When I visit a classroom to screen students for speech concerns or when I stop to pick up a student to administer a formal evaluation or when I come and get my students for their regular speech therapy, the teacher will introduce me, “Mrs. Wu is here, Kate. She’s going to play some games with you!” While it is true that I do use games in speech and language therapy sometimes, I do not use games when I’m screening a student or evaluating them.
Hearing that they are “going to play games” during our first interaction can be particularly detrimental to building rapport during our first session. If it’s an evaluation, they quickly figure out when they come to my room and sit down in front of an easel with picture stimuli that what they are doing is different from a “game.”
You would be surprised how frequently teachers tell students I’m going to play games with them. Even if I chose to play a game with a student during therapy, it’s not free play. I insist that they answer and ask questions. They have to practice their speech sounds before a turn. I make them interact with a partner with models or cues. I help the student expand their utterances so that it’s more than a one or two word response. I show them visual materials so that they name objects in a category. While it might be fun, learning is happening with my assistance.
Thinking that they are going to play a game sets us both up for failure. Their expectations are not going to be fulfilled. Here’s what to say instead:
- “Maria, this is the speech pathologist, Mrs. Wu. She wants to meet you.” The teacher has now told the student that I want to learn more about the student in a way that leaves it open-ended regarding what we will be doing. Suggested use: screening. Suggested grades: Pre-K and kindergarten.
- “Juan, this is the speech pathologist, Mrs. Wu. She wants to show you some pictures.” Being direct with kids is the best idea. Looking at pictures and naming them is necessary in both therapy and evaluation. Suggested use: screening, evaluation, or therapy. Suggested grades: Pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade.
- “Johnny, this is the speech pathologist, Mrs. Wu. She wants to talk to you for a little while in the speech room.” The student now expects to go with me and understands we will be talking. Suggested use: Screening, assessment, or therapy. Suggested grade levels: PK and up
- “Joey, this is the speech pathologist, Mrs. Wu. She’s going to interview you.” This statement sets the expectations appropriately. Joey knows then that I want to talk to him and learn more about him. Suggested use: Screening or assessment. Suggested grade levels: Grade 3 and up
- “Jane, this is the speech pathologist, Mrs. Wu. She wants to give you a test in her room.” Why try to be evasive with older students? Suggested use: Screening or assessment. Suggested grade levels: Grade 3 and up