In my last blog, I discussed reasons that I'm pro and con using games in therapy. I've found many uses for commercially-available games during my therapy sessions with students of all grade levels and abilities. I love being able to take a game I've purchased and figure out creative ways to use it with my students to help them meet their speech-language objectives. So yes, I consider myself an SLP gamer. Before I start blogging about specific games I use with students (and to possibly inspire ideas for your back-to-school shopping!) I want to use this blog to share some general "rules" I've found to help games be used as a successful therapy tool.
1) Make sure the students have been taught or can use the pre-requisite skills needed to be successful when playing the game.
I often use games during my push-in language groups with my students with moderate-severe communication impairments. Previewing games rules and procedures, vocabulary, and modeling the targeted language objectives of the game with students in their 1:1 or small group pull-out sessions prior to playing the game in push-in language groups allows the students to feel more comfortable about participating (Hey, I've seen this before!) and focus on targeted speech-language objectives since less focus needs to be dedicated to learning the game. Previewing steps and parts of a game has also proven beneficial for my students with language processing issues and high functioning autism. The same applies for all speech-language students. For students working at the word level for a targeted speech sound, if the game requires the student to respond in a sentence, be aware of the impact this will have on accuracy data.
2) Be flexible! I'm a rule-follower by nature. To a fault sometimes. So for me to say this is sort of a big deal. Do not be afraid to change how a game is played from group-to-group, session-to-session to best meet your students' needs. You'll always get one who will exclaim, "That's how to play this game!" or "We don't play it like that at home!" That makes for a great teachable moment! It's great way to build flexible thinking in students who struggle in this area! I've ignored age ranges on games many times. Don't be afraid to make a simple game more challenging for older students by adapting the rules or types of responses required.
3) Know how to play the game before expecting the students to play it. I feel like this is obvious, but I'm sharing this as someone who has made this mistake in the past! It is very difficult to teach/show students how to play a game if the person teaching them the game doesn't know how to play it! We're all smart - a simple read-through of the directions and looking through the game components prior to the game is sufficient.
4) Ask other SLPs for recommendations - If you aren't sure if a game would work well in speech-language therapy, ask other SLPs! I've learned about many great games from colleagues (in person and online). It always is disappointing to buy a game thinking it would be great for students and finding it just doesn't work or can't be adapted well/easily. (Been there, done that. I'm talking about you, "Friendo"!)
These are just some general guidelines to consider when using games in therapy. In upcoming blogs I'll make specific recommendations about commercially-available games I enjoy using with students and how I've used them successfully. Do any of you have any "rules" to add to my list?