Strategies for Working with Preschoolers

by VocoVision on July 6, 2018

preschoolersAs children enter school play needs to be an important part of the therapy process. This is especially true for preschoolers. Children at the preschool age are at the beginning of their school journey but are also learning how to balance structured activities with play.

Play keeps learning fun for preschoolers. Therapy sessions with preschoolers must consist of more than flashcards and worksheets. Whether your therapy sessions format is pull-out therapy, push-in therapy, or teletherapy, preschool speech therapy consists of a different style of activities than it does for older children.

Mixing Fun and Function

While speech therapy sessions need to include a certain level of fun, the focus on academic-based functional skills is the overall goal.

Most preschoolers aren’t ready to sit for long periods of time; nor are they expected to focus on one task for an extended time period. Breaking up your sessions into chunks of 5 to 15 minutes at a time, depending on the activity can keep restless preschoolers engaged. The preschooler attention span must be taken into account when choosing activities for therapy sessions. Preschoolers will enjoy more imaginative and creative play. Some activities to include in your therapy session plans can include:

  • Play-Doh
  • Lego Sets
  • Short Books
  • Puzzles
  • Craft Supplies
  • Dress-up Items such as big shirts, hats, purses, ties, or other clothing accessories.
  • Board Games

Keep in mind that different activities lend themselves towards different skills. For instance, board games are helpful when developing social skills such as taking turns or academic skills while dress-up or Lego sets can aid in pretend play where the child can work on other social skills and real-life activities.

As a preschooler’s attention span increases, the number of activities included in your speech therapy session can decrease based on the child’s ability to focus on a single task. However, until their attention span increases, arm yourself with a lot of activities to keep them engaged and learning.

To Reward or Not to Reward

Everyone needs encouragement; especially young children. Preschoolers are learning and adjusting to a variety of different things when they enter school and speech therapy. They may be learning how to share, take turns, behave in a classroom setting, and most importantly, how to communicate so they can succeed in school and in their social/peer relationships.

Using a reward system properly can keep children motivated during therapy sessions especially as tasks increase in difficulty or you reduce the number of activities during a session. Should you choose a reward system for speech therapy, be mindful of preventing it from being a time-waster or bribery tactic. If you can steer clear of material rewards and focus more on positive social rewards, you will provide not only encouragement but positive self-esteem as speech therapy sessions become more focused or difficult.

Helping preschoolers through their speech-language difficulties can be a very rewarding part of your career as a speech therapist. Creating therapy sessions with versatile therapy materials and includes a healthy balance of fun and structure will keep preschoolers immersed in tasks and working towards progress.

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