turn errands into therapy


During Speech therapy today, Dawn decided to take Cali on a little adventure. They journyed to a pet store, then to another to buy some candy. How is this speech related you ask? First, let me start by telling you that therapy does not have to be a formal, sit down scenario. There is a definite time and place for more rigid, structured therapy, but there is also a time and place for practical, naturalistic therapy. Taking Cali to the store is brilliant because in the real world Cali does run errands with me and absolutely needs to know how to function and communicate during those times. Dawn’s plan was to:


1. Have her and Cali walk to the stores.

2. Look at the various animals and products.

3. Talk about what they were seeing.

4. Come back to write a story about their adventure.

5. Take the story and relate it back to me.


Looks to me like potential communication going on in each of those steps! And there was. Dawn asked questions about where they were going, what they were doing, what they were seeing, and even threw some developmental work in there and reminded her to “stay together”. When communicating with Cali, Dawn does a number of key things to promote Cali’s talk. One of these is pausing to wait for a response. For example, if Dawn asks Cali a question like, “Cali, where are we going?”, she will pause and wait for an answer. Sometimes Cali answers right away, but normally it will take quite some time to get a response. The pausing and silence gives Cali enough time to process the question and/or alerts Cali back into the conversation. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone, where the other person is talking but your mind is on something completely different? And then once they pause, you finally engage back into the conversation? The second Cali finally responds, Dawn IMMEDIATELY acknowledges what Cali said. The immediate response teaches Cali a principle element of communication. That is that communication is back and forth. Someone asks a question or makes a statement, and the other person responds with acknowledgment through words or body language.


Another key element to promoting Cali’s speech is to stop anticipating her every need. For example, when Cali and Dawn went to the store, Cali would need the store door to be opened for her. Instead of anticipating this need and naturally oping the door, Dawn would wait silently. Cali is then forced to figure out how to ask for the door to be opened. Hence, she is forced to communicate. Or what if Cali wanted to see a toy, but the toy was out of reach? Dawn could easily see Cali’s inability to reach for the toy and quickly grab it for her, but instead would wait for Cali to communicate her need for help. Again, promoting communication.


After the two returned from their adventure, they walked into Dawn’s office to put together their adventure on paper. To do this Dawn printed animated pictures of the stores and the many items they found inside.  This is what it looked like.


Putting together the story cause them to rehearse what had just transpired, causing more communication to happen.


Working on the communication continued as they came out of Dawn’s office to now rehearse the story to me as I sat in the front lobby. And this is what it looked like.



From the start to the very end, Dawn was helping Cali learn how to better communicate. Next time you are going to run an errand with your child, make an effort to turn it into therapy. You can see from Dawn and Cali’s experience that it is easy and worth doing.  Remember these steps:


1. Talk about where you are going.


2. While at the store pause after asking questions, wait for a response.


3. Don’t anticipate the child’s every need. Wait for them to verbalize their needs.


4. Talk and ask questions about the items you see in the store.


5. Write a story about your adventure using pictures. Involve your child in the process. Communicate what you are doing.


6. Rehearse the story to someone else (i.e., dad, sister, neighbor, etc.)



If errands can become therapy then so can much, much more. Ideas to come…


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