Cheap, Fun, and Highly Productive Play

I once conducted an entire 50-minute, speech-language therapy session with no other materials besides a pinto bean and a Kleenex.

The client and I were solidly engaged in describing and elaborating on the actions and emotions of our two protagonists for the entire time we were together.  The pinto bean and Kleenex went to school, had lunch at McDonald's, climbed a mountain, and went to bed exhausted.  Yes, our clinic is feeling the sting of denied insurance claims - but not to the point where we can not afford actual toys or high tech gizmos.  There just happened to be, in the therapy room we started our session in, a box of Kleenex and a bean which had fallen out of a sensory bin.  However, from these humble materials, I had the opportunity to target narrative development, verb tense, syntactical structure, and auditory comprehension.

Now, don't get me wrong - I love flashy toys, iDevices, board games, and even the occasional Super-Duper product.  But I believe that there is no toy or technology greater, or more fun, than encouraging a child to use their imagination. "Spontaneous" production of speech and language goals is often the desired end result of intervention, but it also feels good to facilitate "creative" productions, as well.  It is a good thing for the client also, as no less a pseudo-deity than Rhea Paul wrote: "Play... is the most natural context for language learning."  In addition, Paul said, "more advanced modes of symbolic thinking" will "provide even richer contexts for language acquisition."  So there you have it - the next time your iPad's battery dies, try channeling your inner therapeutic MacGyver, fire up your imagination (possibly with the help of a venti-quadruple shot-vanilla caramel latte with a chaser of Red Bull), and dive in.