Early on in my career as an SLP, I knew that many of my students benefited from visual supports to comprehend speech and language tasks. There were many sessions when I was scrambling to scribble out visuals to help my students understand a concept. You can relate, right!? In the early days, I didn’t always have the visuals, or the time to make the visuals I wanted. With more years of experience, and the help of the internet, I have developed or found visual supports that are staples for my speech sessions.
Benefits of Using Visual Supports
Visual supports help our students process information presented orally. They can also help reduce the cognitive demands placed on the brain when trying to comprehend or expressively use a new language skill. Visual supports can also help our students be able to better communicate when they are upset or don’t have a strong expressive skills to let us know what they are feeling or thinking.
Visual Supports for Students to Help With Articulation Generalization & Self-Awareness
#1 Articulation Carryover Visual Supports for Students
Many of my students working on 1-2 sound errors struggle with monitoring their speech productions. I have started incorporating self-awareness tasks to help students be more accountable for their productions.
At the start of each session, we do a Yes/No visual check-in. I either produce the sound correctly or incorrectly in isolation, syllables, or words. The student then judges my production. Then, the student produces 5-10 sounds/words and judges his/her production. We do this before jumping into drill practice.
As my students progress to the sentence and conversation levels (multiple sentences, reading, structured conversations, etc.), I incorporate self-reflection time into my sessions. We also fill out conversation scripts for specific times, places, or people that they may need to use their correct speech. Check out my info about artic carryover HERE. If you need more practical strategies for generalization, I have a blog post HERE you can read.
#2 Articulation Production Feedback Visual
It isn’t super helpful to tell articulation students whether or not their production was correct. I notice a lot of my students get discouraged if I say a lot of “try again” or “nope, wasn’t quite right.” When I give more specific feedback about their production, the student can see when they are on the right track, but may need to adjust their production slightly.
I really love Speechy Musings’ production feedback visual that you can download for FREE here. I have used it in therapy and also sent it home for parents to use with the student as well. I love using file folders to make home programs. You can check out how I make a home program using a file folder and this visual HERE.
#3 Visual Sentence Strips For Speech & Language
Having visual sentence strips or sentence frames for my students has helped so much when learning a new skill. You can read more about how to use sentence strips in therapy HERE.
My visual sentence starter strips have been handy for my mixed groups because I can easily find the sentence strip for different students. They include articulation strips, fluency, grammar, language, and social skill strips. No more writing on sticky notes!
#4 Visual Supports for Social Inferencing
When working on inferencing skills, I like to incorporate visuals. Many of my students with social pragmatic weaknesses or language disorders struggle with making inferences. Some of my students can make inferences, but then have NO idea how they got their answer. So, I like using sentence frames to break down the skill. We first work on what we “see” (concrete details), then talk about what we “know” (accessing scheme and background knowledge). Then, we each make a “smart guess” about what the person could be feeling/thinking or answer a higher order thinking question.
Many teachers are wanting their students to use more academic language when explaining their answers, so I like having those visually displayed, so my students can start to practice using those vocabulary words in context. Need this free visual support? Head over to my TPT store.
#5 Visual Supports for Behavior
I have a lot of students working on following routines and expectations. Many of my students benefit from having a working for chart, first/then visual, and visual reminders for what their bodies need to be doing in a session. That’s why I decided to put all my frequently used visuals in one place.
I just printed it out, glued it to a file folder, and laminated the file folder. Then, I could re-use the visual supports using a dry erase marker. I love that I can use this for multiple students at one time.
If you need this visual, hit the pink button below for this free download. Need more ideas for using file folders? Check out this blog post, HERE.
What Visual Supports Do You Love Using in Speech Therapy?
I would love to know what visual supports you have found helpful for your clients or students. Share the visual in the comments or tag me on social media at @thedabblingspeechie.
