on a virtual egg hunt. As I noted with the latch board, the egg hunt provided language opportunities. For example, I could encourage a client to use phrases like “get the pink egg that is under the chair,” to foster their language skills.
5. Legos or any constructive toy: for some of my clients, I had a pre-determined object I was going to build, and with others, we let the creativity flow. I also used my favorite Mr. Potato Head, similarly with the younger kids. I happened to pair up this activity with the free digital spinners from Fun in Speech on TPT. We spun, and after practicing their target, the kiddo helped me create–either with Legos or Mr. Potato Head. Again, we had some language opportunities to describe the object we were building or when the child instructed me on how to place the Lego bricks.
Let me stress that there is absolutely nothing wrong with only using digital materials for telepractice speech therapy. When we are conducting therapy, the goal is to keep our client engaged and working toward achieving their goals. You do what you have to do to make that happen!
The choice to branch out and use my tangible toys for telepractice speech therapy was personal, but I have been so pleased with the outcome. The kids love it, and it’s bringing some, much-needed, new life into my work.
Up next, on my speech therapy wish list, is a document camera that will make using my tangible toys for telepractice speech even easier. I’ve bookmarked the two you’ll see here, but please let me know if you have other recommendations!
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