Stop Playing Games!!

stop playing games

What?!  Did I just actually say don’t play games in speech? Not quite, but please let me explain.  As I travel around speech rooms supervising new therapists and working with my own private speech kiddos, I have noticed a trend.  In the quest to make therapy engaging and fun for our kids, we search high and low for the perfect game to gain “buy in” from our students. The holy grail appears to be ‘Cariboo’ based on facebook posts, but I am sure there are many other favorites across speech rooms.  As a young therapist, I didn’t want to necessarily share my student’s new favorite game in speech with the parents. I feared they would run right out to buy it, thus removing the magic bullet that I had ‘discovered’.

I have since learned that there is no magic bullet or game that will work each time with every kid. In fact, you can have the most amazing lesson plan for therapy EVER in the history of speech and it won’t connect with the student that day, for whatever reason. Don’t take it personally.  Being flexible is one of the secret weapons in our SLP arsenal and learning to adjust the session based on the student’s response, is an acquired skill. Don’t let yourself believe that finding a different “greatest game in the world” each and every week will guarantee success.  It won’t, but it might burn you out and make you broke.

I DO want speech to be fun, and there is nothing more boring to me than sitting around a worksheet doing the same old same old.  So where is the sweet spot for therapy balance? Combining a variety of goal focused activities, including games, that target core vocabulary (both academic and community based language), social language skills, and time to pause and learn in the moment is the recipe for a successful therapy session. Add a little movement, a sense of humor and the opportunity to connect the therapy room skills to the rest of their world, and you have a winning combination for your kids!

What are your thoughts on using games in therapy?

6 thoughts on “Stop Playing Games!!

  1. Gretta says:

    For me it depends on the student/client’s age. You are right about us all being fed games=buy in in grad school. However, once the kids get past 5th/6th grade I don’t find a lot of game playing necessary. I work in the curriculum almost exclusively and my kids gain the personal satisfaction that comes from using learned strategies to answer questions, define vocabulary, and conquer other grade level challenges.

    • I love that you used the phrase “conquer other grade level challenges”, it’s the perfect description! I know there is no one size fits all therapy, so luckily we are very flexible in our field. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great post Heidi! I continually struggle with balancing games with more focused, academically-based therapy, especially for my middle school students. I fear that other professionals view us as “game players’ which can diminish the importance of our role. I use a once-a-month free-choice game day as a behavioral motivator. Luckily, the wealth of ideas and materials generated by fellow SLPs makes the rest of the month fun and challenging!

  3. Thanks Daria! It does get a bit tricky motivating middle schoolers, and I am not opposed to a little reward (bribery) to keep them engaged 🙂

    I saw a statement today on TPT that referred to “rigorous fun”. Sounds a bit like an oxymoron to me, but I understand the point that we need fun with a purpose from a therapeutic standpoint.

  4. Great post! I agree about having the best laid plans for a therapy session and it totally bombs because the student doesn’t like the activity. I try to find ways to embed a “game” into the activity such as with a challenge of earning points and bonus points or creating the illusion that we are playing a game when really we are tossing a ball for each person’s turn while we practice goals. I think games are amazing, but they can’t be used every single session.

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