One thing that I felt my graduate program could have helped better prepare me for was teaching behavior management techniques for mixed groups. Anyone else struggle with how to create positive behavior routines in speech therapy sessions? I sure did when I first started out. I got my feet wet during my field placements when I did group therapy (aka mixed group madness). But, my real education came when I was a CFY-SLP.
The SLP Struggle With Creating Behavior Routines In Speech
Between lesson planning for all the goals in the group, managing behaviors, and trying to take data, I felt very stressed in some of my groups. Doing all those things at once was really difficult. And some days, I didn’t know how to manage a behavior. Or I was so busy trying to manage behaviors, that I didn’t get to goals/lessons that I wanted to. Then, there are days when incorporating everyone’s goals in the lesson and keeping students engaged led me to completely forget to take data.
Have you ever been there as an SLP? In my first few years, I focused on creating simple rules and expectations. I had a raffle prize box and the students could earn a jelly bean for not getting more than two reminders about behavior. This was the system my master clinician modeled for me. It worked well with keeping my groups in order as I managed a 75+ caseload. Many groups had 4-5 students, so I felt like I didn’t have time to mess around and needed tangible incentives for my students.
Why You Should Create Behavior Routines & Expectations In The Speech Room
Having behavior management techniques in your speech room increases students’ engagement, and improves participation with the lesson being taught. To be effective with implementing your therapy lesson, you need a plan containing strategies for being consistent with expectations. Furthermore, it is also important to foster a positive learning environment while minimizing unwanted behaviors.
Recommendations For How To Create A Positive Learning Environment
-Use simple rules and expectations that are consistently and fairly implemented.
-Make events and activities predictable by establishing routines. Set up cues and signals with students to let them know about transitions in the lesson and/or explain the content or length of the lesson.
-Provide frequent use of praise (non-verbal and verbal) that is specific and descriptive of the behavior being executed. For example, “Thank you, Desmond, for keeping your hands to yourself. That is very respectful.”
-Make adjustments and accommodations to help all students access the lesson and successfully engage in the content (this may mean shortening the assignment, creating visuals, or answering choices to help participation).
-Give opportunities to respond and participate in the activities and materials with all the children in the group/class.
For more research-based classroom management strategies, readthis blog postwith helpful tips to use with students.
Evidenced Based Practice For Using Visual Cues To Establish Behavior Routines
During a lesson, your students have to follow the set rules, transition to a new activity, and participate in the session. That can be overwhelming for our SLP friends. Some of our students struggle with following our complex directions. For example, Devon may remember to raise his hand to speak, but is constantly getting out of his chair during instruction. This causes a lot of distraction for you and the group. He knew the expectation to raise his hand to speak, but his body was struggling to follow the expectation that during reading time, we all have to sit in our chairs.
Research has shown that children who are exhibiting less problem behavior show bigger gains in language skills. So, teaching behavior expectations is very important for speech pathologists. If we can decrease the presence of unwanted behaviors, we will increase the opportunities for meaningful participations in the session.
Our students on the Autism Spectrum process information better when given visual supports paired with verbal directions or expectations.
Visual supports are picture/written word cues that are paired with a verbal cue. This helps your student process information about the behavior routines, skill, or activity. Visual supports you may use with your students could be: pictures, written words, objects, arrangement of the environment, visual boundaries, schedules, maps, labels, organization systems, timelines, and scripts.
Furthermore, visual supports meets the evidence-based practice criteria set by National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder with 18 single case design studies. You can learn more about this evidence-based practiceHERE.
Ideas For Creating Behavior Routines In Speech
My best piece of advice that you can do to improve your behavior routines in speech is to have a plan. Know what your expectations are for students. You also need to know how you will respond when your students ARE doing the expected skill. (Or when they aren’t.)
I would also suggest following the school or classroom behavior management system. By using our own elaborate system, we could be confusing our students. Remember, the best practice is to be consistent! So, I have my own behavior routines for my small groups that I follow.
