I really enjoy ASHA Leader Magazine’s new format and especially look forward to the “Blogjam” section, since I’m a blogger and have even been featured in it. In the March issue one of my favorite SLP blogs, If Only I Had Super Powers, was highlighted as speech pathologist, Cheri Chin honestly shared the challenges of engaging kids with multiple special needs in a social skills group. Many of us can relate as we plan lessons with the best of intensions and they “dissolve into chaos.”
Bring on the puppets! Cheri found as series of lessons that incorporate puppets. The kids started to participate, talk about the characters outside of the group, and she said one child wouldn’t enter the room unless it was time for Social Skills Group! The format became so successful and popular that they ran out of lessons. After receiving a turtle, flamingo and octopus puppet for Christmas she decided to write her own series of lessons based on Tilly the Turtle, Frank Flamingo and Oscar the Octopus.
Puppets are a wonderful resource for speech therapists as we encourage kids to talk and build their language skills. Puppets can be that little reinforcement for kids working on articulation, draw their attention back to a task or help develop conversational skills. Recent PAL winning puppets by Folkmanis are so realistic and engaging with kids, often with the ability to move tails and wings as well as mouths. Because they have fact sheets accompanying each animal, I can start the lesson by giving kids a little background on their pet so we have a place to start the conversation. Saying appropriate things at the right time can be very difficult for kids on the autism spectrum, so puppets can be an aide to help them in language lessons.