10 Tips for Speech Language Pathologists in Early Intervention
Written by Michelle Badagliacca MS, CCC-SLP, TSSLD, Published on August 7, 2018
As a Speech Language Pathologist working in Early Intervention, it can be daunting when you are traveling from home to home and family to family. Keeping things simple is the key to effective speech therapy. Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Inexpensive items go a long way
Bubbles are a cheap yet multi-use tool for facilitating speech therapy. They help you work on articulation of bilabial sounds/words such as "bubbles and pop,” requesting objects and imitating actions. Bubbles also create an environment of joint attention between client and therapist.
2. The power of positioning
Manipulating the therapy environment by utilizing a high chair and/or child sized chairs and a table creates optimal space for focus and attention. Young children are easily distracted by their environment; this simple trick will eliminate many focusing issues.
3. Always make your own assessment
Before you enter a client's home, you have read evaluations and reviewed their speech and language goals. It is best practice to make your own clinical judgments after your first meeting. Once you talk with the family, ask them about their child's strengths and what motivates them. Ask the family what their personal goals are for their child and help make them feel a part of the process.
4. Make silly sounds!
Sound making is so much fun for children in early intervention. Make loud animal sounds when playing with puzzles or toys. Exaggerate sounds such as "uh oh!" when a toy or object falls and "ooo" when you want to gain the client's attention.
5. Cause and effect toys
I love the simplicity of cause and effect toys, such as a toy that opens and closes or something as simple as the "peek a boo" game for younger clients. These toys are great for requesting goals as well as imitating and creating actions.
6. Wait for it!
Sometimes, communication happens in the gaps between conversational exchanges. Waiting a few extra seconds can be the strategy a child needs to say a word that they have been working on for weeks. As speech language pathologists, we are always speaking; however, the power of silence can really pay off.
Placing two choices in front of a child can target receptive language skills; asking a question such as "where is the cat?" while holding a cat and a cow puzzle piece. If the child reaches for the cat, immediately praise the correct response and reinforce, "yes, the cat. The cat says 'meow!'" If the child/client chooses or reaches for the cow, say "Nice trying, here's the cat!" as you give the cat puzzle piece and say "the cat says meow!"
8. Pairing songs and movement
Nursery rhymes are a great tool for fostering imitation of actions and following directions. Most children engage more readily when songs and movements are paired together; it’s also a great tool for memory. Children enjoy moving their bodies so why not make it functional and speech enriched movement!
9. Transitioning songs
Most young clients have some difficulty transitioning from one activity to the next activity. Using a sign such as "all done," or singing the "clean up" song while hand over hand prompting toys in the toy box can help children begin to understand the meaning of transitions.
10. Modeling what you want to happen
For many of our clients in early intervention SLPT, spontaneity does not come naturally. Children must be shown how to perform an action or how to make a certain sound or word. Make it exaggerated and fun while you perform the action or word. Children respond to silliness and exaggeration.
Ultimately, each client in early intervention will have a different background and story. It is important to remain flexible and sensitive to each family’s needs. You will see that what works for one family may not always work for another family. Have fun in your therapy sessions and always put the child first!