Theo is currently having Speech Therapy once a week for half an hour. He is 2.5 years old and is non-verbal, but also struggles in other area of communication, such as pointing to what he wants and eye contact. He also struggles with interaction with others during play which therapy can help with. Speech and communication are two separate things and a lot of the time, non-verbal communication is needed to develop speech.
So, I thought I’d show some of the toys our Speech Therapist uses in the sessions. I try and do a bit with him at home, as his therapy is only once a week, so these ideas will hopefully help your child’s communication skills if they are struggling.
Theo’s speech therapy does cover other areas such as PECS, intensive interaction, but I will be showing you the toys which get Theo motivated to do the therapies. These types of toys can help the child make choices, which can lead to better non-verbal and verbal communication from the child. All will become clear!!
However, please note – I’m not a Speech Therapist! Just a long suffering parent who has picked up a few tips having sat in for lots of speech therapy with both Monty and Theo!
The idea is to use motivating and exciting toys to help your child make a choice and in theory start gesturing to the toy they want and encourage you to participate.
Here are a few things to consider:
- Always give a choice of two toys, so the child can scan both, saying “Theo, do you want the truck, or the ball”. If they reach for one, or look at it, give them that one and repeat the name of the item they have chosen whilst offering it to them.
- Choose toys that are exciting and motivating to your child – giving Theo a choice of a dressing up costume and a tea set wouldn’t wash with him– he’s chuck it across the room as he would have no idea what they were for!
- Choose toys which the child needs help turning on or making work. This encourages them to ask for help in a non – verbal or verbal way.
- When making the toy work, begin my saying ‘Ready, steady…………’……then pause. Ensure the child looks at you, or makes a gesture he wants the game to start. Only then do you say ‘Go’………and switch the toy on. This encourages interaction with the adult. You want the child to NEED you to do something for them
- Keep your language simple and straight to the point.
- Choose a time where you child is fed, watered and in good spirits with few distractions. They are more likely to comply!
- Finally, keep all the toys you use for these sessions separate, ideally in a box with a lid. Firstly, if you keep them always accessible and they can play with them alone, the novelty wears off for the child and they become less motivating for them. When you are playing with the child, only bring two toys out at a time, leave the rest in the box
Very simple and cheap! If the child loves bubbles, there is a lot you can do with them to help engage your child, using the ‘Ready, steady………. go’ concept mentioned above. Also encouraging them to pop the bubbles will prompt their finger to form a ‘point’, which hopefully with encouraging them to point at objects and things that they want.
It’s repetitive and can be switched on and off easily by the adult, so the child can gesture he wants more.
Anything with flashy light is a winner with Theo
Something that lights up and spins is met with whoops of delight!
Again, the child needs you to wind the toy up for them and make it work – encouraging them to interact with you. Theo particularly like the rabbits and frogs that somersault!
These are great because again, you can control them and make them stop – so encouraging the child to ask you to make it work.
‘Stop – Go’ Toys
Simple and effective – these are also easy for the child to eventually work by themselves – you could even encourage the child to direct it at the adult, and make it go back and forth between you both, again encouraging peer interaction and turn taking. These are all skills that often don’t come naturally to our children but are essential at nursery and school.
Motorised Train and Track
These are one of Theo’s favourites – particularly the Thomas Track master engines. Again, you can easily stop and start the engine to encourage interaction, plus they are lovely bright colours and the trains have cheery faces too!!
Theo loves anything that spins! You can also get ones that light up which he was beside himself about! Again, as they are quite complex for little pudgy toddler hands to spin, the child needs the adult to make it work.
Basically, this is a very simple, but effective way to help encourage your child to interact with you at home and eventually encourage communication. If I didn’t spend a little time every day doing this with Theo, I’d feel quite sad as he never WANTS to play with me voluntarily, he’d prefer to be by himself or climbing on furniture! I’m not a saintly person – I don’t do it all day every day, its’ not possible. Ten minutes at a time is plenty! I tend to stop when Theo just wanders off from the activity as I know if I force it, he’ll lose interest in it for next time.
I have noticed the difference in him, he’s more forthcoming when he wants something, his eye contact has improved so much and, he is desperately trying to babble! He’s also got the hang of pointing – not necessarily to things he wants but to pictures in a book.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be all day every day – just a bit here and there! I hoped this has helped! Let me know how you get on!