How to Use Visuals in Speech Therapy
Visuals serve so many purposes inside a speech therapy room... and beyond! Even in teletherapy sessions, I’ve found myself utilizing visuals more than ever to target students' articulation, language, pragmatics, and fluency goals.
Check out these must-see (get it?) ways to use visuals in speech therapy!
Using Visuals to Supplement Practice
Let's start with maybe the most obvious. SLPs use visuals alongside a variety of other activities as an added support to practice a skill. And the best part? Visuals are not one and done. They can be used throughout an activity, across multiple activities, and from session to session.
In face-to-face therapy, this often means keeping the page with the visual nearby while using another material at the same time. For teletherapy, splitting the screen between the two windows (the visual and Boom Card deck, for example) is where the magic happens.
For example, a student is working to identify the emotions of people in a photo. A list of feeling words next to the photo provides some vocabulary for the student and demonstrates relationships between the words to support them with labeling emotions.
For a student with a goal to answer wh- questions, this reference page for answering different types of questions is a great addition to a picture scene such as this one.
Using Visuals to Teach and Practice Strategies
Visuals are invaluable for teaching strategies to students. This is especially true for instances when teaching compensatory strategies to help the child be more successful in everyday life.
Teaching strategies for goals such as auditory memory, speech fluency, and speech intelligibility is therapy time well spent. Learning strategies can assist students when listening and talking to friends or teachers throughout their day. Did someone say carryover? More on that in a second....
Of course, learning a visual (like a set of strategies) is only the beginning because students need to understand when and how to use those strategies. Incorporating those strategies in other activities allows students to practice them both in and outside of the classroom or speech therapy room. And that leads us to...
Using Visuals to Promote Home Carryover and Generalization
Providing visuals (along with verbal or written explanations and examples) to parents and teachers is a great way to inform those at home and in the classroom what the student is working on. It also helps facilitate additional practice and carryover of the skill to other environments.
Since visuals are often a single page (or smaller) they’re a quick reference for the fridge, bathroom mirror, or the student's desk. This allows a student to utilize their learned communication repair strategies, for example, outside of speech therapy.
Using Visuals to Model or Demonstrate
As the old saying goes (say it with me), a picture is worth a thousand words. We know that many people learn best when given a combination of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic methods, so we can support new learning by utilizing visuals. It might just be what helps something click for a student!
A visual input could be a sentence strip to target a particular syntax structure, a breakdown of object features, or a diagram of the mouth for eliciting an articulation sound.
By the way, you can get this FREE oral cavity visual in my shop if you need one. Sure beats searching Googling for an image every time you need one (ask me how I know). If you need a more interactive lesson for teaching the anatomy of speech production, grab this one!
Using Visuals to Provide Structure and Reinforcement
Another popular way to use visuals in speech therapy is to display a schedule of activities for the session. SLPs often find benefit in using a visual schedule so that students understand the tasks that will be completed that session. A visual schedule might include picture symbols, or be as simple as typed or written words for older kids.
Visuals can also be used to establish a predictable daily routine and facilitate language. Repeatedly seeing the images each session helps students become familiar with the vocabulary and concepts of the routine, which builds language and gives them more confidence.
A visual can also help students see their progress in an activity and provide a structure for reinforcement. Basically, visuals help keep us all (students and SLPs) on track during our sessions!
Using Visuals to Provide Feedback
For many speech and language skills, a visual can be an effective way to provide feedback. For example, an SLP can help a student be more aware of their rate of speech using a visual to accompany their verbal feedback. The visual serves to make the abstract concept of "speaking rate" more understandable.
Visuals to Provide Reminders and Review
Visuals are a great way to remind students of prior teaching and practice. A quick show of a visual allows an SLP to review important concepts that were worked on in previous sessions. I'm looking at you, winter break!
In face-to-face therapy, visuals posted in the speech room are the definition of functional decor. Look how these posters actually help students in therapy, rather than distract them.
For SLPs, visuals are the real VIP of speech therapy. Visuals help our therapy activities go further, support students with new learning, and make carryover seamless. If you need a bunch of visuals to save you a bunch of time, grab a BUNDLE that includes resources for speech, language, pragmatics, and fluency.... for both younger and older students!