As a speech-language pathologist who has practiced for a few years now, I realize that I need to be a little more selfish. I think to myself, “What helps me be the best SLP I can be?” The answer for me involves a full stomach and choosing treatment tasks to create a fun session for my patients and me. Working primarily with children with acquired brain injury at a pediatric rehabilitation hospital, I constantly think of new ways to target functional skills for this population.
I find three tasks particularly suited for targeting skills with these kids, while also providing a fun and interactive time for us both.
Planning a party: Who doesn’t love a party? My parties typically occur for no reason other than I really want to eat cake and ice cream. Planning a party targets many components of executive functioning, such as time management, planning and organization. I usually complete this activity with a patient over multiple days, or even a couple of weeks. We start by designing the party and listing the needs. We then move to making invitations, creating decorations and setting up the party. Finally, we greet guests and make conversation with other party-goers. These tasks each involve multiple steps to follow, and patients enjoy the responsibility of making decisions.
More on treating patients with acquired brain injury
Playing piano: I always incorporate the process of learning new information/skills into sessions for my patients with brain injuries. Playing piano is an effective way to teach skills via an enjoyable activity. I typically label a number of keys on the piano by note to work on sequencing and memory by recalling notes for various beginner songs. This activity targets organizational skills and immediate/short-term memory while learning a new skill.
Building Lego sets: This popular activity targets following visual directions and self-monitoring, as we follow picture instructions to construct various Lego items. This activity allows the child to compare two pictures to find the new additions, plan what pieces get used next, and allows the child to problem-solve if a block is placed incorrectly. They also must independently follow visual directions.
My primary goals in treating children with acquired brain injuries involve addressing the needs of my patients and choosing tasks that target a wide array of skills. Adapting skills to target attention, impulse control and attention to detail is key to helping my patients to reach their goals.
What are you doing in your sessions to mix things up? Please share in the comment section below.
Shayne Kimble, MA, CCC-SLP, is the primary SLP in the inpatient rehabilitation unit at Shriner’s Hospital for Children-Houston. His current interests are dysphagia and brain injury in children. SAKimble@shrinenet.org