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May 9, 2013

Therapy Materials

I scored majorly yesterday!  I found myself doing some spring cleaning and donating bags of clothing to the local non-profit thrift store and decided to check out their book section, namely, the book selection.  I am always on the hunt for high-quality, affordable items that can be added to my therapy materials collection, so when I began to amass a huge stack of to-buy books, I began to get really excited.

Since my graduation looms near (August of 2013), and I don't have any specific ideas of where and what populations I will be working with (although I know what my heart is set on!), when I add to my materials collection, I never know quite what I will be looking for... should I buy functional materials for a skilled nursing facility (SNF), or should I grab a box of toys for early intervention purposes?

For now, the specifics remain unclear, but I always figure it is smart to grab things as they become available, so this opportunity was perfect for me, should I be immediately working with children or not.

Here's my recent bounty from the thrift store haul:

The books were sold at .25 or .50 cents a piece, making this haul roughly $5!  You could go to the local major chain bookstore and spend that price on ONE book. What a deal!

So adorable... I was tickled pink to snag this book!

I am incredibly picky about the types of books I snag for any type of language therapy (or articulation therapy, for that matter).  Here is a general run-down of some of the elements I look for in a book that will be added to my speech materials collection:

1. Quality
Seems like an obvious requirement, but I figured it needed mentioning.  If I am buying a second-hand/used book, I want to make sure that the quality of the book is in good shape.  No coloring on the pages, no torn or ripped parts, spines and bindings are intact, that sort of thing.  There's no sense in using a book that has defects, as my experience has shown me that children (and especially those with autism) sometimes perseverate on the defects, which can be very distracting and lessen the quality time you will be spending as you attend to the book.

2. Hardback
Call me very picky, and this mostly only applies to children's books, but I really, really prefer to mostly use hardback covered books.  I know this might limit my selection, but here's why: my experience in using books has shown that hard cover books are 1.) easier for small children's hands to grasp and hold, 2.) the books are easier to sit up or prop up at a slant for easier reading, 3.) they tend to be more durable and have longer lives as therapy materials, and 4.) when laying flat on the table, they tend to open up and stay open with more ease.

3.  Content
The book needs to serve a purpose.  Yes, research shows that literacy awareness is important for children and early intervention practices, but for me (again, there's that picky side of me!), the book needs to offer more than just a 'cute story' and 'pretty pictures.' Here are some elements (not exhaustive) that I look for in a book:
a.) Rhymes: helps promote phonemic awareness
b.) Themes/categories: such as animals, things you wear, days of the week, etc.
c.) Colors/numbers
d.) Holidays: Valentine's day, birthdays, New Years, etc.
e.) Manipulables: pop-up books, "fold up or down cover flaps," etc.
f.) Concepts such as spatial or temporal elements (like top/bottom, night/day for example)
g.) Emotions, etiquette, or social pragmatic skills
h.) Sequences: the story has a series of 'steps' towards a goal, can be used for sequencing elements
i.) Seasons: spring, winter, fall, summer

Manipulables! yay! I love 3D book elements... helps to keep the child's attention!  

4. Speech sounds
I also enjoy using books to facilitate articulation therapy (and, in turn, it always enhances language exposure as well, which is an added bonus to using fun books in articulation therapy).  As we well know, in some cases, many children on our caseloads run into problems with both articulation and language deficits, so I get very excited when I am able to incorporate multiple elements into a treatment session!  It's like multitasking at its very best. :-)  That being said, I like to check my books for reoccurring speech sounds or books that include many usages of some of the more common phonemes that are targeted in therapy, such as /k/, /g/, /s/, /z/, /l/, /th/, and that pesky /r/. If I know a client is working on the targeted /s/ sound, and therapy has progressed to the phrase, sentence, or generalization level, then books are some of the best therapy tools that can be used-- most children love attending to books with an adult.  Their excitement about the process is definitely infectious for me!

That's it for now, but I'm sure I will post more in the future about books and literacy fun.  One of the best parts of this career (for me, and I am sure many others) is the element of finding interesting therapy materials to offer to our clients.  As always, happy hunting!