Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Importance of Movement in Speech and Language Therapy

Movement is important in speech and language therapy.  Yes, I said it.  We need to try and get kids up and moving during our speech and language therapy sessions.

Here's why:
There is research showing that movement could help facilitate spontaneous language in developmentally delayed children.

When I was working in the schools, the most amount of movement we did was the occasional dance party or acting out dares while playing I Dare You Articulation from Erik X. Raj. The movement was never intentional, if I'm being honest.

It wasn't until I moved to an outpatient clinic where I started learning about movement more.  I work in a clinic of primarily occupational therapists.  They pride themselves in being sensory specialists. Our clinic is two large gyms with lots of equipment (and then some rooms off to the side).  They have taught me everything I know about sensory because, if you're like me, my six years of college and graduate education taught me NOTHING about it.  One of the OTs put an article about this on my desk, and I could not believe that it dated back to 1981. 1981--that's 35 years ago. 

Magrun, Ottenbacher, McCue, and Keefe (1981) wrote "Effects of Vestibular Stimulation on Spontaneous Use of Verbal Language in Developmentally Delayed Children."  Just a quick summary of the article for you. In this study, vestibular stimulation or movement was incorporated by having them ride a scooter down a ramp, spin in a net hammock, or swing on a platform swing. Treatment was for 10 minutes a day for 5 days straight. Language was recorded in a 5 minute free-play session. The results indicated that vestibular stimulation might be an effective way to stimulate language.

Ok so if we know this, why aren't we using it?   I don't know the answer to that question, but let's start incorporating it in our speech sessions. Get those kids up and moving.

Here are some ideas for you:
  • Play freeze dance. When the music pauses, they have to say their target words, answer a question, follow a direction, etc. 
  • Make a life-size game board that stretches across your room or down the hall. 
  • Play Simon Says to target following directions and incorporate large movements in.
  • Have kids jump on a trampoline during some of the session.
  • If you're lucky enough to have a swing, have the child sit on a swing during the session. 
  • Do some jumping jacks prior to starting the session. 
  • Incorporate yoga into your session. 
  • If possible, do therapy outside on the playground.
Those are just some ideas to get you started.  Consult an occupational therapist for more.  Take a baseline, try this with your students, and then do a post-test.  I'd be curious to see how they do.

I'd love to hear about how you incorporate movement into your sessions.  Leave a comment below and let us know how you do it!

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  1. Great post Carissa! Working with children with autism, ADHD and behavioral challenges, the importance of movement to regulate sensory issues AND stimulate language is something I try to regularly incorporate into my sessions. Thank you for your great suggestions!

  2. I totally agree with the importance physical activities during speech and language therapy sessions. Keeping our client's stimulated and engaged requires some creativity. I have a few tricks in my bag as well. Thank you for sharing some of your great movement ideas Carissa.


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