But when my students need more support, I follow the behaviorist’s/teacher’s recommendations. For example, I have some students using “Working For” charts for “First/Then” charts. I don’t use those supports with my whole caseload. You can find some handy behavior visuals with these charts in myBehavior Visuals resource.
Because I have a large caseload and not always the time to visually write out my therapy lessons on the board, I use a generic therapy structure that I can reference every session. This allows me to change things up, but still follow a consistent, predictable routine.
Use Visual Supports to Reinforce Positive Behaviors
The other important tip is to have visual supports that break down the skills you want your students to use. During a book activity, you have to teach your students how to answer questions while you are reading the book, what their bodies should look like, and the voice volume they need to have while listening to the book.
I use my behavior visuals to teach expectations for transitions, playing a game, and doing a group activity. We even work on the expectations for classroom activities too.
These behavior visuals have been really helpful for teaching the routines of my push-in lessons when students have to move to a new station.
I use the visual supports to reinforce skills that I am seeing such as, “Thanks, Thalia, for being respectful by raising your hand,” or, “I like how Juan is being safe, sitting in his chair.”
When I use the visual supports to share the positive things I am seeing, it naturally helps me ignore the unwanted behaviors. A long time ago, I used a speech reward system with raffle tickets, prize boxes, and earning a jelly bean for each session. It was a LOT to manage. The past few years, I made a goal to focus on teaching routines and making my lessons engaging. I got rid of my prize box about four years ago because it stressed me out, trying to keep it filled. You can hear more about why I got rid of my prize box on a facebook LIVE video I did HERE.
I am happy to report that when you put the efforts into teaching behavior routines and bring in materials that motivate your students, the unwanted behaviors GO AWAY.
Share Your Behavior Management Strategies
What behavior strategies do you use in the therapy room? I would love to know the tools and resources that have been helping your students. Share in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you familiar with the zones of regulation curriculum? It is a popular self regulation curriculum that helps students communicate how they are feeling. SLPs can use zones of regulation activities to help students initiate communication, explain how they are feeling, or what they are needing. Zones of regulation activities can also help students identify how others are feeling and what words/actions they should do when someone is feeling a certain emotion.
At my middle school, I have students on the Autism Spectrum that have a difficult time with regulating their emotions. They need visual and verbal prompts to recognize what type of emotion/feeling they are experiencing in situations. An SLP can work on teaching self-regulation by using the zones of regulation curriculum in therapy. These terms and strategies help improve a child’s ability to express their emotion and make requests/comments for what they need in a social situation.
What is zones of regulation?
Zones of regulation is a curriculum (amazon affiliate links included for your convenience) designed to help children independently self regulate their actions by teaching them to recognize how their body is feeling. They use colors to explain the different emotions. By teaching these zones, students can learn to increase communication initiations by sharing how they are feeling and what activities they need to do to help them stay in the green zone. Increasing communication around emotions helps decrease unwanted behaviors!
If you want to read more about the program and get more of the worksheets, head over to Zones of Regulation website.
Bulletin Boards For Zones Of Regulation
This is a great poster to hang in your room as a visual and use with your students to generate strategies to help them stay or get to a certain zone. Grab a poster for your speech room on Social Thinking.
My SDC teacher Janelle McDaniel made this cute visual bulletin board for her classroom. I think it is awesome! She had the different zones and then pasted the emotions that go on the zones as a visual reminder for students.
Look what else they made in the SDC classroom! The SDC teacher grabbed free paint chip samples from Home Depot and had the kids write the different emotions for the zones. She took pictures of the students acting out the different zones and posted them in the classroom.
Zones Of Regulation Activities For Your Speech Therapy Sessions
I dabbled around on the internet in search of some more “Zones” activities and this is what I found!
Fun with Firsties made a very cool bulletin board in her class with all the ZONES and has some great strategies on how to make a calm down area.
There are visuals in the ZONES book that you can photo copy and use as visuals. The Lower Elementary Cottage made a “tools” book for students to pick a tool for a ZONE to help them get back to green. If they successfully use the tool, they earn a tool coupon in which they can save up to earn a prize.
