I was just reading a post on ASHAsphere about ASD and gymnastics and dontcha know – it got me to thinkin’.
I think therapy and movement should go hand-in-hand as much as possible – not only for kids on the spectrum but for kids with all sorts of disorders. Children are active by nature and they learn through exploration. You can’t stick a kid at a table and tell them to make the /s/ sound. There needs to be more and I’ve found that by utilizing the whole body I see better results.
When I say the “whole body” I really mean it. In a university clinic setting you’re often in teensy rooms full of other furniture and equipment, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit in tiny chairs with both feet on the floor. Implementing a wide variety of sensory input during therapy can make a world of difference. Using gestures and tactile cues is more intuitive and natural than you might think.
I discovered that this sort of whole-body cueing and feedback works really well with children with apraxia of speech, but it also works well with kids who have less involved developmental speech disorders as well. It is so easy to add a visual component to a model of a sound – think of how you might “act out” a /p/ or a /k/. Beside verbally telling a child how to make a /n/ and showing them in a mirror, what kind of visual cue might be appropriate? What works for each kid is different but what is often the same is that they want and need to MOVE. Make that natural desire work to your advantage. Clap or jump on stops, move your hands like a fricative, SHOW them plosion. And make them do it with you. Not only can this be fun but it adds that extra sensory-kinesthetic-proprioceptive feedback. Instead of using movement as a reward, implement it right into the actual teaching and then you’re not wasting therapy time shooting hoops every time little Timmy says his /r/ accurately. Plus it doesn’t really hurt anything so why not?
Get those kiddos up and out of their seats. They are ninos! They need to release their wiggles. (Oh but seriously I’ve have kids fall down and crash into things so, uh, be careful)