From Our Print Archives

Articulation Games From a Drill Sergeant

Vol. 21 • Issue 19 • Page 9

There seems to be two camps: the clinicians who think therapy is all about the games, and those who are all about the drill.

I recently attended a conference session on articulation therapy techniques. Articulation, especially troublesome /r/ and /s/, is something I like to work on; and I'm always keen to hear another therapist's techniques and add to my "arsenal." This clinician was a big believer in drill and strove for a minimum of 60 trials per session per child in small groups. Hooah! I wholeheartedly agree. If we have any hope of moving children through and out of therapy, repetition and high trial numbers are a must.

As a private clinician, I have the luxury of working with students one on one. Depending on how far along we are in treatment, I achieve anywhere from 75 to 150 trials per 30-minute session. Though we move along rapidly, it's not a breakneck speed, and there is still time for feedback and correction.

Scott Derby

Unfortunately, some clinicians are not meeting these goals. Whether they cite caseload size, lack of motivation on the part of students, or simply a desire to be "fun," there are clinicians regularly getting less than 20 trials per session. Is it any wonder we have students languishing for years on a school caseload?

But don't padlock your games in a closet just yet. With a little creativity you can provide activities with high numbers of trials and keep the morale in your room high. I've tailored a few games for my sessions, including Othello, checkers and Hungry Hippos.

Othello is a classic game of strategy and particularly good motivation for older students (age 8 and over). The game consists of 64 felted square recesses. On your turn you place a black-and-white disk in a square, boxing in the other player's color and then flipping all the disks in the line to your color. I purchase inexpensive circle stickers at office supply stores, write one target word per circle, and place one in each square. During a turn, the child says each word that is covered or revealed as the chips flip.

For checkers, draw an 8-by-8 grid on a piece of paper, lightly shading in every other square. Photocopy multiple times. On one copy write your target words for the session on the dark squares. If you have two students with different targets, write two words in different-colored ink. Proceed as if playing standard checkers, but the student says each word they land on or jump over. This is speed checkers. Players get no more than 10 seconds to make a move!

When using the classic board game of Hungry Hippos, I write a number (1-6) on each of the white balls (most are 3, 4 or 5). After a boisterous two minutes of hippo "feeding," we go through a target list, with the numbers on the balls they captured indicating the number of trials for the word.

Tried and true pen-and-pencil games such as tic-tac-toe also are easily adapted to the therapy room. With a target word in each box, I have children run through them all at the beginning (nine trials), as we play (usually five to seven trials), and then list the winning squares (three trials). That's at least 17 trials in five minutes!

A little creativity goes a long way in engaging both you and your students. Now, give me 10!

Kim Swon Lewis owns a pediatric private practice in Greensboro, NC. She is the author of Artic Attack and Other R Games (Say It Right). She can be contacted via her website at


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