I recently went to a continuing education course on theories and methods for play-based therapy (presenter: Meridith P. Harold, Ph.D., CCC-SLP). What did I learn? I am a horrible play partner! Too often, I am more focused on eliciting a high number of required targets than really doing play therapy like I intend to. Dr. Harold brought up the theory of playful learning (aka child-centered therapy, structured communicative play, or guided play). Let me give some insight without going into too much detail and then I’ll give an example!
We know that the closer we are to “work,” the higher the target density will be and the closer we are to “play,” the higher generalization will be. Our goal should be to move playful learning as close to true play as we can by increasing target density in our play schemes. Also, think of this concept if nothing else on this page! Capturing attention–> Forming memories. We need to grab their attention and make them genuinely interested in a topic in order for them to create memorable contexts to form memories. That being said, research shows that we should sacrifice as few elements of “real play” in order to give the best experience.
Let me give an example (say targeting /f/) of how I can be a bad play partner vs. good play partner.
Keeping all the pieces of Mr. Potato Head to myself and making my client say the target 5x before I relinquish one of the pieces.
Let’s talk about that… 1.) How mean am I?!?! 2.) Are they really paying attention to the target sound and will they remember it or are they just giving me what I want so he can get the piece? and 3.) What will they remember during therapy that day…the funny face they made on Mr. Potato Head or how to produce the /f/ sound? I think we all know the answer to that…
Let’s be the hero today and be firefighters! (Bonus if you have hats to wear;]) So act out a play scheme of putting out fires. You will give plenty of models of /f/ but only have one word to target.
Required target(child must produce target in order for play to continue)- fire (i.e. whenever your client sees a “fire” he has to yell the target word with a good /f/ sound and you will come help him put it out. If the /f/ isn’t correct, you don’t come (have a straight face and quietly say, “for me to come help, I need to hear “fire” with your good /f/ sound…and then prompt him to do it).
Suggested target (modeled by clinician but not required by client)- fireman, firetruck, save the fish (…fat cat, fan, finger, foot, fries, ect. ) find the dog/other animals, free the dog/other animals, first get the hose, save Fran (Fred, Fanny, ect.). You get the picture. Model, model, model!!
So let’s remember 3 things:
- Playful learning-move target density toward play (generalization!)
- Capturing attention=forming memories (generalization!)
- Make therapy FUN! (generalization! …and a happy client! 🙂 )
Questions or comments? Let’s chat below!