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Speech in the Schools

Creativity in Therapy

Published December 8, 2014 9:34 AM by Teresa Roberts
You are a creative thinker. You are using a heightened form of behavioral artistry every day in your job. For those of us who work in school settings, from preschoolers in Early Intervention through young adults in Adult Community Transition Programs, we understand creativity. Ensuring that therapeutic intervention is a positive experience for a toddler, a third-grader, and a less than enthusiastic adolescent isn't an easy task. We take all of the content knowledge of our field and transform it into interactive and engaging activities that address specially designed goals and objectives.

Artist and photographer Chuck Close achieved incredible levels of photorealism in portraying the human face with a restricted palette of colors, frequently using only black, white and gray. Limitations themselves can bring about greatness.  The act of providing speech and language therapy in a public school setting is a study in using a restricted palette. Restrictions are essential to target discrete achievable goals within a limited time frame; however, there are often even more restrictions based on shortages of resources and overly extended personnel. Restrictions need not be barriers -- they can prompt us to create our own forms of art. These words give you license to try new things in your practice. Think about the parameters that are under your control:

  • Movement: In what ways can you change physical positioning to modify the appearance of a task? Stand up, sit on the floor, walking in place, stretch, etc.
  • Speaking voice: How can you modulate your speaking voice to bring about excitement, anticipation, humor and surprise? Whisper, pause, change your rate, intonation, cadence, etc.
  • Materials: We can use materials found in the everyday natural environment, from the classroom, commercially available sources and more. Are your materials allowing you to try different activities? How can you adapt and modify them for new activities?
  • Activities: Rules are important, but so is experimentation. How can you give you and your students the freedom to complete an activity or play a game in a new way?
  • Pacing: We can control the pace of the session and we can modulate the pace depending on how we transition between activities and present information. Pacing affects engagement.

Speech-language pathologists are creative folks. In essence, our primary job is to guide another person to change a behavior (which will ensure access to the fundamental human right to communicate and/or the basic need to swallow). Changing patterns of habituated behavior is challenging on the neurological, physiological and psychological level. We scaffold the learning tasks to maximize success. We provide our clients with multiple opportunities to demonstrate, practice, and generalize new behaviors. We have the ability to analyze communicative acts and separate them into definable steps. Amidst all of these incredible feats of technical prowess, we develop positive and fun activities for individuals across ages and needs. We combine the concrete with the innovative. We are all artists. Reclaim the elements of intervention that belong to you and let your clinical imagination run loose.

How are you being creative with your students?

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About this Blog


    Speech in the Schools
    Occupation: School-based speech-language pathologists
    Setting: Traditional and specialized K-12 classrooms
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