Although memory is not directly related to speech, children with language impairments can frequently struggle to recall information. This is particularly true in cases where speech difficulties are due to a cognitive impairment. By incorporating various fun activities into sessions, speech pathologists in pediatric speech therapy jobs can prevent memory improvement from becoming a chore, while simultaneously helping children to improve their language skills and enhance mental organization. The following therapist resources are a good place to start.
Fill in the Blanks
Children struggling with word retrieval speak with many pauses, use filler words, or rely on non-specific terms, such as “thing” and “stuff.” This is even true for children with expansive vocabulary — the difficult stems not in knowing the word, but in accessing the word when it is needed.
“Fill in the blanks” activities strengthen word retrieval skills, by providing children with time to think. By using common phrases – or creating sentences where the word to use is obvious – children can develop rapid retrieval skills. You can find a worksheet for this activity, as well as other word retrieval tasks, through Speech and Language Kids.
Flashcards for Associations
Even individuals who are NOT in need of speech and language therapy can find it difficult to recall names at times! Speech pathologists can help children with this skill by creating an association game.
The preparation is simple: simply print out flashcards with a picture of a person on one side, and the person’s name on the other. Together, come up with associations that will help children remember each name. You can base your methods on unusual facial features, rhymes, or alliteration. After you’ve created associations for every person, test how many names a child can remember just by looking at the picture.
These instructions will help you make flashcards for therapy sessions.
Tell a simple (but interesting) story. Once you’ve finished, ask questions to see if they can recall the details. Involve speaking skills as much as possible by asking children to answer in full sentences or to tell the story back in their own words.
You can make this activity easier by accompanying the tale with pictures; make it more challenging by increasing the length and details.
Get started with some of these short stories.
Adapt a regular game of Simon Says into an activity to practice language and build rehearsal memory skills. After giving a direction, participants should repeat the command before carrying out the action — but only if the sentence starts with “Simon Says.” This challenges both concentration and memory, while involving an element of speaking.
Describing a Picture
Present children with a picture, asking them to study the image carefully for up to two minutes, and to try to remember as much as possible. Remove the picture, and ask them to list objects, or to describe what was happening. Next, return to the picture, and work together to create a story that incorporates the picture’s elements. This will help to build associations, making the image easier to remember. Take the picture away and see if children are able to answer more questions this time. You can start with basic yes/no questions, but if they are able to answer many correctly, get more specific (asking about location, color, etc.)
Here are a few simple ones to try and a more complex scene for children who are developing more advanced memory skills.
If you’re working with a child who is proficient at reading, you can play the forbidden words game. Name several words the child is forbidden to speak, and then give the child a text in which these words appear frequently. When the child comes to one of these words, he or she should make a “bleep” sound instead. Through this activity, children are able to practice their reading skills, while involving their memory.
Combine Actions With Music
Most likely, the children you work with will already know at least a few songs to sing with actions, but you can always teach them a new one. Both of you should sing just the first few lines out loud and then continue singing in your heads while still carrying out the actions. You can join in again for the last line or two to confirm kids are still following the song. This activity will help children develop internal rehearsal skills, which are useful for short-term memory.
Convert the classic game of memory (where you turn over cards two at a time to uncover pairs) into a speech and language therapy activity. This is especially useful for children with very limited speech. Ask questions such as “What’s that?” and “What did you find?” or encourage children to finish sentences by saying “Look, I found the …”
This game elicits visual image to develop recall skills. To play, start by saying something along the lines of “I went on vacation and took [object].” The children should then repeat what you said, plus add another item to the end of the sentence. Keep this going to create a long list, until the child is unable to recall everything. If the child is struggling to remember objects, come up with absurd ideas — these are easier to recall!
Using a toy phone or an old cell phone with a keypad, ask children to pretend to make a phone call. Make up a string of numbers, asking the child to repeat before dialing. You can continue to practice speaking with this game by role-playing a call for either a realistic situation, or something obscure and funny. This activity is great for both improving general speaking skills, and enhancing confidence for using a phone.
Have you had success with any of the above activities? What games and resources do YOU use for memory recall? Share you feedback and suggestions with us in the comments.
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