Speech lessons don’t always have to be boring and hard work. There are fun ways to get children to be interested in learning language and helping them with communication skills. I used toys to teach speech lessons in my home.
It was so hard teaching my son to follow one and two step directions. His receptive language improved but expressive was a hard road for us all. These are just a few ways I worked in speech lessons back in the day when my children were little.
For attributes I would buy a variety of balls in all sizes and colors. Then I would buy buckets to play toss games with. Giving directions like “Put the large red ball in the bucket” to answering questions like “What color is this ball?” to “What size is this ball”
You can buy small houses at dollar stores, toy shops or even make your own using small boxes and decorate with hand made doll furniture. Small houses are great for all kinds of speech questions. Prepositions were always so hard to understand for my son but eventually through pretend play using miniature items he would catch on. Some examples would be.
“Put the dog on the couch” or “Put the chair next to the window”
People are intimidating, they can be intense for children with ASD. Puppets were a safe way for me to have conversations with my son through fun characters that would ask him question encouraging him to either follow directions or repeat and answer real words. When a child is non verbal it is so difficult to get those words out.
We used pecs cards. I made two communication journals using pecs cards for the home and one for the school my son went to. Sadly the public school with all their money did not do this so I took it into my own hands to make a book for my son to feel better at being able to communicate. This was back before Ipads were easily available, and they were kind of expensive. I had to learn the pecs system through an outside source that I paid out of pocket for. Again…the public school district we were apart of here in Phoenix did not suggest this form of communicating and never told my husband and I about it. I think about all those families out there that rely on the schools and their kids don’t get all the help they could have. Just heartbreaking. I am getting off subject now so back to speech lessons.
Cards are also great ways to learn names of items around our environment by playing matching games over and over. Every time I would go out shopping for educational toys whether in second hand shops, dollar stores or educational teaching shops, if I bought cards I always bought two sets. This way I could play matching games with my children when learning new words.
As children learn to follow directions receptively first they need to understand what the items are before they can follow complicated language skills. You may be able to look at your child and say “Put your bowl in the sink please” but if your child doesn’t understand what a sink or bowl is they will not be able to follow these directions. Every item from shoes and socks, to tools, to vehicles, to all the foods we eat…every item is another word in language that needs to be taught. Playing matching games over and over help children recognize those everyday items in their environment.
Even if you think they are getting enough of these lessons at school, that isn’t enough for non verbal children. They need to be able to have confident ways to communicate at home too. With ASD children it really is a 24/7 situation all the time. I have discovered that there are no summer breaks or breaks from teaching because regression is a real thing and so upsetting when it does happen.
Cards can also be taped to items around your home with a picture of the item they represent. The refrigerator had a card on it with the word and picture of refrigerator. Cupboards, bathrooms, beds, toys, any item you want to teach your child could have a card attached to it, to help remind them what it is. Throughout the day go to these labeled items and say the words out loud.
3. Copying sounds we make and exercising those vocal muscles using mirrors, megaphones and play phones.
I am not a speech therapist so this next area is just something one of our home speech therapists suggested to us. We had outside help that came to our home to work on speech therapy with our son since the school was only able to do speech lessons twice a week and who even knows what that involved since we were never there in the classroom to actually see if this was being done at all. The reason I write this is because we have a shadow witness that wrote a report on my son one day when she was observing a class and noticed that the speech therapist ignored my son and treated him with contempt when she was working with other children in the classroom, leaving him out of art activities saying “Why bother, he won’t get it anyway.” IEP’s are just pieces of paper once you leave those table meetings.My son can speak now, he can read and write too and this isn’t because of the public schools he attended. It was only after we pulled him out and home schooled him that he started getting better and more confident with communicating.
Some ASD children, depending on the child, may parrot sounds from others. This is a good thing because that is all language is in the beginning, copying the sounds and communicating those sounds with one another.
Here are a few ways to help exercise vocal muscles….
Megaphones- I would make a sound then give it to my son to mimic. I would say a word then give the megaphone to my son to mimic. If we were playing matching games sometimes I would bring the phone with us to say words of the cards and then have my son say it through the phone.
My son loved music when he was very young and even though he would not speak to anyone he would sometimes try to sing and say the sounds he heard when listening to music. He also loved looking through books, turning page after page of colorful drawings in children’s books. I always made sure to have moments were we had piles of books for my children to look through and also soft music and children’s rhyming songs to play. Never too loud though because both my children were very sensitive to noise and also to lights. We had all our windows covered with outside screens to cut down on the brightness and when we watched TV we used head phones.
I would make an exaggerated facial expression in a hand mirror with my mouth, or a sound, then I would hand it to my son and tell him to do it as well. Looking at his own reflection was less intimidating to follow then looking at someone else using eye contact
Another great way to exercise those muscles we use when speaking.
Whistles and horns-
May be annoying at times but this is a great way to exercise the movements we use when speaking. My children did not like whistles or bells but we did try them at first. Eventually we just used bubble wands because they would cover their ears if whistles were used.
Some other ways I would work in speech lessons was through outside field trips and events we would go to as a family. I had a yearly pass for the family for the zoo here in our city and we would go for walks at the zoo all the time. To help teach my children the names of animals I would use toys and cards. I would buy two sets of animals to play the matching game. Putting all the animals into a basket and pulling out animals to match side by side to eventually pulling out little toy animals from the basket and asking my children “What animal is this?” to going out in the real world and seeing that animal in person and asking what animal is that while pointing to it. Everything starts to connect this way.
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Eventually children will have the courage to say the word out loud and that is when language starts to take off. It took years for my son to start speaking and what a gift it was when he did. A little at a time, one word at first to a couple, then many and finally to real conversations. Baby steps with everything in life will eventually get you there. Each step you take, no matter how small, will help so much. Just remember no matter what, what ever level your children are at or become, as long as they are doing the best they can, what ever they accomplish in life will be enough. Confidence and happiness are the best tools that we can give our children. Anytime they accomplish anything is a great thing, so keep cheering them on.
I hope some of these suggestions help new parents with any ASD children. Sorry about the public school rant, this is something I work on letting go of all the time. It is a triggering subject as my daughter likes to say. To all the great teachers out there, thank you for being the good ones, we really need that, especially parents with children who need a little extra help in life. Happy speech lessons everyone. Remember to just have fun with it.