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What Does a Speech Therapy Session Look Like for Young Preschoolers?

While it is a bit easier to picture the structure of a therapy session for an elementary-aged student working on sounds such as "r", "l" or "s" while using flashcards or board games, there is much more ambiguity for parents who don't know what to expect from a session with their children who are under five-years-old. So, what does speech therapy look like for the younger set of clients? The answer is play-based therapy activities. A parent of a toddler or a young preschool-aged student should expect for their child's therapy session to look like... play-time!

How does this differ from the child's free play with Mom, Dad, or siblings at home every day? The difference lies in the strategies that the speech pathologist uses during play with the child.  During play-based therapy, the clinician will often take the child's lead in order to maximize engagement, enjoyment, and communication opportunities for the child. Multiple therapy goals can be targeted and adapted around items of interest for the child, which makes play-based therapy flexible whether your child is receiving therapy at school, in the home, or in the clinic.  The clinician will utilize techniques such as parallel talk during play (i.e. narrating what the child is doing in order to provide the child with the vocabulary or phrasing that he/she might not access spontaneously yet), create turn-taking opportunities to foster social skills, and model functional play (using common objects by their intended purpose, i.e. pushing a train along a train track) or pretend play (i.e. feeding a bottle to a baby doll) skills. One of the biggest things that a parent can expect NOT to see in a play-based therapy session is the clinician commanding the child to "say ___." Alternatively, a parent WILL see the clinician modeling a target sound/word/phrase to the child and giving a wait time of 5-10 seconds to see if the child will respond before moving on.  While it might look like the speech pathologist is just playing with your child, rest assured that a variety of strategies are being implemented at any given moment in order to create a positive communication environment and maximize participation to foster reciprocal interaction. 

If you have concerns about your toddler's communication skills, contact a speech-language pathologist today! Call us at 404-808-5427 or email

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