Written by Meredith Orozco SLP
Are you looking for new, interactive games to target speech and language skills during your teletherapy sessions? Or are you looking for new reinforcement games to motivate your learners to get through “just 5 more words?” As I have taken the plunge into teletherapy, ABCya.com has saved me time and time again with a variety of fun, interactive games that my learners love. I have used these games to target speech and language skills as well as to give kids a break between more structured activities. Today I will be sharing some of the ways that I have used these creative online games in my speech therapy sessions.
The games on ABCya.com are divided up by grades K-6+. My favorite games are a series of “Make a __” games that involve assembling pieces or ingredients together into your own original creation, such as putting toppings on a pizza. These are the games that I will be discussing in this blog post. Some of my favorites include Make a Cake, Make a Pizza, Make a House, Make a Cupcake, and Make an Ice Cream. If you begin to search “make a…”, even more options will appear, from food to toys to holiday themes. My learners LOVE these games! The creation element allows them to be imaginative and make many of their own choices or decisions. Because these activities are games and have many opportunities to be silly, I have found that these are a great way to sneak in their goals in a fun way without slipping into boredom or distractedness. With some learners, I can even begin to target language before beginning the game to elicit requests for which activity they would like to play.
Open any of these games, and you will find categories that you can navigate to build your creation. My favorite skills to target within these games are requesting and using specific language. With teletherapy, when a child points and says, “this one,” I truly do not know what the child is referring to. This often leads to some initial frustration, so I will model some choices for them to choose. For example, “I see rainbow ice cream, pink ice cream, and chocolate chip ice cream. Which one do you want?” Depending on the child’s goals, you can target use of specific language, initiating requests, or eliciting longer utterances to request using single words, phrases, or a complete sentence.
These games are also great for targeting receptive language, including following directions, spatial concepts, and basic concepts such as color, similarity, and size. With Zoom, I can give remote control to the child and have him or her manipulate the screen to follow a variety of different directions. Simple one step directions can be targeted to choose specific components, such as toppings for a pizza. Spatial directions are great to target in the “make a house” game to place the elements “on top,” “next to,” “in front,” etc. Multi-step directions can also be targeted easily to add components in a specific order, such as “first give the pumpkin eyes, then a nose.”
Answering WH questions can be targeted both during the activity and once the creation is finished. During an activity, you can elicit responses to WH questions by asking “what/which” pieces you should add, “where” to put them, “who” is the creation for, and even “why” to explain their choices. You can also elicit responses to inferential questions depending on the activity. For example, if we are building a house, I might ask, “Who do you think might live here?” or “Where would you go to check your mail?” If we created a delicious ice cream sundae, I could ask, “What would happen to our ice cream if it sat outside on a hot summer day?” or “Where could you go to buy ice cream?” You can also ask similar questions when your creation is complete. Depending on what you have created, you can ask questions about the location of elements, function, basic concepts, and more.
Although I have not been using these games frequently with my articulation and fluency kiddos, these games provide a fun change of pace from our usual activities. For articulation, the variety of nouns and adjectives represented within all the components allow for possibilities for many different sounds. Here is a trick I learned for Zoom: Drag the corner of the floating Zoom window to make it as big as you can to watch how your child is producing the sounds – articulation over telehealth is challenging! If your learner is older or can tolerate more structured trials, you can also use decoration components to track trials. Try adding candles to the birthday cake or pepperoni to the pizza for each sound that they say! For fluency, I have used the games both in structured activities to practice smooth, slow rate of speech to describe what they are doing, and in an unstructured nature to monitor their use of fluency strategies during a game.
Finally, while these games are amazing for addressing speech and language targets, they can also make for great reinforcers between “work” activities! These games are genuinely fun and can provide an easy yet creative brain break. I have several learners who regularly request “the pizza game” or “the ice cream game” as soon as we sign onto our Zoom sessions. In a time when there is so little that we can control, my learners are thrilled to have so many choices for what game they want and for how to build their creation! You can either control the screen and have the child give you directions, or you can use the Zoom tools to give the child control to manipulate the screen. This often depends on the child and how much control you want to have over the activity!
I love these games because of their versatility and flexibility, and my learners love them because they are FUN and CREATIVE! I hope that you have found this helpful to spice up your teletherapy toolbox, whether you have found a new resource to try, new ideas to incorporate, or a fresh reinforcement game to present in your next session.