Toddling around Speech Pathology
Pudgy faces, nappies, prams and anxious parents.
Welcome to a land free from IPads but full of cubby houses, touch & feel books and teddy bear picnics.
I’m a speech pathologist and a mum of two children (13 & 11 years). A lot has changed in the last 10 years of parent-land. It’s hard to keep up with the latest things, but this much I do know – those parents who walk through my door want to enhance their connection with their child and want help to do it.
Busy working parents need to be superhuman in order to have the energy/time to carry through a program at home.
So along with my love of working with toddlers and parents has grown a new passion. Resources! Not black and white photocopies of clipart, unrecognizable to a toddler. Certainly not pages of ‘language facilitation techniques’ for mum’s bedtime reading either! What is the relationship between user-friendly, fun resources and therapy outcomes? Is emailing a worksheet adequate or does a hard copy need to go home there and then?
So what things do parents say work?
- The waiting room has a new ‘theme’ each term. A vet clinic, a café or maybe a beach scene – all set up with the materials and some information posters on the noticeboard. Pretend play encouraged and made simple.
- Lots of our toys (clinical equipment) come from Officeworks, IKEA, Bunnings and Toys R Us. You don’t need anything fancy or ‘educational’ for this group and these stores also have home delivery. 10 Litre transparent storage tubs ($5) are ideal for a themed playbox. Parents take a photo of the contents – recycled bodywash container, toothbrush, hair brush, flannel, hooded baby towel and baby bottle. Talk about where to store it and then how to use it.
- Laminators ($20) will get tons of use for those toddlers with more significant issues. Laminated A4 sheets with target images make for a great placemat on the table.
- Junk boxes. We have a lending library of catalogued junk! A bag of 8 items starting with ‘b’ or a bag of objects to model playsounds. How much more home practice will happen if the playbag is in mum’s handbag or on the kitchen counter from Day 1?
- Pinterest and Facebook are visual and quick to get an idea across. An image of a play theme and some speech bubbles is better than 2 pages of text!
And what do I work on with nonverbal toddlers?
- The OZI by the Marcs Institute (based on the Mccarthur CDI) is our baseline of first words for parents to use and see change. Not to mention a ready made list of words to target in therapy.
- This is where we start in therapy. Animal noises, vehicle noises… the list goes on. I have a big box of interesting objects for toddlers to pull out and look through whilst I model the noises. (watering can, tiger, hairdryer, fish, fire engine, dog, horse, flowers to smell). Easy to replicate at home or to give on loan.
- Nursery Rhymes. This is often a really integral part of any therapy program with a toddler and can usually be modified to suit different families. It can be as contemporary (Wiggles) or old fashioned as you like! Things to try – ABC’s Baby Karaoke App, Rhyme Time at your local library and time with granny! It also bridges beautifully into some early signing and gesture.
- Games without Toys (aka Hanen’s People Games). Peek a boo, chasey, tickles, horsey ride on dad’s back (or mum’s!), milkshake (blanket swing). Never underestimate the busy schedules of today’s parents. Plan together how to fit in these brain building connection games. No interaction = no connection = no speech
- Things I use every single day – my big doll (with the open & close eyes) and her high chair and bed, a pegboard, squeezy animals & farm tractor. Just for starters!
- In my early days as a therapist, I tended to think about consonants, but now in early intervention, I weave vowels into my initial sessions. Worksheets, playbags and plastic toys are at the core of the homework to drive up the intensity needed.
So, as I say to new parents, ‘Let’s sit on the floor today’ and then we get started.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lyn Goodwin works in private practice in Perth, Australia. Not only does she love working with toddlers and parents, she also loves making resources (provided someone else laminates them!). You can follow her blog and check out her resources to download at