by Lindsey Wegner, M.S., CCC-SLP
A speech-language pathologist’s (SLP) therapy session can
be designed in a variety of ways. When working with
young children under the age of five it can be challenging for them to sit at a table for
an entire therapy session due to higher energy levels and decreased attention spans.
Many therapists will use a form of therapy known as played-based therapy. The word
“play” means involvement in enjoyable activities. Therefore, “play-based therapy”
involves the use of enjoyable activities to target a child’s speech and language therapy
In order to plan a play-based therapy session, it is important to understand the five
stages of play.
||Onlooker play – watching and observing (under 1 years old)
||Solitary play – playing by themselves (between 1-2 years old)
||Parallel play – playing near others but not engaging with others (between 2-3 years old)
||Associative play – playing with others but sometimes playing by themselves (between 3-4 years old)
||Cooperative play – playing with others and will not continue to play without a partner (above 4 years old)
Play-based therapy is beneficial because it helps children:
- Maintain increased attention towards objects and others
- Improve cognitive abilities
- Improve participation in therapy through fun activities
- Build positive adult-child interactions
- Socialize with peers
- Progress with their speech and language goals
Different types of play can be targeted in play-based therapy sessions including:
- Functional play – investigating how common objects work and are used
- Construction play – building things with objects
- Game play with rules – board games that have a clear set rules for playing
- Outdoor and movement play – activities that involve physical movement
- Symbolic, dramatic, and pretend play – common activities done in everyday life as play
When designing a play-based therapy session, an SLP must keep
in mind the specific goals for each child. It is often helpful to plan
out a play-based therapy session using familiar objects. The terms
“playful learning,” “guided play,” and “structured communicative play”, all refer to
teaching a child during structured play activities instead of during activities that feel like
“work.” Playful learning is therapy goals while guiding the learning through play.
When interacting with a child in a play-based therapy session:
- Allow the child to take the lead as much as possible without straying from the overall goals.
- Avoid using terms such as “say this” or “say that” which can make therapy seem more like work than play.
- Show the child how to accomplish a task by modeling.
- Make the session fun and focus on the child’s interest to increase participation.
When play-based therapy is performed correctly, it can help the child make associations
with real life events and create lasting memories needed to develop speech, language,
and social skills.
Play-Based Treatment: Basic Strategies for Exceptional Instruction
. Presented by Meredith P. Harold, PhD, CCC-SLP retrieved 6/15/16 from www.speechpathology.com