It should come as no surprise to any SLP that language skills are built upon a foundation of cognitive skills, including attention, memory, executive functioning, and processing. Oftentimes we see an overlap of diagnoses between attention and memory in our speech and language students, which can sometimes become frustrating trying to parse apart which area is affecting what. These cognitive skills develop and mature with age, as do language skills. Cognitive deficits can affect vocabulary acquisition, comprehension, following directions, social skills, and even articulation. In order to treat speech and language skills, we must also treat the underlying cognitive foundation. Below are some therapy ideas to help address these needs and can be altered to your students’ age range:
To-Do lists: This has consistently been my favorite, and most simplistic, way to target attention and memory among my students. Oftentimes children with deficits in these areas can quickly become off-task due to a lack of insight and mental organization. Developing a visual to-do list can help aid in organizing tasks in a more visually friendly manner. Crossing off each item as you progress can help maintain the child’s attention and memory on the things that have occurred and the items that still require addressing. As my students get older, I will provide more independence with these tasks by having them create their own lists, crossing them off, and possibly predicting how long each task will take to ensure proper time management skills.
Basic strategies: Sometimes the basics are the best way to go and I find the more simplistic with attention and memory, the better. Students with these deficits benefit from repetition of information, visual aids, emotional associations to help store information, multi-sensory approaches, breaking information into smaller chunks, building new information off previous knowledge, and reviewing previous sessions’ information during new sessions.
Games: We all know our students love to play games and incorporating games that target attention and memory can be extremely beneficial given their high level of engagement components. These games have been mainstays in my sessions and include Simon Says, the Classic Simon Game Board, basic memory matching card games, Spot the Difference, the Magic Cup Game, etc. The possibilities are endless with games targeting these cognitive components as most of our daily activity is built on attention and memory.
Although we are technically speech and language therapists, cognition falls under our large umbrella of areas to treat, so during your next session, don’t hesitate to step outside your comfort zone and begin treating these very crucial and important areas of cognition to help ensure success with our students’ speech and language development!