Sunday, October 2, 2016

Capitalizing on Trends in Speech Therapy

As many parents do, when our children were younger we made it a point to know what they were watching on television. We sat through countless episodes of Bear in the Big Blue House, Teletubbies, Noddy and more. As they grew up, their tastes changed. We moved on to Pokemon and Avatar. Pokemon was so cheesy, I would have to hold back my laughter. Avatar,  is one of my personal favorites and I will admit to watching it alone even today! I am impressed by the clever writing and the relationships forged between the characters. To see males depicting tender emotions and hugging or crying in a cartoon is generally unheard of. We then moved on to the Disney channel and Good Luck Charlie, The Wizards of Waverly Place, and Lab Rats.  I will also admit to laughing during some of those episodes. As a result of the Pokemon craze of the early 2000s, our children have amassed a lovely collection of Pokemon figurines. Who knew that in 2016 we would see a resurgence of Pokemon? Well, I guess with all good marketing, it was bound to happen. Companies don't want to let go of a good thing.
In speech-language therapy, any SLP will tell you about the importance of capitalizing on a trend. Over the years I have made Strawberry Shortcake games, used pogs and slammers as reinforcers, and played with My Little Ponies. We will do whatever is necessary to motivate our little clients, so why not use what they know and love? Finding the right motivator for each student is a time consuming and sometimes expensive endeavor. Time is a hot commodity and creating activities around Minecraft and minions is not something I am able to do as often as I would like. Additionally, since our children are older, it is not as easy for me to know what's hip. Yes, I am getting older and sometimes feel like a caricature of someone screaming "Look out, old person coming!" 

Okay, back to speech-language therapy. In the past two years I have seen a marked increase in the number of students on my caseload with fluency disorders. In fact, that number has increased from zero to five. This isn't the classic definition of stuttering either. It's more consistent with ASD and is characterized by final part-word repetitions, phrase repetitions, and considerable fillers. Add to that the behavioral challenges associated with ASD and we have a perplexing student profile. Finding the right motivator is crucial with this population. Using both the cognitive techniques for ASD and fluency strategies has been my approach when doing stuttering therapy with these students. Enter Pokemon! When I mentioned to one student in particular that I had two large containers of Pokemon replete with Pokeballs and figurines I saw a notable shift in his demeanor. So I dusted off the bins and carted them into school. It has been an incredible success therapeutically, as a relationship builder, and as a motivator.

I was able to incorporate Pokemon into my student's therapy in this way:

  1. My student selected a Pokemon to research.
  2. I used this website for Pokemon statistics:
  3. Using a write-on die, I colored each side of the cube to correspond to a fluency strategy to practice.
  4. My student rolled the die, matched the color to the corresponding strategy written on the whiteboard and read the statistics using the strategy.
  5. Our daughter gave us permission to give away any Pokemon, so my students can purchase one by saving their "Doyle Dough" earned in therapy. Our son, on the other hand wants his container returned to the safety of our home as soon as possible.

It has been so much fun pulling these toys out of the attic. I have enjoyed seeing the happiness they have brought to a new generation. I have enjoyed how effective they have made therapy. I have enjoyed seeing how my own children are ready to pass them on or guard them dearly.  I would love to know what toys you have dusted off for speech-language therapy? I am always searching for fun, new ideas!

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