There’s a global pandemic and suddenly we’re thrown into distance learning and teletherapy! Preschoolers are difficult enough to engage in person, and doing preschool speech therapy across a screen seems downright impossible. But, we’re doing it!
I know so many therapists who are killing it in teletherapy and doing amazing things. I’m slowly but surely getting the hang of it myself, but feel like I’ve still got a ways to go. Since most of my caseload is preschool-1st grade, I’m probably the most confident with the littles. Here are a few ideas and suggestions on how to tackle preschool speech therapy – distance learning style!
*Amazon affiliate links are included.
1. Get parents involved
Since students are at home, you actually may have an advantage of being able to stay in more contact with the parents than you typically would at school. This is a great time to do some specific coaching and practice language strategies with parents. Take this opportunity to show parents how to build language skills in their own environment.
For example, I worked with a parent last week on using communication temptations to help her child request. The parent got the child’s favorite snack (popcorn) and I coached her on withholding and pausing to give her child an opportunity to request each piece. It ended up being a great session!
However, I know it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. Parent coaching ain’t easy, friend. If it doesn’t go well the first time, don’t give up. You’re doing the best you can and that’s ALL you can do. 🙂
2. Use therapy routines
Young children often thrive on routines. Try to pull things into your sessions that they are familiar with. If you always sing a certain song, then have the child help you sing it. If you usually start your session with their favorite story, try to do the same in your teletherapy sessions.
I like to pull out a virtual visual schedule to help keep them on track. (I like this one from Kristin!) Showing them the activities that you need to get done for the day can give them some sense of an end time.
3. Be ready to change activities
If it’s one thing preschoolers are known for, it’s getting “bored” from an activity after approximately 5.8 seconds. If they are having trouble staying engaged, I usually either up my activity game or up my reinforcement game. Timers can also come in handy too.
I try to come into the session with several activities on hand. Then, I let the child choose the activity they want to do (I usually give them a choice between 2 things at a time). Sometimes setting a timer for how long we are going to do that activity helps them push through. After that, I quickly switch to the next activity. (More on the types of activities I use are below)
Upping your reinforcement can also help. For this you might have to enlist the caregivers. Find something they would want to work for and have them earn it by completing tasks.
*Remember reinforcement does not equal bribery. This is something they know beforehand that they are working to earn. Check out this blog post for more behavior management ideas in preschoolers.
My littles love songs! It actually holds their attention. If you don’t feel comfortable singing with your students yourself, here are a few of my teletherapy go-to YouTube song resources!
Admittedly, story time over a screen is not my favorite. I like having kids interact with props, touch pictures, and stop and ask questions. But these are the times we’re in and we have to adapt. I actually prefer the good old-fashion hold the book up to the screen routine. You can pause and ask questions where needed and point to pictures.
Unfortunately, I don’t have access to my library of kids’ books at home. So here are some good online alternatives:
- Vooks – It’s free for a limited time!
- Epic! – Also free for educators for a limited time.
- You Tube read alouds – search any book and you’ll probably find a free read aloud.
Preschoolers love toys. Even if they don’t always play appropriately with them, you can usually grab their attention with some fun toys or objects. I love using these with my preschoolers:
- The student’s personal toys – My kids love showing me what they have at home. They are usually proud and excited to show you what they have.
- Containers and mini objects – Why kids are so fascinated with opening boxes and containers, I’ll never know. Maybe it’s the element of surprise. Use plastic eggs, boxes, or these cute gift containers.
- Critter clinic and garage toys – I love these for requesting open, colors, expanding sentences and labeling.
- Farm animals – Animals always seem to grab my students’ attention. We have them do different actions, make noises, etc. I’m obsessed with this adorable hide-n-go farm set.
I had no idea there were so many amazing digital games and resources out there, and most are available for free! Here are my favorite sites for games:
- Pink Cat Games – So cute with searchable concepts and games to practice
- Toytheater.com – This one is full of simple games, visual timers, spinners, and more. Definitely check this one out.
- ABCya – This site is precious. Kids can make a pizza, build a house, make a face, etc. They can practice lots of different skills and many are based on common core standards.
Games to play without the computer:
- Scavenger hunt around the house – I like using this for following directions and basic concepts.
- I Spy – This is a great game for describing, making complete sentences, or simply as reinforcement.
- Crafts – Send the parents a copy of a cute speech craft to print. They can do it for homework or do it together with you.
8. Digital Speech Favorites
In addition to all of the amazing sites mentioned, here are a couple more to add to your list.
- Boom Learning – If you haven’t checked this one out yet, you’re in for a treat. There are so many preschool speech therapy activities on the site that you are sure to find something for every goal that you need addressed.
- I actually just made my first Boom card deck! It’s a functions activity that you can check out here for free!
- Digital TPT products – If you search on TPT, you can find several no print activities that are easy to pull up on your screen share.
Please note: This blog post is just meant to be a catch-all place where you can refer back when you want to find something new to try in teletherapy or otherwise. Take it for what it’s worth and use what you think will work for your students. I know you are doing your best, friend. Don’t give up!
And don’t forget to grab that FREE boom card deck for your preschool speech therapy sessions!