How To Make Speech In The Gym Work

How To Make Speech In The Gym Work– Plus Tips for ‘Push-in’ Speech

Have you ever done speech therapy in the gym? We get assigned to work in all kinds of places. But sometimes it even makes sense to have some sessions in the gym! Read on to get some helpful tips for how to make it all work.

social language - gymnasium

Social skills like turn-taking and being a good loser are built into good sportsmanship. This is part of gym class. If you have a student with difficulties playing and losing games, see if this causes any problems in gym class. 

Get Teacher Feedback

It’s a good idea to talk to each of your students’ teachers about their strengths and weaknesses when you get a chance. This gives you valuable information about how their strengths and weaknesses are impacting classroom performance. Sometimes you can be surprised to find out how well your students do (or don’t) use strategies to cope with problem skills in classroom situations! Use this information to help prioritize which skill to address first.

For students with language problems, speak with one of the academic subject teachers. But for social skills problems,  try talking to the gym teacher first! Good social skills are vital in gym class. And this is most likely the largest class with opportunities for social interactions that your special needs student has.

Planning for Speech Therapy in the Gym

Once you have spoken to the gym teacher and co-ordinated on skills that the student is lacking, it is time to get to work!  During the first time in the gym session, get some baseline data. Come prepared with a checklist of social skills behaviors (and the associated vocabulary) that you know your student is lacking. If you are just getting started, download this free social skills checklist for upper elementary to high school to help you out. 

While you are there, take advantage of this opportunity! Get some qualitative data about how your student interacts with others. Also, pay attention to how the ‘popular’ kids interact and especially the language they use. This way you can teach your students the socially acceptable phrases and behaviors for your school population.

Note + or – for any instances of the expected communicative behavior. Also, keep a time count of how long the student was being observed and a checkmark for every social interaction your student has. This way you will have two different ways to measure progress: percentages and a time count.  Some students avoid interacting with others. Then the only change you might see over time could be an increase in the number of social interactions.

How to Make Progress in ‘Push-in’ Speech

Where do you actually carry out your therapy plan to make the most progress? This can differ from one SLP to another based on their relationship with the gym teacher and the age/learning style of the student.

Develop a rapport with the teacher so you can effectively deliver therapy in any classroom setting.  You are going to be limited in what you can accomplish if you must be completely quiet and follow along with all of the teacher’s directions. But if you can co-teach, or even better, plan some activities together, the classroom or gym can be a good place to build skills.

In my opinion, the flexibility to do both settings is in the best interest of the student. Some skills need to be taught and role-played before expecting students to apply them in the situation. The same way we first practice driving skills in an empty parking lot before going on the road! It’s a great benefit to be able to change locations according to how applicable that day’s lesson is to the skills you need to address in therapy.

The age of the student and the type of school also affect the decision of location. Preschool and early elementary students are not self-conscious. They often love the added attention of an extra adult in the room. Many early childhood classroom activities involve play and books, which are ideal for speech therapy goals.

Learning sports activities in the gym at young ages includes work on following directions and building interpersonal skills. And teachers, including the gym teacher, may be grateful to have an extra adult in the room. It is a help for kids who are not self-sufficient yet.

Include Your Older Students in Therapy Decisions

Being seen with a specialist can be embarrassing for older students. This may cause more problems with social interactions for your student. In this case, try doing an initial assessment in the gym from a corner. Then touch base frequently with the gym teacher to see if any changes have been noted in the skills you discussed. Sometimes it only takes a few minutes of discussion or the use of a checklist.

Discuss the problem directly with your older student (when no-one else can hear) and get their point of view using a self-rating scale. Let them know that you are working together with the gym teacher to help changes happen there. Then they can feel free to discuss with you any problems they are encountering. You can also find out how your tips are working for them. Older students make better progress when they know what is expected of them. Even more so when they are participants in the changes.

Benefits of Working in the Gym

There are definite benefits to working in the gym!

  1. You can develop a good working relationship with a teacher you probably don’t often cross paths with.
  2. It is great for you and your student to get a chance to move around!
  3. Working in the gym may be a more acceptable choice for older students if there is no other time slot available for therapy.
  4. You may find that bringing students to the gym for a few shots is a great way to reinforce getting therapy work done.
  5. You are building skills that will impact your students’ daily life in the actual setting.

One year, my office was on the stage in the school gym! It gave me an easy way to explore the benefits of doing speech therapy in the gym. Give it a try!

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I’m Linda, an SLP who loves helping you build effective communication skills for your students using strategies and visuals. Pictures are time consuming, so let me make your life easier!

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