I found some hilarious video clips on youtube from one of my SDC teachers. They show the different zones people can be in using clips from the Big Bang Theory!
Sheldon in the yellow zone! Super funny!!
Love this clip for the blue zone. The kids got a kick out of this. We were also able to talk about how the other character was feeling too and why it may be unexpected to ask a friend to rub Vics on your chest when you are sick.
Red zone with Sheldon! This one made me laugh the most!!
This video is of Sheldon in the green zone. Some of my kiddos could relate to feeling the most calm when they are left alone, lol.
This video has LOTS of Zones going on! I recommend starting the video at about 1:28 seconds because Kevin Hart says “bitch” in the video. My students LOVE Kevin Hart and they sure got more interested about ZONES when we watched this clip. What activities have you done with the Zones of Regulation? I would love to add some more ideas to my stash of tricks!!
Need more videos to help teach the Zones of Regulation?
Follow my playlist on youtube for videos that help teach the Zones of Regulation HERE.
I used video clips from the movie Elf during the holidays to work on perspective taking and what “zone” people were in. Check out my blog post HERE!
I have a small elementary caseload that I am covering this year. Most of my cuties have articulation goals, so we try to get LOTS of productions in during the session. I see a couple of them for a 5 minute articulation session and then another time during the week in a group. It is imperative that we stay focused during those sessions because I want lots of practice going on with these students, so that they can meet their goals. If one little lady or gent begins to get off task aka silly, then it affects the productivity of the whole group. After giving warnings and many “please, stop talking, messing around, getting out of your seat, etc.”, an idea popped in my head (this happens from time to time, lol). All of a sudden, I blurt out, the next time I have to ask you to stop__________, you will have a speech fine and owe me 10 words to practice. Well, the next time came and I said “you just got a speech fine.” Read off 10 of your words. It worked! I got 10 productions (woot!) and the rest of the session went without a speech fine or off task behavior.
Throughout the next couple of weeks, from time to time, I had to give some speech fines. It was great because I was able to call the student on their behavior, give a quick consequence that ultimately benefited the student (speech practice) and then move on without causing a big reprimand. Now the kids know, if they mess around, they will owe me with more speech practice.
Over break I was able to make these cards to use in my groups. I am just going to put them in a stack near the table and hand them out as needed. What I love the most is you don’t know which card you may get, which can mean 10 word production fine or a 60 word production fine! I also included language fines as well as a sheet of blank speech violation cards, so you can customize as needed! What do you think? Would this work for one of your groups?
Summer is in full swing and I have been enjoying the flexibility in my day with my kids! I have been taking my son to swim team practice, organizing the house, catching up with friends and taking siestas when my 2 year old passes out in the afternoon. In between all the fun, I have been preparing for a presentation with one of my RSP besties teaching about executive functioning! I found this awesome book about our brains (amazon affiliate link included) that really helped me understand how our brain works in everyday people terms.
So many of my speech kids have deficits with executive functioning, especially my students on the Autism spectrum and students with ADD/ADHD, that it is important to know WHAT executive functioning is and tips/tricks to help improve it in the classroom!
I found some really awesome youtube videos that break down what executive functioning is in the classroom and why it is so important for students to develop these skills. This was my favorite video and inspired my freebie activity that I made!
This activity is a fun warm up to help children work on impulse control and flexibility. This activity is based on Brain Rules and used to help with improving executive functioning.
I made visuals for the night/day activity as well as a summer/winter version of the activity. The Pleasantest Thing shares a similar activity using animals and body parts from magazine pictures.
Explain to the student when you show them the “sun”, they need to say “night” or “evening”. When shown the “night” picture, they need to say “morning” or “day”. If the student is struggling with accurately answering, you can use the visual poster and sing or say “Think about the answer, don’t tell me”. Grab the templates for this activity on my TPT store! Follow my Executive Functioning Pinterest Board for more amazing information on executive functioning!
