Today I am so excited to have the first speech-language pathologist stopping by to participate in the "In My Therapy Bag" series. Liz McMahon is the clinical director and speech-language pathologist for Brightsong, LLC. Brightsong is a private practice providing PT, OT, ST, and Developmental Therapy for children from birth to age 18 in the greater Memphis area. You can find out more at www.brightsong.net and on their blog, Milestones and Benchmarks.
What's in my therapy bag?
Balls! Playing ball is a lot of fun for both children and adults. There are many important developmental skills targeted during ball play. Throwing, catching and kicking may be the first ones that come to mind, but balls are also great toys for speech therapy.
Your child’s speech-language pathologist might use balls during therapeutic play activities to work on the following skills:
Requesting: Encourage your child to ask for the ball by vocalizing or signing "more" or "ball." Encourage and praise any and all attempts to vocalize and sign. You might need another adult to provide hand-over-hand assistance to help your child sign or hand a picture card to the other person to complete the request. As your child gets older, encourage them to combine words and signs to produce "more ball, ball please" or "I want ball."
Concepts & Following Directions: Gather a ball and a container large enough to hold the ball. Encourage your child to place the ball "in, out, on top, under, next to, behind, etc." You can also work on "up" and "down" and "fast" and "slow" while playing ball. Work on following directions by encouraging them to "put in, give it to me, push the ball, give the ball to daddy, etc."
Speech Sounds: Playing ball can target a variety of speech sounds.Work on the /b/ sounds for "ball, bounce, bye-bye, bye ball, etc." You can work on /p/ with "pat, push," /m/ for "more, my ball, me, my turn" and /k/ for "kick, catch."
Turn-Taking: Playing ball is great when you have someone else to play with. This is a great toy to work on turn-taking skills. Rolling, throwing, catching and kicking are great ways to work on "my turn" and "your turn."
Identifying, Matching & Sorting Colors: Gather balls with different colors and different colored cups. Ask your child to "get the red ball" and "put in red" (place it in the red cup). Continue until all the balls are sorted into the correct colored cups.
Understanding Sizes: Gather balls of different sizes. Talk about "big" and "little" size differences and which ones are "in the middle." Encourage your child to place them in order from smallest to largest and then largest to smallest.
Here are a few of my favorite types of balls to use:
Tinsel Pom-Poms and an empty cheese container. An occupational therapist friend showed me how great an empty shredded cheese container can be. I like to use the tinsel pom-poms and work on requesting, following directions and identifying colors with this activity. Kids of all ages like this activity. Older kids can work on “poking” smaller balls into the small holes on the lid. Please monitor your child and make sure they do not put these pom-poms in their mouth. They come in different sizes and can be a choking hazard.