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Taking Speech Therapy Outdoors

Do you take speech therapy outdoors? Speech and language therapy can happen just about anywhere, and in some cases unfortunately does. We have all either heard or experienced having to do therapy in closets, in the hall or some other challenging part of a school. Yes, I’m looking at you server room.  Given all that,  I’m a big fan of switching up therapy and taking it out of the therapy room or the classroom.  
Some people may be reading this and thinking, I can’t do that.  You absolutely can. It sometimes take more planning.  You may think, “How can you target specific goals out of the class/therapy room?” or” How do you take data?” or  “Are you allowed to leave the building?” or “What about confidentiality?”   I will admit that these can be challenges but with some problem solving, it can be a fantastic experience for you and your students. Here are why you should think about taking speech therapy outside.
 
Has three children (two girls and a boy) looking down.  They are outside.  The title of the blog post is at the bottom, "Taking Speech Therapy Outdoors."
 

1. Generalization

You probably have had a student that can perform a skill when they are with you, and in the therapy room, but the minute you change something up, it’s like they have never done it before.  It’s like taking a test, if you take an exam in the room that you learned the material, you are statistically likely to do better than if you took the test in another place.  Changing up therapy and bringing speech therapy outside will allow children to work on skills in other environments with supports and hopefully lessen the effects of the therapy room. Plus children will engage in a vast array of speech and language skills outside so why not improve their skills and bring speech therapy outdoors?
 

2. Can Make the Activity Harder or Easier (huh?)

Aside from generalization, being in a different environment more difficult.  There may be different sights, sounds, and smells that might make it harder to pay attention. The area may not be easily defined and children may want to wander away.  At the same time, the different sights, sounds, smells, and sitting arrangements might help students become more regulated and increases their ability to pay attention. Children need to move and what better way to move than doing speech therapy outdoors?
 

3. Boredom

I will admit that I sometimes get bored working in the same room all the time and to be honest my students do too. It is fun to change things up a little.  Most children see working outside as a treat (even in the middle of winter) and tend to be more on their best behaviour. We may use the same materials but how the children interact with those materials may look different.  Particularly during play, children will often add different elements to their play scripts and structures.
 

4.  Therapy can look different when you are outside the therapy room

You may be moving around or don’t have as easy access to your therapy materials.  When I mix it up, I’m working on functional skills in more real-world situations. I will use the playground to work on prepositions, play skills, expanding vocabulary and sentence length, as well as working on verbs and verb tenses. To get ideas on how to assess play skills in the playground, check out this blog post, click here. I also seem to be more intentional in what materials I use. I may take one activity and use in a wider variety of ways. If I can, I try to keep all the speech materials inside.
 

5. It can provide some form of exercise

Depending on what you are doing, it can provide some form of exercise. Exercise primes the brain for learning and remembering that information.  It improves focus and attention.  It can also improve motivation. Exercise helps create new nerve cells. All are reasons to bring speech therapy outdoors and get children moving.
I am a big fan of being outside when you can.  Taking nature walks or walks around the neighbourhood, also allow children to get some exercise and move around which helps some children concentrate not only during your session but when they go back to class. Also the playground can provide some wonderful opportunity to work on language goals.  For more ideas about how to be more active during speech therapy, check out this blog post (click here).
 
If you are looking for ideas on how to do push-in outdoor therapy, click here.  Being outside and doing speech therapy can be a beneficial and wonderful experience. Do you take speech therapy outside? Thinking about it?  Let me know.

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