ninja turtle toyAs you know, I enjoyed speaking to masters students in speech pathology at Northwestern University about a week ago. I really like to share ideas on how to make therapy fun and effective with the best toys. I received the following note from one of the students and thought I would share me response as it might be helpful to others. It did take me back to my days as a student when I was diligently planning for each client, looking through the materials room at what was available and then going into my therapy room with the one way mirror, knowing I might be observed–a little scary:

Hello Sherry,

I am currently a SLP graduate student at NU and heard you come speak to us a couple weeks ago! I am currently trying to teach a 4-9 year old boy how to use the correct pronouns ( he, her, his, hers, she, he, they, them). Instead of saying “she is sleeping” he will say ” her sleeping” or instead of ” they are running” he will say ” them running.” Our last session we tried playing with a mr. and mrs. potato head but he was not having it. Do you have any ideas of what toys I could use for our next session, or any recommendations on how I could help demonstrate this? 

I just started working with a little girl who has the same goals so I am right in that space too! Here are a couple of tips that might help.

  • Find out what interests your almost 5 year-old boy. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are sort of go-to therapy materials for 2 and 3 year olds but my guess is he would much rather talk about ninja turtles or legos Ninjago, Chima or super heroes. I was at a 5 year-old’s house yesterday and he shared his prized ninja turtle toy that holds his weapons under his shell (now you can work on “his” weapons!)
  • Make sure the boy and girl figures or drawings are clearly different for contrast in modeling feminine and masculine pronouns. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head might not be as obvious as a mom and dad doll figure like the Fisher Price “Happy Family” set which has great accessories like beach bags, fire pits, camping tents etc.
  • Model one pronoun such as “she” and get it fairly established before introducing the next one, “he.” I’ve found this is less confusing and the child feels mastery over the one you are bombarding her with.
  • imgres-7Use books to model the pronoun you are working on. Read a phrase, emphasize the pronoun, “He is in the batmobile,” and your little client will learn to repeat after you. Over time you will fade your prompts and be able to point to a picture for him to describe it.
  • Use playdoh to add props to your scene, maybe a soccer ball “he” could kick or a bat that “he” could swing.