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?

Sometimes My Brain is a Snow Globe.

snowglobe 4

Our Kindergarten hallway has the cutest bulletin board with pictures of students trapped in a snow globe and a short story to go along with it.   It gave me an idea and I modified it a bit for my students with social language goals.   Michelle Garcia Winner’s “Think Social*  materials talk about keeping your “brain in the group”. This concept addresses thinking about what other people are talking about and the importance of focus in conversation.   Some of the students that I work with are often distracted by both internal and external things such as their favorite Pokemon movie, worrying about having a substitute teacher, the weather, etc…

My snow globe is a visual representation of our brain when we get distracted. It’s important to talk about how this happens to everybody, but there are things we can do to calm the “distraction blizzard”  when our attention gets shaken up! Next, we brain storm  as a group to list some things that might give us a “snow globe brain” and write them on the board.   We narrow down our choices and then the kids can cut pictures from magazines (or draw them) to represent their distractors. I pre-cut the large black construction paper circles and print out the strategies page before the session to make the most of our time ( I know they aren’t perfectly shaped, don’t judge me, I probably could benefit from a little OT myself :-).

snowglobe 2

After that, we draw or paste the pictures into our snow globes.   You can use glitter (and who doesn’t love a little glitter in therapy?!) to illustrate the snow or the less messy version, use white crayons on the black construction paper. These can represent what happens to our attention when our snow globe gets a bit shook up with distractions, a little blurry, shiny and swirly!

I would then include a conversation about what we might miss when we have snow globe brain due to distractions. This can include other what other people (teachers, peers, parents, friends) might be thinking and feeling, if we aren’t thinking about what they are thinking and talking about!  Still with me?  Good!  Last, have the kids come up with strategies to help themselves stay focused and calm when a distraction blizzard strikes again! I would let the kids take the lead and work together to come up with at least three good strategies that they can use every day, and step in as support.  They can usually come up with pretty great ideas themselves (and shhhh, it’s an opportunity for cooperative learning too).

*”Think Social” is a registered trademark and is the creation of Michelle Garcia Winner



Lights, Camera, Action!



We are crawling towards the last week of school in my county.  When I ask everyone how they are, the response is the same,  “I’m hanging in there” they reply wearily.   There is a light at the end of this school year but we aren’t quite done.   In one of my classrooms I am working with, an amazing resource teacher has used the lesson plans, handouts, videos and activities I have given her to work on 3 areas of social language that her students struggle with including:  whole body listening, humor, and appropriate commenting.  This should frankly be a curriculum in every middle school as far as I am concerned as 99% of students struggle with these skills!

The lessons are finished for this year and this fabulous teacher mentioned how they benefited ALL of her students, not just the students with ASD (hurray!).  As Michelle Garcia Winner so aptly noted, social skills are life skills.   Everyone needs to work on these skills to get along in a world with other people!   The next step was how to wrap up these lessons.   I thought and thought. and came up with a class project (or as it is known in the Post-core-curriculum world, a “cumulative project”).   The students would create a short video on one of the three areas taught this year.  Their target audience would be other students and they would have to not only create the video but demonstrate and apply the skills they have been working on all year.   Jackpot!!  Here is the timeline of the project:



Activity Social area addressed notes
April  28th Video groups/ideas Cooperative work in a group with peers
Team meeting Problem solving
Divide responsibilities Whole Body Listening
Storyboard development Perspective taking, humor
Storyboard development Sharing ideas, remarks and opinions appropriately
May 5 Develop script Cooperative work in a group
Develop script Problem solving
Develop script Whole body listening
Develop script Perspective taking, humor
Develop script Sharing Ideas, remarks and opinions appropriately
May 12 Start filming videos Cooperative work with peers
Filming Problem solving
Filming Perspective taking, humor
Edit Sharing ideas, remarks and opinions appropriately
edit Whole body listening
May 19 VIDEO SHARE in class Whole body listening, perspective taking
VIDEO SHARE in class Sharing ideas, remarks and opinions appropriately
Class vote/awards Humor

Students will create a short video on one of the three areas of social thinking introduced this Spring




Students will be divided into teams and given the task of creating a  3-5 minute video about one of the three topics above.  The target audience for the video is other students.   Each team will follow the time line for dividing responsibilities, creating storyboards (ideas and pictures that represent the sequence of the video), developing a script, then filming their videos.  The last week of school, the students will show the videos to the class and vote on superlatives:  funniest, most creative, best use of theme, etc..

I am bringing the popcorn and awards for the viewing this week, and can’t wait to see how the videos turned out!  I have a sneaking suspicion that videos made by kids, for kids, will be really effective and I plan on getting permission to use them in other classes around the county.  Happy (almost) summer and I am off to the red carpet….

How have you generalized social skills into your classrooms?