At one of my sites, I work with students on the Autism spectrum in the k/1 and 2nd/3rd grade Moderate-Severe Classrooms. This population can be very tricky to work with because the secret to success is finding what motivates them to communicate! Often times, these little guys and gals have sensory integration issues, so I also have to figure out how to keep them focused and self regulated. Today, I am going to share some gifts that would be perfect for any child with sensory integration needs for all ages! This post contains Amazon affiliate links for your convenience!
I got this for my hubby last Christmas and he was super happy with this stocking stuffer! Aaron’s Crazy Putty comes in a tin with a pound of cool looking putty that will never dry out. If you are having difficulty with focusing or you are feeling antsy, pull this putty out and stretch, pull and squish it for ten minutes. I love that it comes in lots of different colors and wouldn’t make kids stand out. This would be great for students with ADHD or on the autism spectrum!
Every child is different, but I have several little kindergarteners who are developmentally functioning between 18 months and 2 1/2 years, so they are wiggly and have short attention spans. I am able to do therapy with this cuties while they sit in the bean bag chairs! They love to request “squish” and “more” when I take a pillow and give them squeezes while sitting in the bean bag chair. I thought this chevron pattern was so cute!!
These are currently on my wishlist to purchase! These are great blocks to work on requesting, stacking, colors and some basic concepts. You can also work on joint attention and cause/effect when knocking down the blocks. These are very cool because you can squeeze them, chew them and they can’t break!!
The OT at my site gave me a trampoline to have in my room when some of my kids need to calm down. I have used this with both my general education students when they need a quick break from sitting. Jumping for 5 minutes really helps some of my kids get ready for learning or releasing energy! We have one at home for my little ones.
I just got this order in before Thanksgiving break! It is a very cool product and I am excited to try it out with my students in the Autism classrooms. This sand stays clumped when you squeeze it and doesn’t make a giant mess!!
I have all sorts of fun animal puppets in my room and just ordered this with my school budget money! It is sooooo cute!! My little ones love to have my puppets eat their nose, hands, ears as well as feed it play food and whatever else I bring in. Puppets have saved me a lot in therapy because I can get lots of engagement with them.
My five year loves his tent! Right now he has made a tent with sheets and chairs and has been camping out in it for the last couple of days. There is something about being confined in a smaller space that helps little ones feel comfortable and happy. I do therapy in a little space in the corner of the room that is blocked off and has bean bag chairs for my two 5 year old girls. I get more joint attention, eye contact and communication when we are all squeezed in!
This peanut ball is on my wishlist!! It is just like an exercise ball, but easier for little ones to sit on it independently. This is perfect for your movers and shakers.
I plan on getting a set of finger paints for my 17 month old, but this is a great exploration activity for your younger clients as long as you don’t mind cleaning up a mess! This is a great product to recommend to parents to use at home with their child.
I am a big fan of using music in the home and during therapy to help stimulate language (I need to use music more)! As a child, I listened to Raffle ALL THE TIME and still enjoy listening to him. If you push into the classroom setting, circle time is a great way to incorporate music and communication. Down by the Bay…….sing if you know it!
This looks like the coolest resource to have! Definitely on my wishlist to add to the therapy room. You can sit in it, spin, hide under it, look through the holes and lots more. The other cool thing is that it’s recommended for ages 24 months to 7 years, so it can be used with LOTS of kids.
Last up, I have to share wooden puzzles from Melissa and Doug. They have great puzzles that are stimulating and you can cover so many skills with them! This latch key puzzle is great for working on open and close, fine motor skills, turn taking, asking for help and requesting for turns. I also have the fishy puzzle that has magnets and it’s really fun!!
I hope this generates some ideas for what you need in your therapy room and what to recommend to parents for great gifts for their children. Hope you have a great rest of December!! I am looking forward to the 2 week break that is coming up!!