Sunday, May 29, 2016

But All You Do Is Play!







I'm not sure how many speech-language pathologists have heard this from teachers, their friends and family, and others.  But I know it's a lot.  I used to hear this when I worked in the public schools.
And while most of my work with kids has involved more books than toys, there is some truth to that refrain.

Because the work of young children IS play!  Playing is how young children interact with and learn from the world.  Building language skills in children does, indeed,  involve a lot of play. 

But building language through play involves more planning and thought than you might think.  Play therapy involves creating an episode that unfolds; proceeds along a sequence, follows a set of actions that produces memorable experiences in the child's mind.  These memories are what help to cement in the child's mind the language attached to them.  

Much of our teaching, especially in language and narrative development, involves highlighting experiences that have emotion attached to them, so that children remember them and build language sets around them.


When using toys and games in therapy, we're always modeling the language we want to build, providing new vocabulary, expanding the child's responses to that next step up, and wearing that ever-popular "expectant look" that tells the child we're waiting for them to do/say something.

But play therapy does not only happen with young children.  Many students with more complex needs - such as those with autism - often haven't had the same kinds of play experiences as their typical peers.  They may not know how to play, and often have difficulty with the interactions involved in playing with another.

For these students it is important to teach them not only the language of the activity, but also social language and turn taking.  Often, I am simply teaching the child to ask for "more," or "help," or to make it "go."

Playing is a crucial piece in teaching children to develop the language skills they need for life.  Embrace it.

Keep on talking!










13 comments:

  1. So true! Play looks so easy when you are just watching it unfold, but it can be difficult for language impaired children, while so vital! You may see play, but we are working!

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  2. Absolutely. I may love playing with bubbles, but it can be hard work getting the interactions going! Thanks for reading.

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  3. Easy for people to say this, especially when they don't work with children. I completely agree with your thoughts here.

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    1. Thanks, Deann. I guess we make it look easy :)
      Thanks for reading. I know you know how hard it can be to make play work for some kids.

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  4. I used to love having various play centers when I taught primary grades; so much language practiced! Terrific post; thank you!

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    1. Thanks for reading! Play is what kids do, so let's teach them how to talk about it.

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  5. I work in a newcomer program and social language is the first English our newcomers develop! Oral language is the foundation for EVERYTHING that comes after!

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  6. While attending some PD sessions to learn how to work with English Language Learners who were about to enter our district, we were told that kids learn language so they can communicate with the kids they want to play with. So true! You have pointed that out so well!
    I'm pretty sure some adults might benefit from learning the language to use while engaged in sports or other game-playing! Thanks again Susan for making us think!

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    1. True. Many times when working with adolescents and young adults with social language problems we do concentrate on their own areas of 'play' to build those skills.

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  7. Preach on! Play is crucial and too frequently undervalued in schools -- usually by people who don't have any background in child development or education! Thanks for posting!

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    1. And thank you for reading! If we don't give kids time to play and learn language skills we'll lose them at reading time, as well as socialization time.
      Thanks for reading.

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