I have realized recently how important props can be when conducting speech therapy in groups. Groups provide a natural setting to practice such things as turn taking, using positive speech, and solving disagreements in a positive fashion. The participants of the pragmatic groups generally have difficulty seeing another individuals perspective and do not even realize when they have given an insult. The challenge is to provide feedback to individuals in a timely fashion without singling individuals out. When pointing out mistakes in a group, an instructor runs the risk of provoking an argument and disrupting the session for the rest of the group. A few props and starting rules can make a lot of difference. It often helps to have the group formulate rules that can then be posted on the wall and numbered. Typical rules are allowing everyone a chance to talk without interruption, speaking positively, taking turns etc. They can be referred to by number as needed. When expectations are set ahead by the group the instructor becomes less of an enforcer and more of a coach. Other props I use are a plastic microphone from the dollar store and a spatula with a cardboard pancake taped to it. The microphone is used to stress turn taking. The child holding the microphone has the designated turn to talk. The spatula is handed to the student who made a cutting or discouraging remark to another student. They are instructed to make a positive remark in replacement thereby flipping the pancake.
I’ve posted a new social pragmatic activity. I’ve called it Crocodile Pass. Please look in the social pragmatic section to download the directions. This activity encourages students to learn from mistakes and to move on. A lot of my students are afraid of making a mistake so won’t even make a guess. They need to learn it is ok to make guesses and mistakes can be OK. We can learn from them. It also requires them to use their short-term memory and make inferences to predict a pattern. It encourages using observation as a learning method. So have fun with it. I’m sure you will find your own variations. We had a group that had some low functioning and high functioning students with autism. One guy that would stay on the side lines finally joined the group and participated for the first time. It made my day.
For the speech therapist out there, I’ve added a link for pragmatic goals and objectives on the social language page. The activities I’ve been posting have been used with a language group and the students have been working on these goals and objectives.