For parents of children with special needs, a large part of your weekly schedule is likely filled with multiple therapy appointments, which means spending a lot of time in the car with your child. So why not make the most of this time by working on their language building and social skills?
Here we have a few simple suggestions for you:
1. Music “therapy”
Music is a powerful tool for children who struggle with speech. The rhythm and repetitive nature of a favorite song can not only help soothe a meltdown, but songs can also encourage speech. While playing a favorite song, press pause and encourage your child to ‘fill in the blank’ with the next words or phrases. Even reluctant talkers can be persuaded to keep singing their favorite tune.
2. Create a mystery bag
To keep your child busy during the car ride, pack a bag full of toys to keep beside your child’s seat. Ask your child to pick a toy and describe it to you so you can guess what it is. You can work on both expressive and receptive language skills as you ask them to give you clues to help you guess.
3. Let’s tell a story
This is a classic childhood game that everyone in the car can play while building vocabulary, listening and language. One person starts a story and verbally shares a few lines before ‘passing’ the story to the next person to continue. It encourages listening skills, expressive language and imagination.
4. I spy
Another classic game that can be used in early language learning days. Take turns with each other “spying” various things that can be seen outside the car window. As their language skills increase, make it harder by each of you having to describe the item and then guess what it is.
5. Play “What would you do?”
This one is best used for more children with more advanced language skills. Come up with a particular situation and ask them what they would do or how they would handle the situation. Examples include “We’re going on vacation. What should you pack in your suitcase?” “What would you do or say if you didn’t know how to do something? or “What are some different things that you do at a friend’s birthday party?” In addition to working on vocabulary, this also works on their planning and executive functioning skills.