Autism, For Parents, Language Therapy, Older Friends, Toy Reviews and Uses

Age-Respectful Toy Alternatives for Older Speech Therapy Students with Different Skill Levels

The students who seem to wiggle their way deepest in my heart are those with diagnoses beyond just speech and language delays. I’m talking about my kids with Down syndrome, Autism, neurological disorders, genetic disorders, and so forth. They may struggle to feel accepted in other settings, but they are welcome in my therapy room.

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These students, who may not “fit in” elsewhere, are my people.

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I talk about it on Instagram all the time and I know that if you’re reading this, you understand just how freakin’ cool some of these kids are! Even if other people can be blind to it. Their loss, right?

With these same students, I find there’s often a disparity. Some of them are a little older, but maybe their skill level and interests lend themselves more toward toys that are just not quite age-respectful. You know the balancing act I’m talking about, right?

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For example, let’s say we have a middle schooler with Down syndrome. The goals they have are things you usually target with “young” toys or activities, but that’s not going to work as well for this kid. This kid is cool. You can’t bring out that thing you just used with the 4-year-old. And you wouldn’t dare!

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Or, you know what? Maybe they really do want to play with the ball popper. I’m honestly not here to toy-shame any child. If it makes them happy and they’re learning, hold on to that innocence, friend.

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BUT… If we can offer a toy that suits their skill-level AND doesn’t look like it was made for an infant… that is a beautiful thing.

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Today, I want to share a few age-respectful alternatives I have found to some of my most popular speech therapy toys.

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The critter clinic is one of my FAVORITE therapy toys for a ton of different speech and language goals. For my older students, I’ve taken to using this cell phone jail as an alternative. We still get to target a ton of vocabulary, prepositions, velar sounds (in particular, /k/ in “key”), and it’s always a great time. It’s so silly to get to SLAM that door. Some students may need assistance with the key, which I just see as a bonus opportunity for requesting “help.” It’s been a hit in my therapy room.

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The ball popper is such a happy toy! A huge age range of my students love it, but it’s definitely more of a “young” toy. For those students who still need help with (or just really enjoy) cause-and-effect, or who need a quick reinforcer, why not try one of the awesome Hog Wild ball poppers? They offer the same joy and a lot of the same language opportunities. My kids always get a kick out of them and Hog Wild is by far the best quality.

Another option is foot rockets! They also go “up” and create so much excitement! Both are great alternatives that can be used for a huge range of speech and language goals.

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You will never catch my speech therapy room without a dollhouse of some sort. The amount of functional vocabulary and daily language concepts you can target is unlimited. However, in my opinion, a lot of dollhouses are a little young looking. That’s why I was so excited to discover this house by Smart Felt Toys. It provides the same opportunities as the dollhouse, but in a package that is easier to store and looks more mature.

P.S. Smart Felt Toys was actually created by a fellow SLP, and she was kind enough to offer my readers a discount code- which is really exciting! When you enter SPEECHYTHINGS at checkout, you’ll get 20% off of your entire order and a free Little Seasons companion set. (Don’t add the seasons to your cart! The discount code will add it automatically.)

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What is it about puppets?? If I’m totally honest, I find them creepy at times… but my students LOVE them. When I found these rubber puppets, it changed my therapy game. They look way “cooler” for the big kids, and they are SO EASY TO CLEAN! I use them in feeding therapy too.

Let me tell you… puppets are a secret ingredient. Is your student bored with those flashcards? Add a puppet. They’re over the puzzle? Add a puppet. They don’t want to talk to you? Add a puppet! Truly, making my puppets go silly places, eat silly things, and do silly actions is the secret sauce to saving a lot of my sessions.

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I will never not love Mr. Potato Head. All those body parts! All that repetition! But, again, I’m not quite as inclined to pull out Mr. P for an older student. Instead, I opt for a toy like these Wonderboard magnets. It’s still very silly, works on fine motor, targets body parts, and (bonus) is great for targeting emotions.

Granted, the magnets only come with faces, so if you need to target “big body parts,” you might choose something like this robot builder. It is just way cool and I have yet to meet a student who doesn’t love building stuff!

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There you have it! Remember, please don’t stress if you don’t have these toys on hand. I just hope this gave you some ideas for your older speech therapy students or at least some inspiration to think “outside the box.”

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The bottom line is, as long as your students are engaged and learning, you really can’t go wrong.

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I really do have a passion for these students and love adapting activities to make them more accessible. That’s exactly what inspired me to create this interactive songbook that provides visual support and allows you to go as slow as necessary when singing popular children’s songs.

It’s also what inspired these adapted conversation cards.

Some kids just need that extra little bit of support, and my favorite thing in the world is figuring out how to give it to them.

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Because, no matter their skill level, our students deserve activities that meet them where they’re at.

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That’s all for now, folks! Thanks so much for reading. Truly! This was a labor of love for me.

Do you want to get some more inspiration? I’ll email you!

If you’re like me and are always on the lookout for therapy inspiration, be sure to click here to join my emails. I love sharing ideas that will (hopefully) make it easier for you to continue providing excellent care. I hope to see you there!

Cheers,

image of Lindsey Hockel 's electronic signature for her speech therapy blog, Speechy Things

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*Please note that some of these are affiliate links. If you purchase an item, I may get a small percentage of that sale, which helps me keep my blog running. They are also all links to products that I LOVE!

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